While Russia has been building up troops amid reports of an imminent invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden has sat on a plan to give Ukraine $200 million in military aid, according to a new report.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that Biden is seeking to have Ukraine give the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine vast autonomy while still preserving nominal control over the region.
The Donbas region has been the center of pro-Russian opposition to the Ukraine government. Fighting has been raging in the region since 2014.
A $200 million package of military assistance was proposed to help Ukraine, but it was stalled despite urgent appeals for help from Ukraine and demands from Republicans that Biden stand up to Russia, according to NBC, which quoted as its sources “three people familiar with the issue” who were not named.
The idea of the stall was to give Biden’s diplomacy time to work, the report said.
The $200 million package of aid “has been on the president’s desk for roughly three to four weeks,” said one of NBC’s sources.
Although the aid was supposed to get formal approval last week, the White House decided to delay action amid the crisis.
“There is slight frustration over this” from Ukrainian officials, according to one of NBC’s sources.
In an Op-Ed published Friday in “Foreign Affairs,” titled “Don’t Sell Out Ukraine,” Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, urged the West “to deepen military assistance to Ukraine.”
“We have our own capable military forces in Ukraine, and we don’t expect Western countries to put boots on the ground,” Kuleba wrote. “We do, however, need more weapons to be able to defend ourselves. Everything counts, from ammunition to medical equipment, but we are in particular need of air and missile defenses.”
Kuleba said a firm hand is needed in dealing with Russia.
“For too long, the West has declined to take Putin’s ambitions seriously and responded with delay, indecision and weakness. It is time to meet them with strength,” he wrote.
According to The New York Times, the latest estimates suggest Russia could have about 100,000 troops massed at various places along the border with Ukraine, which became a separate nation in 1991 after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.
Putin is using the Ukraine crisis to issue demands that include withdrawing a pledge to add Ukraine to NATO at some future date and promising to create a buffer zone around Russia in which military drills will not be held and certain weapons not deployed, the Times reported.
Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Putin, has said the documented evidence of troop buildups is nothing more than “whipping up information tension.”
“This is precisely done with the aim of further demonizing Russia,” he said.
“Right now, as we speak, hundreds of thousands of Russian troops are amassed on the border of Ukraine, waiting to invade. This calamitous foreign policy disaster is Joe Biden’s fault,” he said, linking Biden’s approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany as tantamount to a green light to invade Ukraine.
“Putin didn’t just wake up recently and decide to invade Ukraine. He’s wanted to invade Ukraine for years, he did so in 2014, but he stopped short of full invasion. Why? Because the Ukrainian energy infrastructure was necessary to get the Russian gas to market. Nord Stream 2 is all about building an alternative avenue to get the Russian gas to Europe, so then the Russian tanks can ride into Ukraine,” he said.
After losing a bid to have Democrats join him in sanctioning the pipeline, Cruz exploded.
“A month or two from now, if, God forbid, we see Russian tanks moving into Ukraine, remember this moment where Senate Democrats objected, said, ‘No, we won’t sanction the pipeline. We won’t save Ukraine. We won’t stand up to Russia.'”
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