Thursday, December 8, 2016

Senators Urge Trump to Give Ukraine Lethal Weapons
A bipartisan group of US senators wrote to President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday, December 8, urging him to continue America’s strong support for Ukraine during Russia’s war against it.
The 27 legislators’ letter turned out to be a succinct primer on US-Ukraine relations ahead of the third anniversary of Russia’s aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
The letter listed the following reasons for the senators’ urgent appeal to Trump:
1. Russia’s enduring illegal annexation of Crimea and military aggression in eastern Ukraine;
2. The Kremlin’s daily ceasefire violations that make a mockery of the Minsk Agreement;
3. Russia’s escalation that demonstrates that this conflict in the heart of Europe is far from over;
4. Russia has yet to withdraw its heavy weapons and continues its sabotage and subversion efforts;
5. Moscow has not halted its disinformation war against Ukraine and the West;
6. Russia has not stopped its economic and political pressure aimed at undermining the Ukrainian government; and
7. According to the UN, approximately 10,000 people have been killed, more than 20,000 wounded, and more than 2 million internally displaced since the conflict began.
“In light of Russia’s continued aggression and repeated refusal to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereign right to choose its own destiny, we also renew our call for the United States to increase political, economic, and military support for Ukraine.  This includes defensive lethal assistance as part of a broader effort to help Ukrainians better defend themselves, deter future aggression, and implement key structural reforms,” they wrote.
The senators expressed their belief that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea should never be accepted, and the US should not lift sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions in eastern Ukraine until key provisions of the Minsk Agreement are met.
“Accordingly, US leadership on maintaining such transatlantic sanctions should remain a priority,” they wrote.
Russia invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in February 2014, about a week after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and simultaneously with Viktor Yanukovych’s flight from Ukraine at the end of the historic Revolution of Dignity.
The lawmaker’s appeal to the President-elect is also timely because Trump has not expressed a word of support for Ukraine while favoring Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin. In July 2016, Trump said he “would be looking into” whether to officially recognize Crimea as part of Russia. The following month he said that Putin is “not going to go into Ukraine,” despite the fact that Russia already had invaded Ukraine.
Stating that Russia’s military land-grab in Ukraine is unprecedented in modern European history, the senators said these “actions in Crimea and other areas of eastern Ukraine dangerously upend well-established diplomatic, legal, and security norms that the United States and its NATO allies painstakingly built over decades – a historically bipartisan global security framework that has greatly served US security and economic interests.”
They drew a straight line between Russia’s war in Ukraine and US security by pointing out that it is in America’s “vital national security interest to uphold these norms and values, and prevent America’s commitment to its allies and ideals from being called into question.”
The legislators concluded their letter by expressing hope for the continuation of the US “tradition of bipartisan support for Ukraine in Congress, which has authorized meaningful assistance programs through the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and other pieces of legislation.”
The following senators signed the letter: Robert Portman, Richard J. Durbin, John McCain, Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio, Sherrod Brown, Ron Johnson, Christopher S. Murphy, Cory Gardner, Richard Blumenthal, Pat Roberts, Jack Reed, Christopher A. Coons, John Barrasso, Benjamin L. Cardin, Lindsey Graham, Robert P. Casey Jr., John Boozman, Gary C. Peters, Jim Risch, Jeff Merkley, Johnny Isakson, Kirsten Gillibrand, James Inhofe, Amy Klobuchar, Sheldon Whitehouse and Robert Menendez.
Hopefully, members of the House of Representatives will soon compose similar entreaty to the President-elect.
The letter to Trump came a day after NATO urged the free to continue diplomatic pressure and sanctions against Russia until Moscow respects the truce that it signed.
After talks with NATO and Ukraine foreign ministers, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday of a “massive increase in cease-fire violations” in the conflict-torn east Ukraine. He said hundreds of explosions are sometimes reported daily, including many caused by heavy weapons banned under the Minsk peace accords.
“The international community must keep pressuring Russia to respect its obligations, especially while the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains so serious,” Stoltenberg said.
The NATO official continued “I call on all parties to redouble their efforts to implement the Minsk Agreements in full. As a first step, we need to see an immediate and full ceasefire. In the meantime, the international community must keep pressuring Russia to respect its obligations. Especially while the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains so serious, it is important that economic sanctions be maintained.”
Russia has a significant responsibility in bringing the conflict to an end,” Stoltenberg added.
NATO and free world support for Ukraine is welcome and necessary but it will remain lukewarm without the political and moral backing of the United States.