Senate Panel OKs Ukraine Aid Bill

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday approved a bill that would provide loan guarantees and other aid to Ukraine and allow the Obama administration to impose sanctions on Russians involved in corruption in Ukraine.

“Today Ukraine faces a menacing threat that challenges its very existence and we need to stand with the Ukrainian people” and allow them “to choose their own destiny without Russian interference,” said committee chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Like a bill already passed by the House, the Senate bill provides for loan guarantees for Ukraine, in line with the $1 billion announced by the Obama administration in recent days.

It also directs the administration to help the Kiev government recover assets linked to acts of corruption by deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, members of his family, or other former or current Ukrainian government officials.

It spends $150 million for military cooperation, pro-democracy efforts, and clean government in Ukraine.

It allows the administration to impose sanctions against Ukrainians and Russians responsible for violence and serious human rights abuses against anti-government protesters and against those responsible for invading the Ukraine.

On the 14-3 committee vote, one of the “no” votes came from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender.

He said he supported sanctions against the Russians and military and technical assistance to Ukraine.

But, he said, “I have trouble with the loan assistance.” He told other committee members, “Realize that when you give money to Ukraine, you’re giving it to Russia. And you may think you’re sending one signal, but I think you are in unintended fashion sending the wrong signal.”

Ukrainians owe between $20 billion and $30 billion to Russian banks and to the Russian natural gas firm Gazprom, he said.

Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the bill “looney” for the offsets used to fund it. Some of the money came from the elimination of weapons systems such as the Kiowa helicopter, which was proposed in President Barack Obama's budget request.

“If the Senate is serious about protecting Ukraine, they should work with the House to pass something that can be adopted quickly by both chambers," McKeon said in a statement.