US President Donald Trump is reviewing military aid to Ukraine to ensure American interests are being “prioritized,” according to a senior administration official, putting the funding on hold and enraging Russiagate truthers.
Around $250 million in funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, earmarked for weapons, training, equipment and intelligence support, has been frozen while administration officials review whether the money is being used “in the best interest of the United States,” the official told Politico on Wednesday. Trump reportedly wants to ensure that other nations are “paying their fair share.”
While Trump has long promised to cut foreign aid he sees as wasteful and encouraged other countries to pick up the slack, a policy that has not won him friends in Congress, lawmakers are especially upset about the freeze of the Ukrainian funds, which can’t be spent while being reviewed and expire at the end of September. Ukraine, they argue, needs American cash to fend off Russian “aggression.”
“We have serious concerns about a freeze on these important appropriated funds, and we are urgently inquiring with the administration about why they are holding up these resources,” House Appropriations Committee spokesperson Evan Hollander said in a statement.
Senate Armed Services Committee chair Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has called for even more funding for Ukraine, calling for more taxpayer dollars to be earmarked to “support defensive lethal aid that will make Ukraine a more difficult target for Putin’s aggression,” in an article he penned for Politico earlier this year. The Trump administration’s move to unlock funding for lethal arms sales to Kiev in 2017 – something the Obama administration refused to do – is no longer enough for the anti-Russia hardliners in Congress.
And Russiagate true-believers are having a field day with the funding freeze. “Trump is once again showing himself to be an asset to Russia,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) lamented.
Reviewing the expenditures are Defense Secretary Mark Esper and National Security Advisor John Bolton, who is currently in Ukraine trying to convince the country to forgo a Chinese buyout of aircraft engine manufacturer Motor Sich. While Bolton decried China’s “unfair trade practices” and “decades” of alleged international property theft, the US has not presented an alternative in its years of lobbying against the deal, leading one Ukrainian lawmaker to comment that “if the Americans do not want us to sell to the Chinese, let them buy our aircraft engines.” A $250-million aid package, however, would be quite a bargaining chip in the US bid to bar China from acquiring the Ukrainian engine-builder’s technological expertise.
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