A man waves a Ukrainian flag during a pro-Ukrainian rally Saturday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk. The Obama administration is sending nearly $10 million in new 'security assistance' to Ukraine as that country stares down Russian forces, but one senior Republican lawmaker says more must be done. (Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP)
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is sending nearly $10 million in new “security assistance” to Ukraine as that country stares down Russian forces, but one senior Republican lawmaker says more must be done.
The White House announced early Tuesday morning that $8 million of a $50 million assistance package would be used for “non-lethal military assistance to allow the Ukrainian armed forces and State Border Guard Service to fulfill their core security missions.”
The amount will be used to supply Ukraine with “explosive ordnance disposal equipment,” radios, engineering gear, communications equipment, vehicles “and non lethal individual tactical gear for Ukraine’s Border Guard Service,” according to a White House fact sheet.
The United States already has sent $3 million worth of Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs, to Ukrainian forces, as well as $7 million in “health and welfare assistance,” according to the fact sheet.
The aid package comes as US officials and their Western counterparts continue searching for ways to persuade or force Russian President Vladmir Putin to remove his troops from the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea, which he claims to have annexed.
US Vice President Joseph Biden is in Ukraine, and said during a Tuesday morning press conference that Washington has no plans to recognize Putin’s claims of having formally acquired Crimea. Biden repeated the Obama administration’s often-uttered warning that continued Russian efforts to destabilize other parts of eastern Ukraine will be met with consequences.
But Biden did not elaborate on just what Washington would do. And that frustrates congressional Republicans like John McCain, a senior member of the Senate Armed and Foreign Relations committees.
After Biden spoke Tuesday, McCain said “there are a broad range of options that we can do” to help Ukraine in its standoff with Russia.
Included in the things McCain would like the Obama administration to do is send Ukrainian forces “weapons to defend themselves.”
Such a move would be an escalation of the situation, something the White House has been reluctant to do out of fears of potentially fueling an all-out war between Moscow and Kiev. It also would be a boon for the US defense sector, which likely would get new orders to arm Ukrainian forces.
McCain also wants the Obama administration to take steps to ease Ukraine’s energy dependence on Russia, and to help its ailing economy. He mentioned the White House could do more to help secure massive loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
To that end, the White House announced several energy related moves, including sending a US team there “to help Ukraine secure reverse flows of natural gas from its European neighbors.”
In addition, another team will travel there to “engage the government on measures that will help the Ukrainian government ensure swift and environmentally sustainable implementation of contracts signed in 2013 for shale gas development,” states the fact sheet. And a Department of Energy-USAID group will visit Ukraine in May to “provide advice on how to maximize energy efficiency, which could deliver potentially huge cost savings to Ukraine and rationalize energy consumption,” the White House said.
Republicans like McCain, however, say such moves do not go far enough. They want the US to begin sending Ukraine energy supplies like oil and natural gas — or convince energy-rich allies to do so until coming American sources reach full production in a few years.
Asked during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program why he believes Obama has opted against taking the steps for which he has called, McCain said his 2008 presidential election foe “came into office to get out the wars” and promised voters “no more boots on the ground.”
What’s more, McCain contends, “he doesn’t appreciate the value of American leadership.”