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Hurting Ukraine, helping Russia

jones

The President’s efforts to prod Ukraine into conducting investigations to help his re-election are hurting that nation’s defense against Russian aggression. While the emphasis in the U.S. is whether the President was guilty of impeachable conduct, Ukraine has a dangerous war on its hands.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014, seized and annexed Crimea, and ever since has been engaged in a deadly proxy war to seize sizable portions of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. has viewed the Russian aggression as a serious threat to American interests and has been Ukraine’s main supplier of military assistance.

Since the fighting began, about 13,000 Ukrainians have died from hostile action. Even though there is a supposed ceasefire in effect now, pro-Russian forces committed 60 violations just on September 24. Ukraine desperately needs our help to defend itself. There is no place for domestic U.S. politics in this struggle.

Congress has authorized about $1.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine since 2014. Almost $400 million was approved for release in May 2019 by the Pentagon, based on its certification that the Ukrainian Government had “taken substantial actions” toward “decreasing corruption” and “increasing accountability.”

Because the aid package was set to expire on September 30, it was critical to disburse it before then. The aid was urgently needed on the ground for counter-artillery radars, sniper rifles, medical supplies and a wide variety of other essential war-fighting materiel.

Secure communications equipment was desperately needed because the Russians have been using cyber warfare to hack and jam Ukrainian communications–a fundamental necessity on the battlefield. L3 Technologies, an American manufacturer of secure commo systems, had a shipment ready to deliver to Ukraine in July when it received word that a hold had been placed on the order.

It was later learned that our President had personally put a hold on all military assistance to Ukraine the week before his famous July 15 telephone conversation with President Zelensky. When the hold was discovered, bipartisan pressure forced the President to release the aid on September 11, just 19 days before it would have expired. As it turns out, there was no legitimate justification for the two-month hold.

As documented in the notes of the phone call released by the White House, the President requested that Zelensky investigate former Vice President Biden, offering the assistance of Attorney General Barr and Rudy Giuliani. Zelensky agreed, then requested that Trump meet with him. Trump asked Zelensky to phone for a meeting date, saying “we’ll work that out.”

This transaction was likely applauded by President Putin, as it provided some normalcy for his interference in the 2016 election and a green light for more of the same in 2020. If Trump was inviting Ukrainian intervention in the 2020 election, why couldn’t the Russians do an encore of their dirty work? The transaction also demonstrated tenuous U.S. support for Ukraine in its struggle with Putin’s surrogate forces.

The Ukrainian President came off looking weak, pliable and corruptible. At the same time, American military aid for Ukraine appeared subject to Trump’s personal needs. These appearances will likely hinder Zelenky’s efforts to get continued support from other European countries—support that is critical to his country.

Zelensky could be excused to a degree for his submission. He was desperate for a public meeting with Trump to show he had the support of the United States in resisting Russia. He would probably have agreed to about any other demand just for a clear showing of American backing for Ukraine.

The founding fathers would be greatly saddened to learn that a U.S. President had used America’s national security interests as bargaining fodder for private political gain. I think every American should take a few minutes to read the three documents that describe this transaction–the whistleblower complaint, the July 15 telephone conversation notes, and the Inspector General’s cover letter. All three documents can be found on Google. Be sure to let Idaho’s Senators know what you think about this unfortunate business.
 

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