Majority Leader and Armed Services Chair Visit Kiev: European Leaders Increasingly For U.S. Arms to Ukraine

Vivian Hughbanks
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Posted: Mar 30, 2015 5:00 PM
Majority Leader and Armed Services Chair Visit Kiev: European Leaders Increasingly For U.S. Arms to Ukraine

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) met with Ukrainian officials in Kiev Monday.

"The United States and international community can and should do more to support Ukraine's efforts to stabilize its economy, build democratic institutions, and defend its territory from ongoing Russian aggression," McCarthy said in a statement Monday.

"I believe this international support should include the provision of defensive weapons, training, and intelligence to the Ukrainian military," he added.

American action to arm Ukrainian forces is a fierce debate: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has repeatedly requested U.S. assistance with lethal force to defend Ukrainian territory. While U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and many key members of Congress support the measure, President Obama firmly opposes sending arms, instead implementing economic sanctions against Russia.

"Economic sanctions are ill-advised and counter-productive," German MEP Beatrix von Storch told Townhall. "Political behavior cannot be changed by sanctions. Instead, politicians will be even more firmly in power, because they have the ability to put the blame for the suffering on the 'foreigners' who impose the sanctions."

According to Von Storch, there is much sympathy within the European Parliament toward arming the rebels, even though most members consider themselves advocates for peace.

"The European Parliament has, luckily, neither competence nor power to arm the Ukrainians," Von Storch said. "It could only endorse such an armament by some meaningless resolution. The real power is with the European nation states."

Most European states, however, have not taken measures to arm Ukraine.

While McCarthy and Thornberry met with officials in Kiev, Russia announced that it has restored its forces in Crimea to full strength. President Vladimir Putin ordered that a "self-sufficient interdepartmental force" be deployed in the region to defend Russian National Security.

On March 26, Thornberry and several colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to President Obama "with urgency and alarm," warning him of "deep apprehension that Moscow may invade eastern and southern Ukraine…and also seek land grabs in the Baltics."

On the same day, the House voted in overwhelming bipartisan support (348 to 48) of a resolution to urge President Obama to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine to defend territorial integrity, but the legislation has not yet seen further action.

Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov confirmed Monday that 900 Ukrainian troops will participate in a training program with U.S. paratroopers in April.

"It is clear that any effort to support Ukraine must also be accompanied by a strategy to confront Vladimir Putin's regime in Moscow and its systematic violations of the Minsk agreements, its aggression and destabilizing activities abroad, and its repression at home," McCarthy said.