Lawmakers seek $1B in military aid for Ukraine

The leaders of the House Armed Services Committee unveiled bipartisan legislation Tuesday evening to provide $1 billion in military assistance for Ukraine, in the face of Russian aggression against the country. 

The legislation from panel Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and ranking member Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithGOP Rep. Turner to lead House push to address military sexual assault US is leaving, but Afghan women to fight on for freedoms Overnight Defense: Ex-Pentagon chief defends Capitol attack response as GOP downplays violence | Austin, Biden confer with Israeli counterparts amid conflict with Hamas | Lawmakers press Pentagon officials on visas for Afghan partners MORE (D-Wash.) would authorize the Pentagon to provide training and equipment, including lethal weapons, to Ukrainian forces battling Russian-backed separatists. 


"We believe that more aid should be given, and more of it should be military, so they can better defend themselves," Smith told reporters.

He said the legislation would "up the costs to Russia for engaging in this type of behavior." 

The legislation does not specify what military equipment should be given, but Thornberry said the weapons should be "lethal defensive systems that make a difference" against Russian artillery, tanks and other weapons. 

"It can darn sure help the Ukrainians a lot to defend themselves," Thornberry said. "I detect no disagreement at all [with Senate colleagues] that we should do this." 

The move raises the bipartisan congressional pressure on the White House, which so far has refused to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine out of concern it would further provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

In March, Putin annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, and has since provided training and weapons for separatists in eastern Ukraine and positioned Russian battalions along the border. 

President Obama on Tuesday said he had not ruled out providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, as separatists gain ground following Moscow's violation of a September cease-fire. The White House is awaiting the results of a new round of talks between Ukraine and Russia led by German and France.

In addition to imposing sanctions on Moscow with Western allies, the U.S. has provided $320 million in humanitarian aid and nearly $120 million in non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine.

"[Sanctions] have not at all changed Putin's calculus," Smith said. "He's continuing with aggressive efforts in eastern Ukraine." 

"It needs to be more difficult for him to go in and inexorably grab territory in an unconventional manner using local separatists," he added. 

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee called on the administration to arm Ukraine, and a bipartisan group of more than 30 House members wrote a letter to the White House, urging the same. 

The lawmakers said the bill could be included in the 2016 defense policy bill the committee is responsible for crafting. 

"I think there is a huge amount of bipartisan support for allowing Ukraine to defend themselves. So it may well be the kind of thing that stands on its own," Thornberry added.