The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a $1B loan guarantee for the Ukrainian government, along with an additional $125 million dollars in aid to the Kiev government and surrounding countries. The bill, which passed the house with a 399-19 vote is expected to be signed into law by President Barak Obama and includes sanctions against Russians and Ukrainians for the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea earlier this month.
Senator Robert Mendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told reporters, “I believe we are in a dangerous moment in history with global consequences and the world is watching,” He went on to say that, “President Putin is watching…waiting to see if we have the resolve to act.”
“This winter, the Ukrainian people boldly took to the streets to demand a corruption-free government and a future of partnership with Europe, rather than control from Moscow, ” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said.
President Obama has been in Europe this past week urging U.S. allies to stand together against Moscow. Last week, Obama announced sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, but once the bill is signed into law, it makes the sanctions mandatory. The bill includes sanctions against Russians and Ukrainians who are believe to have undermined Ukraine’s stability as well as who the United States deems responsible for Human Rights abuses and corruption. The bill targeted Russian officials that the US believed were responsible for the destabilization of Ukraine by freezing assets and revoking visas.
Sen Mendez said, “Putin’s cronies should realize that Putin might not be the right horse to be betting on anymore.”
With more than 10,000 Russian troops mobilized on the Ukrainian border, the United States is prepared to offer “some type” of future military aid to Kiev further on down the line once Ukraine is stabilized according to the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.
The Democrats were initially weary of the bill because of the lack of International Monetary Fund reform language, which they backed down from in order to move the bill swiftly though congress. They decided that it was more important to impose sanctions and denounce Putin’s actions rather than push for IMF changes to the bill.
On Thursday, the IMF announced an agreement for a $27 billion dollar bail out of Ukraine to help stabilize the economy after 3 months of protests, the ousting of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yuankovych and the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The No. 2 Democrat in the house, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said, “This agreement highlights the important rile the IMF can play in preventing an economic catastrophe,” in an effort to urge lawmakers to reconsider the IMF reforms.
The White House has been trying for years to get Congress to approve a $63 billion shift from an IMF fund to general accounts to make good on a promise made in 2010. However, in light of the severity of the situation in Ukraine, Democrats decided to save that fight for another day.
By Nathaniel Pownell
The Huffington Post