Skip to content

Chairman Menendez from Kyiv, Ukraine: Calls for Providing Weapons to Ukraine, Additional Support and Training for Ukrainian Military in Letter to President Obama

Menendez Urges President Obama to Increase Support to Ukraine and NATO Allies in Eastern Europe; Expand Sanctions against Russian Banking, Energy, Defense Sectors

KYIV, UKRAINE – While in Kyiv, following high-level meetings in Estonia and Poland, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez urged President Obama to engage European allies in a robust response to the security crisis in Ukraine and to strongly support Ukraine and Eastern European NATO allies threatened by Russian military action. 

Menendez encouraged President Obama to significantly expand sanctions on the banking, energy, and defense sectors of the Russian economy, and expressed his backing for providing weapons to Ukraine to defend themselves, as well as additional support and training for the Ukrainian military.

“Russia is now directing and waging a war in eastern Ukraine with Russian troops to further its illegitimate land grab of broad swaths of Ukrainian territory,” Menendez said. “Following the illegal occupation of Crimea earlier this year, this invasion of sovereign territory puts Russia in absolute violation of its international commitments. The United States must work closely with our European allies in sending an unequivocal message to Moscow that we are unified in our commitment to assisting Ukraine and other allies in Eastern Europe to defend themselves. Russia’s expansionist designs are on full view for the world to see, which is why leaders at this week’s NATO summit must be equally strong in committing to measures that give meaningful support to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries threatened by Russian aggression. I also urge President Obama to provide additional military support to assist the Ukrainian military in its fight against an onslaught of Russian troops, and to expand economic sanctions targeting Russia’s banking, energy, and defense sectors.”

The letter can be read below:

August 30, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President,

I am currently traveling through Eastern Europe and have concluded meetings with the Presidents of Estonia and Poland about the security crisis in Ukraine. 

With Putin's second invasion of Ukraine, now is the time for the United States to act with our European partners to counter Russia's irridentist goals by providing weapons to allow Ukrainians to defend themselves, as well as additional support and training to the Ukrainian military, and to impose further sectoral sanctions to isolate Russia. This is a logical succession to what the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed in March of this year and which you signed into law.

Following my official visits with these key allies who are confronting real and immediate security threats posed by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, I also write to express my serious concern that this week at the NATO summit in Wales, certain member countries will seek to limit NATO’s options as they relate to ensuring the security of eastern NATO states by unilaterally re-affirming the principles of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security signed by NATO and the Russian Federation in 1997. That Act has now been abrogated by Russia with its invasion of Ukraine – alongside its commitments in the Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Accords.  In this context, I strongly urge you to reject any effort at the Wales summit to limit NATO’s options to protect our Eastern European allies and to be able to respond to current and future threats to NATO states. 

Provisions of the Founding Act that describe limitations on the permanent stationing of combat troops in Eastern European states were intended to safeguard against unintended provocations with respect to the new security architecture of Europe.  The Russian Federation, however, has breached both the spirit and letter of the Act through its efforts to destabilize Ukraine through the support for insurgents and now through the expanded and direct invasion by Russians troops into eastern Ukraine. 

The Founding Act states that “NATO and Russia will cooperate to prevent any possibility of returning to a Europe of division and confrontation and will seek the widest possible cooperation amongst the participating states of the OSCE with the aim of creating in Europe a common space of security and stability without dividing lines or spheres of influence limiting the sovereignty of any state.”

The Act further requires NATO and Russia to “[Refrain] from the threat or use of force…against any other state, its sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence in any manner inconsistent with the United Nations Charter and with the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States contained in the Helsinki Final Act” and underscores the inviolability of borders. Russia has clearly set aside its commitments under this agreement with respect to the CSCE, and therefore NATO.

I commend your recent decisions to increase U.S. troop levels to approximately 300 in Poland and the involvement of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne in the Baltic Air Patrol.  Those actions have been extremely well received by our allies, as tangible measures of NATO resolve and commitment but will largely be undercut should the NATO-Russia Founding Act be reaffirmed at next week’s Summit.  

While the United States and NATO stand by their commitments, our interpretation of the Founding Act must be consistent with our core obligations to NATO states and consider Russia’s blatant disregard of its commitments to NATO and the international community.   To unilaterally reaffirm an agreement in the face of a breach of the same agreement by Russia makes no national security or foreign policy sense; could limit future flexibility and readiness to respond to security threats against NATO states; and suggests a unilateral retreat in the face of the most serious threat to security and stability in Europe faced by NATO since the end of the Cold War.  

As has been reinforced by my meetings in Estonia and Poland, it is clear that, in the case of Russia, any projection of weakness is potentially more provocative than the projection of strength

I am gravely concerned about President Putin's blatant aggression in Ukraine and the risk that his imperialist ambitions may pose to our eastern NATO allies. 

While in Europe, I urge you to pursue multilateral policies to appropriately respond to Russia's continued aggression, to increase Russia's economic isolation, and demonstrate NATO’s continued and equal commitment to the security of every member state.