Senators push for $350M in weapons for Ukraine

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A bipartisan group of Senators is pressing the leaders of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee to allocate $350 million for the U.S. to provide weapons to Ukraine’s military.

“We fully support the authorization provided under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act to provide defensive weapons to the Government of Ukraine. Congress can send an important message to Ukraine, the Kremlin, and the world by appropriating the authorized funding in accordance with the law,” thirteen senators — led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) — wrote Tuesday in a letter to Appropriations chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and ranking member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

{mosads}The letter was signed by 11 Republicans and two Democrats.

The legislation, which President Obama signed into law in December, allows the U.S. to impose more sanctions on various Russian sectors and authorizes $350 million in lethal military assistance to Ukraine.

The letter notes “flagrant violation” of last month’s ceasefire agreement between Kiev and Moscow and highlights recent testimony by NATO military commander Gen. Philip Breedlove that over “1,000 pieces of Russian military equipment have been transferred into Ukraine, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, heavy artillery pieces and other military vehicles and equipment.”

Lawmakers conceded that while the weapons “would not allow Ukraine to outmatch the Russian military, they would enable Ukraine to better defend itself and increase the costs of [Russian] President Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.”

“By increasing costs for President Putin’s aggression, it would discourage future aggression in eastern Europe that could even more directly threaten U.S. national security interests,” they added.

The letter comes the same day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled administration officials for an update on the status of an internal debate about reversing Obama’s yearlong policy of not giving arms to Kiev’s forces.

“I hope soon, but I can’t put a timetable on it,” said Brian McKeon, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for policy.

Panel chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) labeled the administration’s policy as “feckless.”

Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the panel’s top Democrat, said Washington and its allies “keep working on this aspirational basis while Russia works effectively to take more and more Ukrainian land.”

On Monday, the pair sent a strongly worded letter to Obama asking for an update on plans for providing defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine.

The report to Congress, required by law under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, was due Feb. 15.

Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said the administration hoped to provide the update “in coming weeks, if not coming days.”

Tags Barbara Mikulski Bob Corker Eastern Europe Europe Kelly Ayotte Robert Menendez Thad Cochran Ukraine

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