GOP, White House use Ukraine crisis to push other priorities

Neither the White House nor Republicans in Congress are letting a good crisis go to waste in Ukraine.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) used a hearing with State and Treasury officials Thursday to press them to allow exports of natural gas to counter Russian influence in Eastern Europe. He said Ukraine faces “economic coercion” from Russia and called on the Obama administration to introduce a U.N. resolution condemning Moscow's “aggression” in Crimea.

“Addressing Ukraine's energy security must be part of our response,” Royce said. “Russia has repeatedly used its supply of natural gas to pressure Ukraine economically and politically, and has announced that it will significantly increase its cost in a deliberate effort to squeeze Ukraine.”

“Fortunately, we have an option to help counter this threat, namely reducing the current impediments to exports of American natural gas to Ukraine. The administration has it within its power to do this by removing the current bureaucratic obstacles that only empower Putin. They should do so rapidly.”

The Obama administration, meanwhile, urged Congress to pass reforms to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would allow the IMF to give more aid to countries in crisis. Republicans oppose the move because they see it as approving more funding for the lender.

“The United States stands ready to support Ukraine as it undertakes the economic needs to return to stability,” the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for Europe, Daleep Singh, testified. “But … U.S. bilateral assistance must be accompanied by an IMF program to succeed in restoring Ukraine's economic health.”

The panel is scheduled to mark up a resolution calling for sanctions on Russia if it doesn't cease its incursion into Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula right after the hearing.

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