Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 1, 2015

McCain Seeks Military Aid for Ukraine After Russia Annexes Crimea

After Russia’s announcement that it has annexed Crimea, Sen. John McCain called for a series of responses, including providing modest military assistance to Ukraine and passing a bipartisan Ukrainian aid package.

“In response to the Russian government’s annexation of Crimea today, the United States should provide greater support to Ukraine and impose additional costs on Russia,” the Arizona Republican said in a release. “The United States and our allies and partners must remain committed to supporting the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which includes Crimea.”

McCain, who recently returned from a trip to Ukraine with seven other senators, called for rushing modest military aid “that its leaders have requested, including some small arms and ammunition, as well as significant non-lethal assistance, such as protective equipment, spare parts, fuel, and sharing of intelligence.”

His comments came as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., urged G-7 leaders to consider revoking Russia’s membership in the G-8, and asked for an assessment of what military support the U.S. can provide Ukraine.

McCain also called for passage of legislation the Senate is scheduled to begin considering Monday that would authorize $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine, impose sanctions on Russia and take steps to boost the International Monetary Fund’s ability to aid Ukraine.

The measure is likely to win the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate before the end of next week, despite some Republican objections to the IMF provision. McCain and Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Corker, R-Tenn., have said they don’t expect the IMF issue to hold up the measure in the Senate.

However the bill’s prospects in the Republican-run House are unclear, given that the measure that chamber passed did not include the IMF language, which was requested by the president. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, called the provision unnecessary.

McCain’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin held a signing ceremony with the prime minister of Crimea and the mayor of the city of Sevastopol that they claimed officially made Crimea part of the Russian Federation. The ceremony followed a referendum, which the United States and its allies refuse to recognize as legitimate, in which the region voted to join Russia.

White House spokesman Jay Carney denounced the move.

“We condemn Russia’s moves to formally annex the Crimean region of Ukraine,” Carney said. “Such action is a threat to international peace and security and it is against international law.”

Carney noted that the government has already issued sanctions against 11 Russian officials and said more will come.

Carney said Obama has invited the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the EU to a meeting of G-7 leaders next week during the nuclear security summit in The Hague.

“The meeting will focus on the situation in Ukraine and further steps that the G-7 may take to respond to developments and to support Ukraine,” Carney said.

So far, the White House’s response amounts to a pinprick and it is not affecting the situation on the ground. The Russian stock market has soared the past two days.

McCain has been critical of the White House response to Russia, calling the sanctions inadequate.

Other steps McCain called for include:

Work with NATO to rush plane-loads of food and other humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian soldiers and civilians in eastern Ukraine.

Work through the Organization for Security and Co-operation In Europe to approve and deploy a large civilian monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine that could help set the record straight about alleged threats to ethnic Russians and reveal Putin’s effort to inflame the situation as a pretext for further aggression.

Work with NATO and other partners to support the Ukrainian government in designing and resourcing a long-term assistance program to rebuild and reform Ukraine’s military.

Enhance NATO’s force presence, security cooperation, and military exercises, especially in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries.

Work within NATO to take all necessary steps that can prepare for the expansion of  the alliance to include countries such as Georgia and Montenegro as soon as possible.

Expand significantly the U.S. and EU targeted sanctions against the most corrupt Russian government officials, companies and financial institutions.

Use the Magnitsky Act to sanction additional Russian officials for their gross violations of human rights.

Take more assertive steps to isolate Russia internationally, including by repeated votes in the U.N. Security Council and a G-7 boycott of the G-8 Summit in Sochi.

Take steps to permit and enhance the exportation of U.S. oil and natural gas, especially to NATO allies and other European partners, in order to decrease Europe’s reliance on Russian supplies of energy.

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