GOP Sen. John McCain spoke at a Saturday press conference during his trip to Ukraine and lambasted the U.S. for refusing to provide weapons to Ukrainian forces.
According to McCain, Ukraine has shown repeatedly that it’s willing to fight for freedom, making it shameful to deny the country much-needed military assistance against well-armed separatists in the eastern region, The Associated Press reports.
For McCain, the 300 paratroopers sent as advisers in April aren’t sufficient. A lack of weapons only cedes more ground to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s designs to pull Ukraine away from NATO and other western countries, he says. Observers allege that the reason separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk are able to keep fighting is because Russian support lurks behind the scenes. Putin steadfastly denies any and all such accusations.
“This is shameful that we will not provide [the Ukrainians] with weapons to defend themselves. They are fighting with 20th-century weapons against Russia’s 21st-century weapons. That’s not a fair fight,” McCain said, after meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other officials.
Since Russia annexed Crimea last year, McCain has been one of the most vocal proponents of shipping military gear to Ukraine.
“We need to give long-term military assistance… because God knows what Vladimir Putin will do next,” McCain said in March 2014.
Accompanying McCain was Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who argued that sending weapons is a necessity, as Putin has repeatedly refused de-escalation attempts.
The National Defense Authorization Act includes $300 million for military assistance to Ukraine, but the defense budget bill still needs to make it through Congress and the White House first. Recent back-and-forth disputes between the Republican-dominated legislature and the Obama administration threaten the bill’s passage.
Russia meanwhile opposes any attempt from the U.S. to send military assistance, saying that any military aid will out increase instability. Putin has also warned Israel in April not to sell weapons.
Shortly after the press conference, Lithuania’s ambassador to Ukraine, Marius Yanukonis, said that Lithuania is preparing to ship arms to Ukrainian forces, in an effort to persuade other NATO member countries to follow suit.
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