May 04, 2015

Portman in Cleveland Plain Dealer: U.S. Must Do More to Help Ukraine

"Efforts to strengthen Ukraine must be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to support our regional allies and deter Russian aggression."

Washington, D.C. – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, writes in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the U.S. must not neglect the situation in Ukraine and increase its assistance to the country in the face of continued Russian aggression and violations of the most recent cease-fire.

Portman recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Ukraine where he met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and other Ukrainian officials and community leaders.

Excerpts are below and the full op-ed can be found here.

U.S. must do more to help Ukraine withstand Russian aggression
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Sen. Rob Portman
May 4, 2015

As multiple global crises compete for our attention, we must not neglect the situation in Ukraine and the need to stand with an ally who needs our help. I recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Ukraine, a year after my colleague Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and I led a congressional delegation to monitor last year's presidential election.

Ukrainians made an unequivocal choice to pursue a pro-Western, democratic path, and are making progress in fighting decades of endemic corruption that left Ukraine weak, while simultaneously dealing with a blatant Russian invasion. Successful follow-through on these reforms will be absolutely essential to the long-term success and prosperity of Ukraine.

However, none of these efforts will mean much if Ukraine is unable to secure its borders or defend its sovereignty…Every day, Ukrainian positions come under attack, and Russian tanks, supplies, and soldiers continue to cross the border. Many of these attacks involve the use of heavy artillery systems that the separatists were supposed to have withdrawn under the terms of the cease-fire.

The United States and our NATO allies must do more to help strengthen Ukrainian military capabilities. In the short-term, Ukraine needs critical defensive capabilities such as anti-tank weapons, secure communications, short- and long-range counterbattery radars, night vision and thermal optics, unmanned aerial vehicles, and air defense systems. Equally important is effective monitoring of U.S. assistance — from both the American and Ukrainian sides — to ensure it reaches the front-line troops who need it most.

The administration seems to believe that the requested U.S. support for Ukraine will somehow lead to more instability. I believe that further inaction will only expand the current conflict. At no point in this conflict has Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to escalate been costly enough to force him to fundamentally reconsider his strategy. Russia's annexation of Crimea, campaign to destabilize and then invade eastern Ukraine last summer and fall, and recent winter offensive all happened despite Western attempts to force a negotiated settlement.

Efforts to strengthen Ukraine must be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to support our regional allies and deter Russian aggression. We must demonstrate America's commitment to the security of our NATO allies through a reinforced NATO presence in Eastern Europe and more vigorous American engagement in training and security cooperation. Most importantly, we must be very clear about the stakes in this conflict. President Putin's actions upend decades of established international norms, and the response demonstrates the weakness of the Western alliance and America's leadership.

Confidence in America and our European allies' unity and commitment to uphold these norms deters bad actors and incentivizes other countries to play by the rules, which helps ensure peace, stability, and prosperity. If the credibility of this commitment is in doubt, then the chance for violence, instability, and economic collapse increases. Nearly every Ukrainian official I met with understood this. It's time the White House did as well.