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New Bill Backing Reform In Ukraine Seeks To Show U.S. 'Will Stand By Its Friend'

By Todd Prince July 31, 2020

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced legislation to provide military assistance and reform support to Ukraine over the next five years, underscoring the widespread congressional backing for the nation despite repeated disappointments as it battles Russia-backed forces.

The Ukraine Security Partnership Act submitted on July 30 authorizes up to $300 million per year in foreign military aid to Ukraine, including lethal weapons, subject to meeting reform criteria.

The act also calls for the State Department to set up a working group on Ukraine with European allies to prioritize economic and policy reform assistance and to again appoint a special envoy to Kyiv for peace talks.

While Ukraine has made progress on many reforms over the years, it has struggled at times due to endemic corruption and pushback by influential oligarchs.

The legislation comes a year after President Donald Trump recalled his ambassador to Kyiv and temporarily withheld military support to Ukraine, sparking a partisan impeachment trial that led to the departure of special envoy Kurt Volker and damaged U.S.-Ukrainian relations. The impeachment trial derailed a planned White House meeting between Trump and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"The Ukraine Security Partnership Act gets the U.S.-Ukraine relationship back on track by increasing our security assistance for Kyiv as the United States continues to support their steps towards political reform and helps counter Russian aggression abroad," Chris Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut), one of the bill's six co-sponsors, said in a statement.

The bill's sponsors describe Ukraine as a bulwark against Russian "malign influence" and of "vital" importance to U.S. security interests. Ukraine has demonstrated itself as a "valuable" security partner that has sent troops to support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, demonstrating it is not just a recipient of aid.

The co-sponsors also include Senator Jim Risch (Republican-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey), the committee's ranking Democratic member; Rob Portman (Republican-Ohio); John Barrasso (Republican-Wyoming.); and Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat-New Hampshire).

The United States has given Ukraine more than $3 billion in aid, including more than $1.6 billion in military assistance, since Russia forcibly annexed its Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backed separatists fighting in its eastern regions.

The war, sparked by the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's pro-Moscow president, has resulted in the deaths of more than 14,000 Ukrainians and devastated the nation's economy. The war continues to the present day, despite calls for cease-fires.

"This legislation demonstrates to Ukraine, and to Russia, that the United States will stand by its friend throughout its democratic transition and in defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This bill will strengthen Ukraine's defenses through military training and equipment and enhanced U.S. and European diplomatic support," the senators said in a news release announcing the bill.

The legislation calls for U.S. military aid to help bolster Ukraine's navy so it can better defend its Black Sea territory. The Black Sea borders three NATO allies and is of strategic importance to the United States.

The legislation authorizes the secretary of state to supply such lethal aid as anti-ship, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft weapons.

"This legislation demonstrates to Ukraine, and to Russia, that the United States will stand by its friend throughout its democratic transition and in defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Risch said in the statement.

Part of the aid is contingent upon progress on defense industry reform, including strengthening civilian control of the military, increasing the transparency of procurement, and enhancing efficiency at state-owned arms manufacturers.

Ukraine's military-industrial complex has suffered from widespread corruption and mismanagement over the years, industry analysts and civil society groups have said.

The government is currently undertaking the reform of Ukroboronprom, the state-owned military holding that consists of more than 100 companies, including manufacturers and design firms.

The United States has been advising Ukraine on its reform of the defense industry.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/new-bill-backing-reform -in-ukraine-seeks-to-show-u-s-will- stand-by-its-friend/30758236.html

Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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