Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is leading a group of senators pressuring the White House to send weapons to the Ukrainian army. The war between Ukraine and Russia has killed over 5,000 Ukrainians since the war started in April 2014.
“I’d like to express my appreciation to Senator Reid and all of my other colleagues here who are joining today what is now an overwhelming bipartisan consensus: the United States must act with urgency to provide defensive, lethal assistance to Ukraine,” said McCain. “Russia’s invasion of the sovereign territory of Ukraine, which has continued unabated in the face of political and economic sanctions is the gravest threat to European security in decades.”
The senators joining McCain at his press conference were Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).
Congress passed a law in December that allows the government to send weapons to Ukraine. President Barack Obama signed the legislation, “but it gave him leeway over whether or when to send arms.”
“We need to see that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin understands nothing but force,” said Blumenthal. “He is a thug. He has not responded to sanctions. Sanctions are not working and the robust and muscular approach that we are urging now, in fact was authorized by Congress in the last session; 350 million dollars in military and defensive aid which includes the kinds of weapons, anti-tank missiles, that are vital for the Ukrainians to defend themselves against Russian troops that have invaded their country.”
Reed, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Service Committee, said the United States cannot send troops, but can send weapons to defeat Russian soldiers. Obama’s defense secretary nominee Ashton Carter claimed he is “very much inclined” to send weapons to Ukraine. NATO is also inclined to boost forces in eastern Europe, especially ex-Soviet States, since Putin could target those countries next.
“Our decisions make clear that NATO is determined to defend all allies against any threats from any direction,” said NATO Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg.
Russian diplomats made veiled threats against the Baltic states over the course of 2014. One diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council that Moscow is prepared to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Estonia. Russia’s ambassador to Latvia told a radio station that Moscow will grant citizenship to ethnic Russians in the country. Moscow reopened criminal cases against Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet Army in 1990-1991, which forced the government to warn citizens not to travel to non-EU and non-NATO countries.