Reid Backs Ukraine Economic Aid; Menendez Preparing Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he stands ready to act in response to Russian military intervention in the Crimea and that a bill with more than $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine is already in the works. “I am terribly concerned about what's going on in the Ukraine,” the Nevada Democrat said in a photo op Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I think Ukraine is in crisis and needs some help,” Reid said. “What I am going to recommend is that anything we do should be in coordination with our allies. President Obama said he wants to give economic aid, I think that’s appropriate. I will be happy to help in any way.” Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into the Ukrainian peninsula, effectively seizing it, after President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally, was ousted through a popular uprising. Senate Foreign Relation Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he was working on a bipartisan package to provide aide to Ukraine. “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee 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,” Menendez said in a release. “This legislation will authorize funds to provide at least $1 billion in loan guarantees to provide structural support to Ukraine's economy, as well as authorize technical assistance for energy reforms, support elections, strengthen civil society, combat corruption, and assist Ukraine in the recovery of 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 continued. “On Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will testify before the Committee and is expected to provide an assessment of the situation in Ukraine,” Menendez said. President Barack Obama, after he met with Netanyahu on Monday, chastised Russia for its aggressive action and is lining up European Union allies to put pressure on Russia to negotiate a diplomatic solution. “I spent the weekend talking to leaders across Europe, and I think the world is largely united in recognizing that the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, Ukraine's territorial integrity; that they're a violation of international law; they're a violation of previous agreements that Russia has made with respect to how it treats and respects its neighbors,” Obama said. “And, as a consequence, we got strong statements from NATO, from the G-7, condemning the actions that Russia has taken. And we are going to continue these diplomatic efforts during the course of this week.” "What we are also indicating to the Russians is that if, in fact, they continue on the current trajectory that they're on, that we are examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia's economy and its status in the world," Obama said. Sen John McCain, R-Ariz., was critical of Obama for not taking a tougher stance. "Let's go back to peace through strength," McCain said on CNN. "What kind of a message are we sending when we're slashing our military and at the same time, the world is as disruptive and dangerous as any time since the end of the war." Speaking Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual conference in Washington, McCain said that Putin's use of military force "is the ultimate result of feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America's strength anymore." In a statement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House would also consider aid for Ukraine. "To deal with the crisis in Ukraine and respond to Russia’s provocation, I have asked our House committee Chairmen to develop plans to assist the government of Ukraine, put pressure on Russia, and reassure allies throughout the world that the United States will not stand idly by in the face of such aggression," Cantor said. "Specifically, the House will review how we can expeditiously consider assistance to Ukraine in the form of loan guarantees. I believe there is bipartisan support for such assistance, but we must make sure it is done responsibly and any legislation is not delayed by adding divisive provisions. We should be focused on moving such a package as quickly as possible." Cantor also said that he is working with the White House to help devise the best course of action. "I have spoken to Administration officials to express our interest in working together to ensure that President Obama has the appropriate tools to impose real consequences on Russia for this aggression," Cantor said. Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
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