The top Democrat sitting on the House Committee on Armed Services is urging President Donald Trump to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine to fight off the Russians.
In a letter sent to Trump on Thursday, Democratic Rep. Adam Smith drew attention to the resurgent conflict in Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, urging the president to send a strong signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin by shipping off lethal weapons to Ukraine.
Citing Trump’s recent conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the conflict, Smith accused Russia of deploying military forces into eastern Ukraine, illegally occupying Crimea and violating the terms of the Minsk agreements.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, and since then, Russian separatists in Ukraine have been involved in routine skirmishes with government forces of varying intensity.
Mikhail Tolstykh, a top legendary commander of Russian separatists who went by the nickname Givi, was killed Wednesday in Donetsk by an explosion.
“As the conflict in Ukraine unfolds, the world will be watching you,” Smith wrote. “Your words, your actions, and, most importantly, your leadership will matter. Now is not the time to consider easing the sanctions levied on Russia or to back away from Ukraine. It is the time for the United States to stand firm. I strongly urge you to demonstrate implacable U.S. resolve, at the very least, by enforcing current sanctions and exercising the authority provided by Congress to provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.”
On the Republican side, GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Service, sent a similar letter earlier in February, arguing Trump should keep sanctions up against Russia and provide assistance to Ukraine.
McCain has been a long-time advocate of assisting Ukraine and said that the recent violence flaring up in that region is a test of Trump’s resolve.
“That this surge of attacks began the day after he talked with you by phone is a clear indication that Vladimir Putin is moving quickly to test you as commander in chief. America’s response will have lasting consequences,” McCain said.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has shipped out non-lethal assistance in the form of first-aid kits, drones and night vision, among other things. But as far as the more hawkish side of Congress is concerned, Trump needs to step up his game and transition to lethal assistance, as permitted by the National Defense Authorization Act.
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