Ukraine Leader’s Plea Nets Less Than He Wanted

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine on Thursday implored Congress to provide Ukraine’s soldiers with heavy military equipment as his country seeks to repel what he called a continuing invasion by Russian forces.

But after meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office later in the day, Mr. Poroshenko said he was satisfied with American support 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 Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine as a stab in the back from a once-supportive neighbor.

“Over the last month, Ukrainians 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.”

Speaking 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.

“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 pledged to provide about $70 million in nonlethal assistance to Ukraine, much of which has not yet made its way 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 its 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 Obama administration said.

In the White House meeting with Mr. Obama, Mr. Poroshenko 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.

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 lethal weapons would help to resolve the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, stressed that the United States had 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.

“It’s simply the judgment of the president that the best way for the situation in Ukraine to be resolved is through negotiations,” Mr. Earnest said.

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.

“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 requesting 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 Ukrainian soldiers who were fighting against Russia-backed foes on the battlefields in Eastern Europe.

“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.”

Source: The New York Times