The Cable

Obama Officials: Non-Lethal Assistance Not Getting to Ukraine

The Obama administration has promised Kiev some $118 million in non-lethal assistance to help Ukraine in its standoff with pro-Russian separatists. Less than half has been delivered.

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Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are already angry at the White House for its failure to deliver arms to Ukraine. The administration’s admission that it has also failed to send about half of the $118 million in non-lethal assistance it promised Kiev isn’t helping matters.

“We have provided some significant defensive systems. We have not answered the entire shopping list,” Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told visibly frustrated senators at a hearing Tuesday morning. Brian McKeon, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense, said that some of the assistance, which includes radar systems and night-vision goggles, hasn’t been sent to Ukraine because of U.S. logistical or supply chain problems.

The admission infuriated some members of the panel, including its chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who accused the Obama administration of playing “footsie with Russia.” Lawmakers asked specifically about an Associated Press report indicating that Obama told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in early February 2015 that he would not send weapons to Ukraine, echoing the European position. Since the meeting with Merkel, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and officials from within Obama’s own administration have called on the president to answer Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s request for guns and other weaponry.

Lawmakers were further incensed by the White House’s failure to meet a Feb. 15 deadline to report on the potential transfer of weapons to Kiev as required by the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, signed by Obama in December 2014. McKeon said there was no timetable for the report’s delivery.

The hearing comes amid reports of fraying European unity over economic sanctions against Russia. On Tuesday, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said the punishments are “beneficial for no one” after a meeting in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

Violence has fallen in eastern Ukraine recently amid signs that a Feb. 15 cease-fire may be holding, but Nuland warned that new Russian weapons and troops have arrived in eastern Ukraine in recent days. She said residents there are living under a “reign of terror” imposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nuland added the White House’s goals in the coming weeks are a complete cease-fire that would allow independent monitors access to conflict zones and a pullback of heavy weapons by all sides. Lawmakers were far from enthusiastic that these aims were realistic.

The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), said, “There have been thousands of violations of the cease-fire. [Putin] will get his land bridge to Crimea,” referring to the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia last year. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) added that Putin had “completely reordered the post-Cold War order.”

As he dismissed the panel, Corker thanked Nuland and McKeon for being forthcoming about the supply shortfall. But, he added, “It has been completely unsatisfying to me.”

Photo Credit: Anadolu Agency

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