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Lawmakers call for military aid to Ukraine

Several member of Congress appeared on Sunday talk shows to offer suggestions to aid Ukraine as Russia takes over Crimea.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   March 24, 2014 at 11:03 AM   |   Comments

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March 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Congress is scrambling to piece together an aid package for Ukraine that strikes an appropriate balance between protecting Western interests and avoiding involvement that is too deep.

Lawmakers returned from a recess last week facing a deepening crisis over Crimea as Ukraine prepared to withdraw its troops from the contested region, and looking to shoot down the ambitions of a bolstered Kremlin.

On the Sunday shows, senators from both parties hinted they would like to see legislation move beyond sanctions against Russia and extending a loan guarantee to the new Ukrainian government.

Although Ukraine is not a member of the North American Treaty Organization -- meaning other NATO nations aren't impelled to step in to offer military aid -- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., says sending small arms, along with food and fuel may be possible.

"Keep it on the table," Durbin said on Face the Nation, and "for the time being, help Ukraine's army get on its feet by sending “everything from fuel to tires to sleeping bags to meals.”

"We’ve got to strengthen them and help them with advice and backing,” he said.

Republican Mike Rodgers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, agreed.

"You can do non-combatant military aid in a way that allows them to defend themselves," Rogers said on Meet The Press Sunday, speaking from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

“We’re talking about small arms,” Rogers said. “Maybe medical supplies, radio equipment -- things that they can use to protect themselves -- defensive posture weapons systems. And you do that in conjunction with sanctions, now you’ve got something that says, ‘Mr. Putin, we’re done with you expanding into other countries.’”

The administration is reviewing a request for non-lethal items, including medical supplies and uniform equipment, but has yet to make a final decision, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said last week.

The Senate is set to move its version of an aid package forward on Monday afternoon, but may face a roadblock in the House over the inclusion of funding from the International Monetary Funds.

Follow @gabbilevy and @UPI on Twitter.
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Topics: Dick Durbin
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