Portman Announces Senate-Passed NDAA Upholds Americans’ Commitment to Assisting Ukraine

June 27, 2019 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the Senate passage of $250 million in security assistance to Ukraine in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to fund additional training, lethal and non-lethal equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. This bill also includes Portman’s provisions, included in previous NDAAs, which condition large portions of U.S. security assistance on critical defense sector reforms in Ukraine, including strengthening civilian control of the military and improving sustainment capabilities, inventory management, and security of sensitive foreign technologies. Additionally, the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision, written by Portman, that would extend the limitation on bilateral military-to-military cooperation between the U.S. and Russia unless Russia releases the twenty-four Ukrainian sailors that it illegally detained in international waters near the Kerch Strait on November 25, 2018. 

Last month, Portman visited Ukraine to meet with newly-elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Ruslan Khomchak, Minister of Finance Oksana Markarova, and other Ukrainian leaders.  During his visit, Portman congratulated the new government on its peaceful, free, and fair elections, pledged continued support from the U.S. Senate, and encouraged them to continue the anti-corruption efforts and structural reforms of the economy and the military.  

“The Senate-passed NDAA sends a clear message that America stands with the Ukrainian people in their struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future in the face of Russian aggression,” said Portman.  “When I was in Ukraine last month, I met the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Khomchak.  The Ukrainian military has fought bravely against Russian aggression in the Donbas and has made tremendous strides.  I assured him that my colleagues in the Senate would make sure the Ukrainian military has the capabilities it needs to defend its sovereign territory—on the land, sea, and air. The legislation passed by the Senate also demonstrates our commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine and the international community in calling for the release of the illegally detained sailors who were fired on and captured by Russian forces in international waters on November 25, 2018. As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, I’m glad the Senate-passed NDAA will help the Ukrainians defend themselves against Russian aggression.”  

NOTE:  Senator Portman, who received the Order of Merit from former President Petro Poroshenko during his visit to Ukraine in 2018 and received the Ukrainian-American community’s highest honor in 2016, the Shevchenko Freedom Award, has long led the effort in the Senate to provide Ukraine the kind of assistance necessary to ward off Russian aggression and maintain its territorial integrity. The co-founder and co-chairman of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Portman has visited Ukraine several times, including just last month and in April 2018 to see firsthand evidence of Russian aggression on the line of contact and leading a congressional election observation mission with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) during Ukraine’s Presidential election in 2014.

For the past three years, Portman has successfully introduced amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that expanded U.S. military aid to Ukraine. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia’s military aggression, and has praised its recent decisions to provide lethal assistance to the country.

Portman joined the international community in condemning the sham “elections” that were held in Russian-controlled Eastern Ukraine last November. Later that month, when ships belonging to the Russian security services attacked three Ukrainian Navy vessels near the Kerch Strait, Portman led 11 of his Senate Ukraine Caucus colleagues in condemning this unprovoked aggression.

For his efforts to support Ukraine, Portman was recognized with the Order Of St. Volodymyr Medal from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret. Portman also championed the bipartisan resolution marking the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, passed by the Senate in October 2018.