March 09, 2015

Corker, Menendez Seek Obama Administration Report on Defensive Lethal Assistance for Ukraine

WASHINGTON – In a letter to President Barack Obama today, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked the administration to submit a report to Congress on plans for providing defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine. The report, required by law under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, was due on February 15.

“We write to ask that you immediately submit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a report on the provision of lethal military assistance to Ukraine as required by the Ukraine Freedom Support Act,” wrote Corker and Menendez in their letter to the president. “Now is the time for the United States to provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself from continued Russian aggression. We should not be misled by Vladimir Putin's repeated efforts to exploit nominal ceasefire agreements.”

Corker and Menendez also noted the purpose of providing defensive weapons is to raise the cost for Russia’s hostile involvement in Ukraine and to create the conditions for a valid diplomatic resolution that guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“By equipping Ukraine with the means to impose a greater military cost on Russia, the United States will be contributing to a quicker, fairer, and more stable settlement of the conflict. After countless broken promises by the Kremlin, it is clear that Moscow's aggression in Ukraine can only be stopped if Putin realizes that the United States and Europe are unequivocally committed to helping Kyiv impose this military cost on Russia,” Corker and Menenedez said in the letter.

The Ukraine Freedom Support Act, coauthored by Corker and Menendez, passed Congress with unanimous support and was signed into law in December. In addition to authorizing defensive lethal military and non-military assistance for Ukraine, the law imposes additional sanctions against Russia; provides Ukraine with energy, defense sector, and civil society assistance; and expands broadcasting programs to counter Russian propaganda in countries of the former Soviet Union.

Full text of the senators’ letter is included below and online here. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy in Ukraine tomorrow, Tuesday, March 10, at 10:00 a.m. ET. Details on the hearing are available here.

Dear President Obama,

We write to ask that you immediately submit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a report on the provision of lethal military assistance to Ukraine as required by the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. The February 15,2015, deadline found in the law, which was unanimously passed by Congress in December 2014 and subsequently signed into law, has now passed. The provision of lethal assistance attracts broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House. We urge you to submit this report to Congress as soon as possible.

Now is the time for the United States to provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself from continued Russian aggression. We should not be misled by Vladimir Putin's repeated efforts to exploit nominal ceasefire agreements. As Ukraine negotiated the second Minsk ceasefire in good faith, Putin sent dozens of tanks, armored vehicles, and rocket launchers to the Russian backed rebels in eastern Ukraine mere hours before he consented to the supposed ceasefire. Since the agreement was signed on February 12, 2015, the rebels have retaken the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve, launched offensives near Mariupol, and reportedly organized terrorist attacks in the city of Kharkiv, which threatens to spread the conflict beyond the current area of hostilities.

We often hear that no amount of lethal military assistance to Ukraine would be sufficient to defeat the rebels and their Russian sponsors, but our objective is not to provide Ukraine with enough weapons to overwhelm the Russian military in a direct confrontation. Rather, the provision of lethal assistance aims to increase Ukraine's defense capabilities in a way that will give Kyiv the ability to produce conditions on the ground favorable to a genuine peace process.

By equipping Ukraine with the means to impose a greater military cost on Russia, the United States will be contributing to a quicker, fairer, and more stable settlement of the conflict. After countless broken promises by the Kremlin, it is clear that Moscow's aggression in Ukraine can only be stopped if Putin realizes that the United States and Europe are unequivocally committed to helping Kyiv impose this military cost on Russia. 

We respectfully urge you to fulfill the provisions of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, recognize the strong bipartisan majority in Congress that favors U.S. lethal assistance to Ukraine, and move quickly to provide the Ukrainian government with the capabilities that will allow Kyiv to inflict serious military costs using defensive weapons against the Russian forces that are destabilizing its eastern regions. Given the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's jurisdiction over U.S. policy in Ukraine, including over any arms transfer or sale, we also urge your administration to work closely with the Committee and its members during this critical period.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.

Sincerely,

Senator Bob Corker
Chairman

Senator Robert Menenedez
Ranking Member

Related Files