Ukrainians head to the polls this weekend for their parliamentary elections. Russian aggression casts a long shadow over this process, as President Putin continues his efforts to deny Ukraine the ability to make its own decisions regarding its own future. Russia is working actively to suppress Ukraine's aspirations towards a freer and more dignified future, the senators stated in an appeal published by the USA Today, Censor.NET reports.
It's been more than a month since the Ukrainian government entered into a cease-fire agreement with Russian-backed insurgents in south-eastern Ukraine. It is an agreement that the separatists have repeatedly violated, and since it came into effect, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers have died in battles against these same separatist forces.
The insurgents are anything but freedom fighters. They are Russian proxies, financed by Russian rubles, supported by Russian Special Forces, armed with Russian weapons and partly led by former members of the Russian military and intelligence agencies. If Ukraine is to make her people's choice for freedom and democracy a reality, then the Ukrainian armed forces will need the defensive equipment necessary to secure it.
In July, we urged that the United States provide the kind of defensive military assistance to the Armed Forces of Ukraine that they need to secure their borders, defend their sovereignty, deter Russian aggression, and maintain the rule of law. While the United States has acted to provide important loan guarantees and to help Ukraine secure loans from the IMF and European Union, the crucial political and economic reform goals this aid is designed to help meet are not possible if Ukraine cannot maintain its territorial integrity and if the Ukrainian people are under constant threat of attack by Russian-backed separatists, as the recent invasion by Russian forces demonstrated . While the US pledge to increase non-lethal assistance is encouraging, we hope that defensive military equipment will reach the hands of those who need it soon.
Aid is important, as is the moral, diplomatic, and political support we have offered to Ukraine. But statements of solidarity don't stop bullets, aid alone doesn't defend borders, and expressions of our commitment to the territorial integrity of Ukraine will not make it so. It is true that only Ukraine can secure its future, but it will need our help to do it. Ukraine needs defensive military weapons to confront armed assaults; it needs UAVs to monitor its borders and detect violations of its sovereignty; it needs secure communications gear to prevent Russia from accessing Ukrainian plans and troop locations; it needs advanced counter-battery radar. But most importantly, it needs a sustained commitment from the United States and our allies to provide both the quality and the quantity of equipment necessary to preserve its independence.
Five months ago, we led a delegation to Ukraine to oversee an historic presidential election as the people of that country, in the face of Russian aggression, made a determined choice for democracy, freedom and the rule of law. While the upcoming parliamentary election may be different, Russia's aggression remains unchanged.
We can no longer allow the Russian government to dictate the future of eastern Ukraine. We must provide the assistance necessary to help Ukraine develop the military tools required to defeat the insurgency, secure peace in the East, and uphold the commitment to democracy, transparency and political inclusiveness that the people of Ukraine have made.
And we must not forget Crimea. With its invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea, followed by the invasion of parts of eastern Ukraine, Russia has recklessly flouted all 10 founding Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) principles and numerous other international agreements, upending the international global order.
With Election Day approaching, hundreds of international monitors are going to Ukraine to observe these crucial elections, including two of our senior aides. They will once again assure the Ukrainian people that we stand with them as they walk down the path toward freedom and independence. We must make good on that promise.
For if we do not, no one else will. While we must continue to work with our European and NATO allies to create common policies based on our shared interest and values, no other nation or group of nations possesses the right combination of political will, moral clarity and national capabilities needed to stand up to Russia and her proxies.
President Kennedy once wrote, "We, in this country, in this generation, are - by destiny rather than by choice - the watchmen on the walls of world freedom." That generation has changed. The threats to freedom have not. Nor has our destiny or our responsibility. The Ukrainian people are ready to stand with us, as are the free people of Europe. But we must stand up for them first. That begins by making good on our commitment to Ukraine and providing the capability the Ukrainian military needs to defend her people from the forces that threaten their very existence as an independent state.