NEW YORK, Nov. 10 - U.S. congressional negotiators approved a series of measures to counter Russian activities and influence in this year’s annual defense bill, including an authorization for providing Ukraine with lethal defensive aid and an initiative to bolster counter-propaganda efforts, The Weekly Standard reported.
The Ukraine security assistance reauthorization comes as the State and Defense departments continue to push President Donald Trump to approve a lethal defensive aid package to Kiev. The provision of the National Defense Authorization Act allocates $350 million for lethal and non-lethal aid, as well as training and assistance, to Ukraine and lasts for two years.
Ohio senator Rob Portman, who authored the Ukraine amendment in the Senate, applauded the measure's inclusion in the House-Senate conference report.
“As Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine persists, and as it continues to utilize hybrid warfare techniques such as propaganda and disinformation, it is critical that the U.S. and NATO provide the sustained economic, political, and military support necessary to allow Ukraine to secure its democratic future,” said Portman. “An independent Ukraine is critical not just to Eastern Europe, but it also impacts broader U.S. interests in the region and beyond.”
The measure clarifies defense reforms that Ukraine must make in order to maintain U.S. assistance, and authorizes aid that would boost Ukraine’s naval capabilities.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged the Trump administration, and the Obama administration before that, to give Ukraine lethal defensive aid in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in the east. Proponents say that the aid will deter the Kremlin and shift Putin’s calculus in the region, while opponents say it will escalate the conflict.
Negotiators also agreed to a measure in this year’s NDAA that would boost cross-administration anti-propaganda efforts, including those directed at the Kremlin.
In last year's NDAA, Portman and Connecticut senator Chris Murphy allocated $160 million over two years for the State Department's Global Engagement Center (GEC). The GEC was created in 2016 to counter ISIS propaganda, but Congress has since expanded its mandate to include state actors like Russia and China.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for months did not tap into those funds, but after drawing fire from lawmakers, approved the transfer of $40 million to the GEC in August. (ws/ez)