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WASHINGTON, DC – A bipartisan group of House leaders and committee chairs has sent a letter to President Obama urging him to approve lethal aid for Ukraine. 

“In the wake of a cease-fire agreement that appears only to have consolidated Russian and separatist gains since the first Minsk agreement,” the lawmakers write, “we urge you to quickly approve additional efforts to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its sovereign territory, including through the transfer of lethal, defensive weapons systems to the Ukrainian military.”  Signed by eight Republicans and three Democrats, the letter notes that “Congress has already, with overwhelming bipartisan support, provided you with the authorities, resources, and political support to provide assistance, including lethal, to the government and people of Ukraine.”

The bipartisan letter is signed by Speaker BoehnerHouse Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Read a signed copy of the letter here, and the full text below:

Dear Mr. President:

From the very beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, a bipartisan majority in Congress has indicated it understands the crisis in Ukraine to be about more than a Russian assault on the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine.  It is even more than simply a component of a revisionist Russian strategy to redraw international borders and impose its will on its neighbors.  It is a grotesque violation of international law, a challenge to the west, and an assault on the international order established at such great cost in the wake of World War II.

On September 18, 2014, President Petro Poroshenko addressed a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress.  He made a passionate plea for the United States and other nations to put action behind their commitment to freedom, democracy, and human dignity.  He thanked the Congress for its steadfast, bipartisan support for the people in Ukraine struggling to recapture the freedom and territorial integrity of Ukraine, but he also reminded us and the world that words alone do not beat back aggression and violence.  He, like so many friends and allies in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, and the South Caucasus, remind us daily that the cost of freedom is high, and like any virtue, it is compromised by a lack of vigilance. 

The Congress responded to his call to action, and we sent you the Ukraine Freedom Support Act in December.  To date, the administration has not utilized the authorities provided in the Ukraine Freedom Support Act to provide defensive military systems to the Ukrainian government.

This week, shortly after the one-year anniversary of the Revolution of Dignity, Members of the Ukrainian Rada visiting Washington reiterated President Poroshenko’s long-standing plea for assistance to the Ukrainian military.  We understand these officials discussed a list of military equipment at the Pentagon and with National Security Council staff, and we understand these long-standing requests await a political decision from you. 

In the wake of a cease-fire agreement that appears only to have consolidated Russian and separatist gains since the first Minsk agreement, and in anticipation of the near certainty that Russia and its separatist proxies continue their efforts to destabilize Ukraine and seize additional territory, we urge you to quickly approve additional efforts to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its sovereign territory, including through the transfer of lethal, defensive weapons systems to the Ukrainian military. 

We should not wait until Russian troops and their separatist proxies take Mariupol or Kharkiv before we act to bolster the Ukrainian government’s ability to deter and defend against further aggression. 

We understand your desire to prioritize unity of effort with Europe, and we believe our European and NATO allies should make clear that Russian aggression in the heart of Europe is unacceptable with deeds as well as words.  But we urge you to lead Europe in challenging this assault on international order, lest our foreign policy be held hostage by the lowest common denominator of European consensus.  In the face of Russian aggression, the lack of clarity on our overall strategy thus far has done little to reassure our friends and allies in the region who, understandably, feel vulnerable.  This needs to change.

The Congress has already, with overwhelming bipartisan support, provided you with the authorities, resources, and political support to provide assistance, including lethal, to the government and people of Ukraine.  We urge you in the strongest possible terms to use those authorities and resources to meet the specific and direct requests the government of Ukraine has made of your administration.