Obama Resists GOP Call to Better Arm Ukraine

Obama Resists GOP Call to Better Arm Ukraine
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President Obama shares Republican senators’ commitment to tough sanctions against Russia and assistance for the Ukrainian people, but opposes supplying military weapons and lethal aid to Ukraine, the White House repeated on Wednesday.

Asked to react to a proposed Senate measure backed by at least 22 Republicans and aimed at showcasing a tough GOP posture toward Russia, spokesman Jay Carney said the president supports the overall aims but opposes arming Ukrainians. To do so would divert the U.S. and European allies from a potential diplomatic solution with Moscow, and would not improve a peaceful, democratic outcome for Ukrainians, who, armed or not, are overmatched by a powerful Russian army across the border.

“Those who make those calls don't explain what ultimate purpose” that would serve, Carney said. “The Russian army is obviously a substantial force. And the only way to resolve this is not through military conflict. It's through organizing, as the United States has, an international coalition to put pressure on Russia to make sure that Russia is paying a high price for the actions that it's taking.”

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama’s foreign policy is “creating danger” around the world because of what many in the GOP see as a tentative approach to President Vladimir Putin.

With colleagues, Corker introduced a measure Wednesday that would offer Ukraine $100 million in direct U.S. military assistance and provide non-NATO ally status to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. In addition, sponsors of the bill want to immediately sanction four of Russia’s largest banks, the most powerful Russian oil companies, and a Russian arms dealer.

The administration, coordinating with European governments, announced Monday that it is preparing sanctions against Russia’s financial, defense and energy sectors, warning that significant economic punishments await Russia, should its troops cross Ukraine’s eastern border.

“What is clearly the case is we are reserving the most severe sanctions for the potentially most severe action by Russia, should Russia choose to engage in it, and the most severe sanctions economically would be sanctioning sectors of the economy,” Carney said.

During a speech about Ukraine on Wednesday, Vice President Biden warned, “We have to be resolute in imposing costs. And I'll note parenthetically that costs are going to be shared in some cases disproportionately. That's the reality.”

Speaking to the Atlantic Council, the vice president said he believed Moscow understood it “cannot have it both ways” in integrating with international organizations while at the same time flouting international law in Ukraine. “If Russia wants to benefit from the international order, it has to respect that order and abide by the rules. Otherwise, it's going to face growing costs and growing isolation,” he said.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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