WASHINGTON: U.S. lawmakers said Monday they will introduce a “critical” economic support package to Ukraine authorizing $1 billion in loans to the nation in the grips of a geopolitical face-off with neighbor Russia.
“I’m terribly concerned about what’s going on in Ukraine. I think Ukraine is in crisis and it needs some help,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters as he met with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the U.S. Capitol.
“I’m going to recommend that anything that we do should be in coordination with our allies,” he said, noting that President Barack Obama “said he wants to give some economic aid. I think that’s appropriate.”
Fellow Senate Democrat Robert Menendez said the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee which he chairs is “developing a bipartisan legislative package to provide critical support to Ukraine, which is teetering on the brink of economic collapse following years of chronic government mismanagement and corruption.”
The legislation would greenlight a minimum of $1 billion in loan guarantees to support Ukraine’s economy, and authorize technical assistance to support elections, fight corruption, strengthen civil society, and help Kiev recover stolen assets.
“We are also consulting with the administration on possible sanctions actions against individual Russians and Ukrainians that range from visa bans and asset freezes, to the suspension of military cooperation and sales, as well as economic sanctions,” Menendez said.
Secretary of State John Kerry, due to visit Kiev this week in the middle of Europe’s deepest security crisis since the Cold War, suggested recently that Obama’s team was working up a similar loan package to Ukraine.
Congress has greater powers to directly authorize such spending or to impose sanctions.
Meanwhile, Eric Cantor, number two Republican leader in the House of Representatives, warned that Russia’s “invasion of Ukraine” represents a violation of international law and “should spur a long overdue reassessment of our policy towards Russia.”
A top congressional priority, he said, was to work in bipartisan fashion to move an aid package including loan guarantees to Ukraine “as quickly as possible.”
It was also imperative to see how Washington might be able to “impose sanctions on Russian officials, oligarchs, and other individuals complicit in Russia’s efforts to invade and interfere with Ukraine’s sovereign affairs,” he said.