Ukraine President Urges U.S. Congress to Arm His Soldiers Against Russia

( [email protected] ) Sep 18, 2014 09:43 PM EDT
Ukraine President at White House
President Poroshenko of Ukraine appeared for the first time before a joint session of Congress in Washington. (Photo: New York Times)

WASHINGTON - President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine on Thursday implored the United States Congress to provide Ukraine's soldiers with heavy military equipment as his country seeks to repel what he called an ongoing invasion by Russian forces.

But after the meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office later in the day, Mr. Poroshenko said he was satisfied with American support of his military that falls short of his request. Asked whether he had gotten what he wanted, Mr. Poroshenko appeared pragmatic.

"I got everything possible," he said.

Mr. Poroshenko, appearing for the first time before a joint session of Congress earlier in the day, pleaded for America's help in countering what he called "one of the most cynical acts of treachery in the modern history." He described the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine as a stab in the back from a once-supportive neighbor, according to The New York Times.

"Over the last month, Ukranians have shown that they have the courage to stand up," Mr. Poroshenko said. "We will never obey or bend to the aggressor. We are ready to fight."

President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine has appealed to the United States Congress for support of his strategy in handling Russian-backed separatists.

S eaking in English, he urged the United States to come to the aid of Ukrainian soldiers who are battling with Russian-backed forces in the eastern part of his country, according to The New York Times.

"They need more military equipment, both lethal and nonlethal," he said. "Please understand me correctly. Blankets, night vision goggles are also important, but one cannot win the war with blankets."

President Obama's administration has not yet agreed to that request. The United States has provided about $70 million in nonlethal assistance to Ukraine and Mr. Obama has led a coalition of European countries that have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in the hopes of bringing the conflict to an end.

On Wednesday, the White House pledged an additional $46 million in security assistance that it said would help support Ukraine's military and border guards. The United States will also send an additional $7 million to international relief agencies to be spent on humanitarian needs in the eastern part of Ukraine, the White House said, according to The New York Times.

In the White House meeting with Mr. Obama, Mr. Porosheko thanked the United States for "defending democracy and freedom" and told Mr. Obama that "You are a friend."

Mr. Obama offered words of encouragement but did not promise the lethal military aid that his counterpart wants.

"During this meeting we reaffirmed this assistance to Ukraine and we are providing additional assistance," Mr. Obama said, according to The New York Times.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr. Poroshenko said he was not disappointed with the president's decision.

"I am satisfied with the level of cooperation with the United States of America in the defense and security sector," he said. "I cannot say more, but I am satisfied."

White House officials said the United States did not believe that providing heavy equipment and ethal weapons would help to resolve the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, according to The New York Times.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, stressed that the United States has provided a long list of equipment to the Ukrainians, including body armor, helmets, night-vision goggles, radar equipment and vehicles. But he said Mr. Obama was not inclined to go further.

In his remarks in Congress, Mr. Poroshenko offered thanks for that help, but he said it was not enough. He said the Russian aggression in his country would threaten European nations and the rest of the world if it was not stopped, according to The New York Times.

"Hybrid proxy war, terrorism, national radical and extremist movements, the erosion of the national and international agreements, the blurring and even erasing of the national identities - all these threats now challenge Europe," Mr. Poroshenko said. "If they are not stopped now, they will cross European borders and spread, absolutely, throughout the world."

In addition to military support, Mr. Poroshenko called on Congress to establish a special economic fund to support investment in Ukranian companies as a way of helping to build up the country's civil society and economy.

He acknowledged Ukraine's history of corruption and bureaucracy - a legacy, he said of the country's ties to Russia - but he pledged that any assistance from the United States would not be wasted.

"I assure you that all aid received from the west will be utilized by noncorrupt institutions," he said.

In concluding his remarks, Mr. Poroshenko used the phrase "live free or die," a motto associated with the American Revolution. He said that the phrase could also be applied to the Ukranian soldiers who were fighting against Russian-backed foes on the battlefields in Eastern Europe, , according to The New York Times.

"Live free must be the answer," he declared. "Live free must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world while standing together in this time of enormous challenge."