On December 11, US Congress unanimously passed the measure titled Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 authorizing defensive weapons for Ukraine. That is exactly what the Ukraine’s government wanted since a long time ago. The Ukrainian lobby in the US applied efforts to push the bill through. The motion got full support of right wing radicals like Senator John McCain. The passing of the Act has become one more step on the way of escalating the Ukraine’s crisis and deteriorating the relations between Russia and the United States. The document addresses multiple issues, a bit less than half of the text is directly related to Ukraine itself.
The measure calls for the delivery of up to $350 million (280 million euros) worth of US military hardware to Ukraine out of the total $420 million total aid package. It authorizes the military aid which includes, «anti-tank and anti-armor weapons; crew weapons and ammunition; counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries; fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment; tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment». It’s not that only, so more surprises are expected in the Donbass. One phrase stands out to attract special attention. It says «It is in the sense of Congress that the Government of Ukraine should take all the appropriate steps to protect civilians».
Tough anti-Russian rhetoric is mixed up with different types of well-wishes. For instance, the bill calls for aid to the persons fleeing the combat area in the Donbass. In practice few refugees go to Ukraine but even these numbers are enough to make packed all 5 star hotels in Kiev. It is touching that US Congress does care about the internally displaced persons but the majority of those who leave the combat area go to Russia so the burden will not have to be shouldered by US budget. The bill authorizes assistance to the defense sector of Ukraine’s industry. It says «the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense should assist entities in the defense sector of Ukraine to reorient exports away from customers in the Russian Federation and to find appropriate alternative markets for those entities in the defense sector of Ukraine that have already significantly reduced exports to and cooperation with entities in the defense sector of the Russian Federation». This is intriguing. The document adduces a long list of different kinds of assistance to be provided by the USA, including energy security, fight against corruption, independent media, monitoring of elections and many other things. The bill authorizes new sanctions against Rosoboronexport, Gazprom and other Russian defense and energy companies. The sanctions authorized are to be introduced against entities owned or controlled by the government of the Russian Federation that knowingly manufacture or sell defense articles transferred into Syria or into the territory of a specified country without the consent of the internationally recognized government of that country. The term specified country applies to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. According to double standards normally practiced by the US, the activities conducted in accordance with permission granted by Syrian government are categorized as a crime.
Gasprom may be subject to additional sanctions if the President determines that it is withholding significant natural gas supplies from member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or further withholds significant natural gas supplies from countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova. Anything falls under this category including switching off a debtor who failed to foot the bill like it has happened a number of times in case of Ukraine. The bill authorizes the US President to toughen economic pressure against Russia under an invented pretext. The President may impose the sanctions with respect to foreign energy companies taking part in the economic activities in the Russian Arctic shelf or developing shale gas on the territory of Russian Federation. The paper expresses concern over alleged violations by the Russian Federation of its obligations under the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles signed at Washington December 8, 1987. The President «should hold the Russian Federation accountable for being in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty; and demand the Russian Federation completely and verifiably eliminate the military systems that constitute the violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty». The document adds that the President should make an assessment «as to whether it remains in the national security interests of the United States to remain a party to the INF Treaty, and other related treaties and agreements, while the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF».
It should be noted that it’s up to the President to decide if the major part of listed measures should be implemented. The Act is non-binding. In other words the President is not obliged to supply arms to Ukraine or impose sanctions against the companies cooperating with Russia, including granting credits or purchasing their products. Furthermore, the President can make exceptions if the national interests of the United States would be adversely affected by the application or maintenance of such sanctions, for instance, if a company produces critically important products like Russia-made RD-180 rocket engines. Actually Congress adopted a softer version of the bill. Lawmakers dropped a key provision in the original version that would have taken the rare step of giving major non-NATO ally status to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
The vote in Congress does not make the bill a law. The US election system does not include the procedure for the bills to be considered by lower chamber first and the upper chamber second. Any house can initiate a bill. This bill was initiated by Senate. The Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 was sent to the House of Representatives the very same day. Some changes were introduced there to the final wording of the document. Then the bill was returned to Senate for approval. The Act is to be signed by the President.
According to Obama, further anti-Russia sanctions would be counterproductive if not joined by Europe. It does not mean that he will veto the measure. The President will probably sign the bill into law to use the authorization depending on the situation.
It should be noted that Obama loses initiative when it comes to foreign policy issues. The Democratic Party lost the recent elections making Biden and Kerry the persons who call the shots in the administration. The further shift of foreign policy to the right is possible. Swimming with the tide president Obama may start large-scale arms supplies to Ukraine even if he does not want to.