Inhofe Authors Bill to Arm Ukraine with Lethal Military Aid

S.452 removes ambiguity as to what type of lethal military aid can be provided to Ukraine, requires comprehensive strategy from President

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, today announced S. 452, a bill that would authorize the President to arm Ukraine with lethal military aid. At the time of introduction, the bill included the following co-sponsors: Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), Rob Portman (R- Ohio), John Thune (R-SD), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Boozman (R-AR), David Vitter (R-LA), Marco Rubio (R- FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Mike Rounds (R-SD).

S.452 is currently the only bill in Congress that specifically authorizes the United States to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons, which would remove any ambiguity as to whether the U.S. should supply its ally with offensive or defensive military aid. This is the only bill to also require the President to deliver to Congress a comprehensive strategy for our nation’s support of Ukraine. 

As prepared for delivery and submitted for the record:

MR. INHOFE:  Mr. President I rise today to introduce my bill that authorizes the President to provide lethal weapons to the Government of Ukraine in order to defend itself against Russian-backed rebel separatists in eastern Ukraine.

There have been other resolutions and bills calling for aid or defensive aid and weapons but none have specifically authorized lethal weapons, which removes any ambiguity as to what weapons are authorized or confusion about offensive and defensive weapons, and none have required a comprehensive strategy be provided to Congress by the President.

This bill authorizes President Obama to provide lethal weapons to the Government of Ukraine in order to defend itself against Russian-backed rebel separatists in eastern Ukraine.

It also requires the President to submit to Congress a written report setting forth a comprehensive strategy behind providing such lethal weapons to Ukraine within 15 days after enactment, and submit updates every 90 days on the progress of the implementation of this comprehensive strategy.

When Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke to a joint session of Congress on September 18, 2014, he thanked the United States for its nonlethal assistance in confronting Russian aggression in the form of Russian-backed rebel separatists, but stated that “one cannot win the war with blankets…Even more, we cannot keep the peace with a blanket.”

Shortly after heavily armed Russian soldiers invaded and took control of the Crimean region in February 2014, The Ukrainian Government and its people have faced sustained and deadly force from heavily armed rebel separatists equipped, trained, and supported by the Russian Federation.

Since then, more than 5,000 people—mostly civilians in the Donbass region of Ukraine—have been killed, 10,300 injured and 900,000 displaced as a result of the fighting and indiscriminate shelling by Russian-backed rebel separatists.

Just last week, rebel separatists launched an offensive against the strategic port of Mariupol and killed 30 civilians; all in blatant violation of the September 5, 2014 Minsk Ceasefire Protocol.

Like the July 17, 2014 rebel downing of Malaysian Airline flight 17 which killed all 298 on board, this latest violence just adds to the list of barbarous acts carried out with the full support of the Russian military - including the undeniable participation and presence of Russian troops fighting in eastern Ukraine.

On January 15, 2015, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “For several months we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, as well as a substantial increase in Russian heavy equipment such as tanks, artillery, and advanced air defense systems.”

These photographs were given to me by Lt Col Semen Semenchenko, the commander of Donbas Volunteer Assault Battalion and newly elected member of the parliament of Ukraine, during our meeting on 13 Nov last year. 

The first set of pictures show Russian troops in T-72 tanks, BTR armored personnel carriers, and BMP infantry fighting vehicles entering eastern Ukraine, waiving Russian flags.  This is not simply supporting separatists – it is an invasion of the Ukraine by Russia.

The second set of picture were taken by Ukrainian soldiers on the front line in eastern Ukraine.

I was in Ukraine last October and met President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Areseniy Yatsenyuk. We discussed the ongoing Russian aggression, the status of U.S. military assistance, and Ukraine’s recent elections.  In fact, I was the first U.S. government official to congratulate those leaders for Ukraine’s successful parliamentary elections that took place there last Oct. 26…the first time in 96 years there will be no communists in the Ukrainian parliament!

President Vladimir Putin and his Russian government continue to deny sending weapons and Russian forces to assist these rebels despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

This aggression by the rebel separatists and the Russian Federation undermines peace and stability not only in Ukraine, but also in all of Europe, which constitutes a direct threat to United States security interests.

Last week, on January 29, 2015, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, and Madeleine Albright testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and all agreed stability in this region is threatened and that lethal assistance should be provided to Ukraine to defend itself, along with an Administration strategy to end Russia’s aggression.  Secretary Kissinger specifically elaborated on the need for a strategy by saying, “I am uneasy when one speaks of military measures alone without having the strategy fully put forward.”

On February 2, 2015, eight former senior ranking diplomatic and military officials—including former United States Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, former Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe Admiral James Stavridis and former Deputy Commander, U.S. European Command General Charles Wald —who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, released a nonpartisan report calling on President Obama to provide Ukraine with lethal weaponry and encourage other NATO countries—particularly those that possess and use former Soviet equipment and weaponry—to do the same.

Finally, on January 25, 2015, President Obama stated at a news conference in New Delhi, India, that the aggression by the rebel separatists in eastern Ukraine had “Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training, and Russian troops.”

As then Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin and I, as Ranking Republican of the Committee wrote last October in the Washington Post:  “We believe that the United States should begin providing defensive weapons that would help Ukraine defend its territory.  Such weapons could include anti-tank weapons to defend against Russian-provided armored personnel carriers, ammunition, vehicles and secure communications equipment. This would present no threat to Russia unless its forces launch further aggression against Ukraine.  In other words, these weapons are lethal, but not provocative because they are defensive.”

“While there is no purely military solution to what is a political problem, additional U.S. military assistance can help promote a political solution by raising the costs of further aggression by Russia.  Raising the costs will give Putin pause to allow political and economic pressure from outside and within Russia to force a political accommodation.”

Unfortunately, President Putin continues to directly support pro-Russian separatists with troops and weapons in the Ukraine leading to continued instability and the death of innocent Ukrainians. 

I am disappointed in Europe’s reluctance to provide the support the Ukrainian government has requested and desperately needs – this includes lethal weapons required take back and secure its borders.

We must stand strong next to Ukraine and President Poroshenko. 

During my visit to the Ukraine, I told the government leaders that I and many of my colleagues in Congress support their request, and promised to get them the support they need to include lethal weapons. 

This bill fulfills my promise to President Poroshenko and our obligation to the Ukrainian people, and I ask my colleagues for their support.

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