WASHINGTON – Reflecting bipartisan concern in Congress over the Obama administration’s hesitant response to Russian violations of a second ceasefire in Ukraine, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today at a committee hearing on the crisis in Ukraine referred to the administration’s failure to deliver on military and non-military assistance for Ukraine as “a blight” on 70 years of defending democracy in Europe.
“Our country made a commitment in 1994 to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has been under a near constant assault by Russia for more than a year. More recently, we lured Ukraine West by supporting their desire for closer association with Europe. Now with Ukraine’s future in the balance, the refusal of the administration to step up with more robust support for Ukraine and further pressure on Russia is a blight on U.S. policy and 70 years of defending a Europe that is whole, democratic, and free,” said Corker in his opening remarks.
Yesterday in a letter to the president, Senator Corker demanded a report to Congress that was due on February 15 about U.S. plans for providing defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine. Corker emphasized today how this indecisiveness over bolstering Ukraine’s defensive military capabilities is affecting the U.S. strategy for deterring Russian aggression.
“In my view, any strategy will not be effective unless the United States begins to provide Ukraine with the ability to inflict serious military costs using defensive weapons on the thousands of Russian troops operating in its eastern regions,” Corker said.
In questioning before the committee today, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Brian P. McKeon revealed only half of $118 million in U.S. non-lethal military assistance for Ukraine has been delivered to date.
“Senator Corker, what I could say is we share your frustration about the speed of delivery of our commitments. And the new secretary has pressed us on this. In fact, in one of my first meetings with him, he said to us, ‘Let's start a new policy. Let's not promise assistance unless we can deliver it quickly," McKeon said.
Senator Corker also noted the importance of U.S. and European financial assistance for stabilizing Ukraine’s economy to avoid a collapse that would play directly into Russia’s hands.
“I do hope that we are committed to providing, and our partners, the financial assistance that's going to be necessary to keep Ukraine afloat. I think the greatest victory for Putin, other than certainly making us look really weak to the world right now and certainly not following through on our commitments…would be for Ukraine to fall…by economic conditions,” he said.
For complete footage and testimony from today’s hearing, click here.