Repub­li­cans push for bill to al­low mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY GUY TAY­LOR

A group of Se­nate Repub­li­cans called on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion Wed­nes­day to take more ag­gres­sive steps to­ward con­tain­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and pre­vent­ing mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion in East­ern Europe.

With frus­tra­tion mount­ing in Wash­ing­ton over what the ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­scribed as Rus­sian med­dling in Ukraine, the sen­a­tors pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would call on Pres­i­dent Obama to pro­vide the Ukrainian mil­i­tary with “di­rect mil­i­tary as­sis­tance” — in­clud­ing anti-tank and an­ti­air­craft weaponry — while pav­ing the way for more sanc­tions against Moscow.

Specif­i­cally, the “Rus­sian Ag­gres­sion Preven­tion Act of 2014” would push the ad­min­is­tra­tion to bite down with sanc­tions against Rus­sia’s state-owned gas mo­nop­oly Gazprom, weapons ex­porter Rosoboronex­port and oil gi­ant Ros­neft.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion al­ready has lev­eled sanc­tions against a grow­ing num­ber of Rus­sian of­fi­cials and cor­po­ra­tions over the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine, and threat­ened to ex­pand the sanc­tions if Moscow does not pull its mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials from east­ern Ukraine.

But White House of­fi­cials re­sponded tepidly the leg­is­la­tion be­ing pushed by Se­nate Repub­li­cans.

Fit­ting with Mr. Obama’s own re­sis­tance in re­cent weeks to calls for di­rectly arm­ing the Ukrainian mil­i­tary, White House spokesman Jay Car­ney told re­porters Wed­nes­day that “those who make those calls don’t ex­plain what ul­ti­mate pur­pose that would do.”

Mr. Car­ney’s re­marks came as Ukraine’s act­ing pres­i­dent was say­ing that po­lice and se­cu­rity forces are “help­less” against pro-Rus­sian gun­men, who seized more govern­ment build­ing’s in the na­tion’s east Wed­nes­day.

Gun­men in the min­ing city of Hor­livka walked into the po­lice sta­tion and mayor’s of­fice with­out re­sis­tance, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press. In­sur­gents had taken con­trol Wed­nes­day of the cus­toms ser­vice build­ing in Donetsk — east­ern Ukraine’s main city — as well as the city hall in Alchevsk, an in­dus­trial cen­ter roughly 50 miles from the Rus­sian bor­der.

The grad­ual takeover that Rus­sian­backed forces ap­pear to be en­gaged in serves as a back­drop for the pol­icy changes be­ing pro­posed by Repub­li­cans in Wash­ing­ton.

“Rather than re­act to events as they un­fold, which has been the pol­icy of this ad­min­is­tra­tion, we need to in­flict more di­rect con­se­quences on Rus­sia prior to Vladimir Putin tak­ing additional steps that will be very dif­fi­cult to undo,” Sen. Bob Corker, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can and rank­ing mem­ber of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on For­eign Re­la­tions, said in in­tro­duc­ing the leg­is­la­tion.

The pro­posal takes a “three-prong ap­proach to pre­vent the sit­u­a­tion from be­com­ing far worse,” said Mr. Corker, who was joined by 20 other Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, Kelly Ay­otte of New Hamp­shire and John McCain of Ari­zona, as the bill’s co-spon­sors.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has stopped short of tar­get­ing such key Moscow-run out­fits as Gazprom and Rosoboronex­port, and the new bill would change that.

If Mr. Putin has not “sub­stan­tially” with­drawn Rus­sian mil­i­tary forces from the Ukrainian bor­der or “halted its desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties” in Ukraine within seven days of the bill’s en­act­ment, the United States must re­spond by im­pos­ing sanc­tions against Rus­sia’s state-con­trolled en­ergy- and weapon­sex­port­ing mo­nop­o­lies, along with their re­lated bank­ing in­ter­ests, the leg­is­la­tion states.

The sanc­tions would specif­i­cally tar­get Sber­bank, VTB Bank, Vneshe­conom­bank, Gazprom­bank, Gazprom, No­vatek, Ros­neft, and Rosoboronex­port; along with their Rus­sian-owned sub­sidiaries and se­nior Rus­sian na­tional ex­ec­u­tives, the bill states.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A pro-Ukrainian self de­fense unit per­forms weapons ex­er­cises at their train­ing ground out­side Donetsk, Ukraine. Sen. Bob Corker, Ten­nessee Repub­li­can, pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would call on Pres­i­dent Obama to pro­vide the Ukrainian mil­i­tary with “di­rect mil­i­tary as­sis­tance.”

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