On September 21, the US House of Representatives approved overwhelmingly «Stability and Democracy for Ukraine Act» (H.R. 5094), which was earlier endorsed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The legislation, which goes to the US Senate for consideration, provides for sanctions and includes lethal weapons systems as part of national defense budget. It also strengthens the sanctions imposed on Moscow and reinforces the US refusal to recognize Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.
The bill directs the Secretary of State to develop and implement a strategy of waging an information war against Russia. According to the document, it meets the United States national security interests to increase the availability of insurance to support increased private investment in Ukraine.
The move puts added pressure on the White House, which is also considering delivering weapons. The pressure also comes from US top officials. For instance, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and NATO’s top military commander General Philip Breedlove have openly supported the idea. To demonstrate US support for Ukraine, US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has recently appointed John Abizaid, a retired United States Army general and former U.S. Central Command commander, as a special adviser to Ukraine's defence minister.
Kiev has repeatedly requested from Washington more advanced weaponry, especially Javelin antitank missiles. So far, the administration has resisted, fearing it would escalate the fighting and further undermine the Minsk-2 accords. The US has limited its supplies to non-lethal equipment, things like flak jackets, night-vision goggles, and radar that helps locate where mortars are fired from.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has stated that Ukraine would raise the issue of lethal weapons at the next negotiations with the West.
Europe has been reticent about the idea of supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons. For instance, Germany has openly opposed it.
The news about the bill approved by the House of Representatives actually slid the radar in other countries but in Ukraine officials and media did their best to overblow the story. The Ukrainian president thanked US lawmakers for the support.
Mr. Poroshenko exaggerates the extent of the support rendered by the United States. It’s enough to read the text of the bill to see that the provision on lethal weapons is nothing more than just another symbolic gesture. First, it’s not binding. This is a very important fact Ukrainian media outlets often omit. Second, the legislation still has to pass the Senate. Third, the bill can be vetoed by president. And finally – the sum is only $1 million over five years! It’s zilch! The bill is a demonstration of support in words, but not deeds.
It’s an open secret that real military assistance is channeled through expenditure items other than the defense budget. Besides, the US administration is growing weary of Ukraine’s ineffectiveness and overwhelming corruption. Ukraine must make progress on promised economic and political reforms or the EU could backtrack on sanctions it imposed on Russia in 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden warned Ukraine on September 21.
True, it’s hard to imagine the US lift the anti-Russia sanctions over Crimea, but their effect could be brought to nothing as a result of executive orders aimed at boosting the ties. After all, the US never recognized the Baltic States as part of the Soviet Union while making deals with Moscow.
There are at least a baker’s dozen of good reasons for the bill to be sent into Congress at the time of election campaign with President Obama leaving the office soon. The STAND will place into statute the existing executive order sanctions imposed on Russia to prevent the improvement of the bilateral relations as Republican candidate Donald Trump is «going strong» in the presidential race. The GOP candidate has called for improvement of ties with Russia. Recently, he has left open the possibility of recognizing Crimea as Russian territory.
Signed into law, the legislation will tie President Trump’s hands and prevent him from making steps to promote cooperation with Russia. A sitting president can cancel pre-existing executive orders at the moment he chooses, but repealing an existing legislation takes a lot of time and effort.
On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton wins the race, the Ukraine Act will help her implement plans to confront the Russian Federation. Hillary Clinton has recently been involved in one scandal after another. One of the stories is related to Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, who was confirmed as the largest individual contributor to the Clinton Foundationat the time Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State.
Among individual donors contributing to the Clinton Foundation in the period between 1999 and 2014, Ukrainian sponsors took first place in the list, providing the charity with almost $10 million.
The Viktor Pinchuk Foundation alone transferred at least $8.6 million to the Clinton charity between 2009 and 2013. During Clinton’s term as State Secretary, Pinchuk was introduced to influential American lobbyists.
It explains a lot. There are other things to be taken into consideration. Does the legislation really meet American national interests? After all, Ukraine is a minor economic and security issue of marginal concern for the United States. The country faces economic crisis. Corruption is rampant and the economy is tanked. There is a slim chance the Ukraine’s government will really try to reform and rebuild the country. From American point of view, Ukraine does not matter geographically. Ukraine is a European, not American, problem. Even if Ukraine becomes a NATO member, it’ll be more of a headache than a useful ally for Washington.
New nations in the alliance don’t enhance US security. Cooperation with Russia does. No major security problem in the world can be solved without Russia, be it arms control, non-proliferation or armed conflicts. An extended conflict with Moscow would continue to negatively affect the economies of America’s European allies. Many European states already are lobbying to lift or moderate sanctions.
A diplomatic solution in Ukraine will benefit America much more than acting as a belligerent party. If signed into a law, the Act will spoil the Russia-US relations for a long time. The crisis in Ukraine will become history as time goes by. New burning issue of critical importance for the United States will hit the agenda. The STAND for Ukraine Act will hinder any efforts to cooperate. It’s not too late to prevent the bill from becoming a law.