Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased New Senate bill would take steps to protect AI-collected data Pro-Vance poll shows tight race in Ohio GOP Senate primary MORE (R-Ohio) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinManchin: Negotiators to miss Friday target for deal on reconciliation bill Democrats look for plan B on filibuster The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE (D-Ill.) are launching the Senate Ukraine Caucus to boost ties between Washington and Kiev.
The move comes as pressure grows on the Obama administration to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine's military to counter pro-Russian separatist groups backed by Moscow.
The “key focus” of the brand new Senate Ukraine Caucus “will be to play a prominent role in advocating for and coordinating more robust American efforts to support Ukraine,” Portman said in a statement.
“In the face of continued Russian aggression in the region and repeated assaults on the sovereignty of its borders, Ukraine needs a steadfast ally in the United States,” Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, added.
“This bipartisan group sends a clear message that Ukraine has the unflinching support of the Ukrainian community in Illinois and in the United States Senate."
The announcement comes just hours after President Obama refused to rule out providing weapons to Ukraine if diplomatic efforts between Russia and other world powers fail.
In a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said he had asked his team to “look at all the options” that could change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behavior toward Ukraine.
However, no decision on arms has been made, and there is no “specific point” that would greenlight giving Ukraine weapons.
Last week, Portman and Durbin led a bipartisan group of 15 senators in a letter to the president urging him to provide weapons to Kiev.
That call was quickly echoed by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics MORE (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services panel, said Obama’s refusal to supply arms to Ukraine “is another low point in a presidency which has many to choose from.”
“This latest episode once again shows that under President Obama’s leadership it is better to be America’s enemy than her friend,” he added.
“It’s a sad fact that our enemies are seldom challenged while our friends are constantly undercut and abandoned.”