Russian build-up sparks new push to send arms to Ukraine

The bipartisan package – which would bring the Pentagon’s security aid to Ukraine to $ 350 million and rob $ 125 million for lethal weapons – comes as both sides of the Atlantic fear the latest boost Russia’s military on the Ukrainian border is no different this time: a prelude to the invasion.

Calls are growing from Capitol Hill for the Biden administration to act quickly to deter Russia, including providing Ukraine with more weapons.

In September, the Biden administration announced a new arms and military aid deal with Kiev worth $ 60 million that included Javelin missiles and more intensive cooperation on cyber and research efforts and development. The pact raised US military aid to Kiev to around $ 400 million in 2022, underscoring growing unease in Washington over the seven-year conflict.

Portman, who co-chairs the Ukrainian Senate caucus, called for a vote on his measure and that of Shaheen. He also urged President Joe Biden to send more aid in addition to the new delivery of a pair Coast Guard patrol boats.

“I urge the administration to provide further assistance in the form of [of] anti-aircraft and anti-armor capabilities which will be vital in deterring this latest Russian threat, “Portman said in a statement Wednesday.” We must do everything possible to support our ally Ukraine at this time. “

Asked about the more lethal arms transfer, a senior administration official said the United States has “demonstrated that the United States is prepared to use a number of tools to combat harmful Russian actions and we will not hesitate to use these and other tools in the future. “

Ukrainian officials say about 92,000 Russian troops have taken up new positions near their borders, along with tanks, artillery and armed vehicles that could be used for a swift offensive.

The Biden administration has warned European allies of Moscow’s intentions for weeks, sharing intelligence and snuggling up with military officials across the continent. The EU and NATO have also expressed concern over the new build-up. The Kremlin backed down, saying the presence of NATO troops in Ukraine is a threat to Russian security.

On Tuesday, two former refitted U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessels arrived at the Black Sea port of Odessa, a delivery meant to bolster Ukraine’s tiny navy as it grapples with growing Russian activity near its shores. “We appreciate the contribution of the United States to deter the Russian Federation’s armed aggression against Ukraine,” Navy Commander Oleksiy Neyizhpapa said in a statement.

The Defense Department originally requested $ 250 million for Ukraine’s Security Assistance Initiative, the Pentagon’s main pot used to arm the country, in its 2022 fiscal budget.

The increase in financial support for Ukraine enjoys deep bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Competing defense policy bills in the House and Senate would already increase the account to $ 300 million.

Portman and Shaheen want to give the green light to even more help. Their amendment would bring the overall count to $ 350 million, an increase of $ 100 million from Biden’s request. This money would go to arms, raising the minimum amount dedicated to lethal aid from $ 75 million to $ 125 million.

The increase would be offset by the reduction in funding authorized by the Senate bill to train and equip the now defunct Afghan armed forces. The Senate Armed Forces Committee approved the bill, with Afghan security assistance, in July before the Taliban took control of the country.

However, the Defense Policy Bill does not allocate money and would need to be accompanied by an Annual Appropriation Act to become a reality. And lawmakers are not expected to iron out a compromise policy bill until the end of next month.

Senators have stalled on amendments to the must-see defense bill. Armed Forces President Jack Reed (DR.I.) last week called for an agreement to hold votes on 19 amendments, including the Portman-Shaheen measure. But Reed has been blocked by several GOP senators seeking votes on their own amendments.

The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote to shut down debate on the defense clearance bill when it returns on Monday. There is still time for Democrats and Republicans to settle their differences and incorporate more amendments to the bill before it is passed, but Ukraine’s proposal could be scrapped if the blockade continues.

Members of Congress flirted with the idea of ​​including language in the Defense Bill of 2022 that would transfer one of the two Iron Dome air defense batteries from the US Army to Ukraine, although the complex system would not be ready for months even if the provision was included. .

The latest Ukrainian armament proposals are part of a seven-year debate in Washington and European capitals over how to deter Russia from leaving the territory it has already captured in Crimea and eastern Europe. ‘Ukraine during its 2014 invasion.

The war in eastern Ukraine has continued ever since, turning into a series of sporadic artillery duels amid largely static lines in the Donbass, leaving the situation in a festering crisis that none of the two sides was only able to resolve.

In June, after around 100,000 Russian troops massed near the border, POLITICO reported that the Biden administration had set up a $ 100 million military aid package for Ukraine, although it was then suspended after the partial withdrawal of the Russians to their home bases. Short-range air defense systems, small arms and anti-tank weapons were under consideration, marking a departure from the non-lethal weapons provided by the Biden administration in two other packages.

NATO’s top military officer Admiral Rob Bauer said in an interview on the sidelines of a security conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Saturday that the build-up of Russian troops and equipment near the border was part of a larger campaign.

“There are other indications in terms of other activities in the cyber field in activities in Ukraine which most likely intend to destabilize Ukraine,” Bauer said. “And so it is not only the troops who are there, but it is a mixture of everything including the rhetoric of the Russians” which raises the alarm in Brussels.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev issued a new alert to U.S. citizens not to travel near Ukraine’s borders due to “reports of unusual Russian military activities near the borders of Ukraine.” Ukraine and occupied Crimea ”.

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