Russia has expressed its anger over a U.S. congress bill which provides support to Ukraine through military aid and sanctions. The bill which is yet to be signed by President Barack Obama, was unanimously passed by both houses of congress late on Thursday.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the new bill, which fits within the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, was overtly confrontational and would cause deep regret. Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Washington was presenting “unfounded, sweeping accusations,” and added, “Russia will not yield to blackmail from the United States…” Lukashevich said the U.S. Act was not subjected to proper debate and voting procedures.
If the bill is signed by Obama, who has so far resisted sending arms to Ukraine, the United States will allocate up to $350 million in lethal military aid over the next three years. Hardware will include ammunition, anti-tank and armor-piercing weapons, surveillance drones, counter-artillery radars and other communications equipment. Previous U.S. support for Ukraine has involved non-lethal aid in the form of body armor, binoculars, counter-mortar detection devices and other gear for Ukraine’s border guards and security forces.
Russia has responded angrily over the U.S. Congress bill which provides not only military support to Ukraine, but also fresh sanctions against Russia’s state arms exporter Rosobornexpo, and Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas producer. Lukashevich said the new U.S. bill was akin to a “powerful bomb” threatening the two countries’ bilateral ties. According to reports in the Inquisitr, Russian media has warned all out war could ensue if the U.S. gives lethal aid to Ukraine.
However Ukraine has welcomed the U.S. Congress bill in what the country’s politicians have called a “historic decision.” Ukraine has been appealing to the West to for lethal assistance to bolster their struggling army. However there is as yet no certainty that Obama will sign off on the bill. One sticking point has been a clause that would have granted “major non-NATO ally” status to Ukraine as well as Western Georgia and Moldova.
Republican Senator Bob Corker, one of the bill’s co-authors, said Congress’s unanimous vote in favor of the bill demonstrated U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty. Corker added that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin must be held to account for what he called “an assault on freedom and security in Europe.”
Canada this week announced a move to support Ukraine in a manner which bears some similarity to the U.S. bill. Defense Minister Rob Nicholson said Canada will send soldiers to assist with security, training and field medicine. The Canadian declaration said they are committed to working together with Ukraine to strengthen the latter’s ability to defend its “territorial integrity and its people.”
Russia has been accused of giving military support to pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine, after seizing control of Crimea earlier this year. The conflict has so far claimed more than 4,300 lives.
On Friday, Ukraine announced the conscription of 40,000 soldiers and the doubling of its military budget. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko has also reportedly discussed reviving Ukrain’s nuclear weapons programs which ceased after the Budapest Memorandum was signed in 1994.
While Congress waits upon President Obama to either sign or reject the bill to support Ukraine, Russia’s anger over the debate continues. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the bill is being looked at. Assuming it is signed the president will have 60 days to finalize documents that detail the bill’s enactment.
By Monica Grant
Photo By Steve Evans – Flickr Page