Hagel Announces Heightened Measures to Respond to Ukraine Crisis

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday morning that he’d ordered measures to increase U.S. defense and deterrence in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Hagel said U.S. forces are ”stepping up joint training through our aviation detachment in Poland” and “augmenting our participation in NATO’s air policing mission on the Balkan peninsula.”

Hagel also said that he’d ordered the suspension of military-to-military engagements and exercises between U.S. and Russian armed forces. Specifically, two trilateral military exercises – involving the United States, Russia, Norway and Canada -- have been cancelled.

He said the Obama administration’s economic aid package for Ukraine is especially important in shoring up the new Kiev government against the threat posed by Russia.

Hagel also told the committee that “the events of the past week underscore the need for America’s continued global engagement and leadership. The president’s defense budget reflects that reality and helps sustain our commitments and our leadership at a very defining moment.”

Hagel was appearing before the committee to explain and defend the Obama administration’s $496 billion defense spending plan for Fiscal Year 2015.

But senior Republican on the committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, said that the Ukraine crisis and other events showed a “reality that President Obama seems unwilling to accept: that the tide of war is not receding.”

He accused the Obama administration of “robbing our military men and woman of the tools they need to defend the nation against growing threats.”