Congress (Finally) Sends Ukraine Package to White House

Measure is largely symbolic and not expected to change dynamic with Putin.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 5: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with ministers from The Summit of Eurasian Economic Cooperation Council at Novo Ogaryovo State Residence on March 5, 2014 near Moscow, Russia. As the Ukrainian crisis escalates, thousands of Russian Troops have begun to blockade a number of Ukrainian military bases across Crimea. US Secretary of State John Kerry has travelled to France to meet with top diplomats to discuss the situation and its potential resolution. 
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Stacy Kaper
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Stacy Kaper
April 1, 2014, 3:06 p.m.

The House on Tues­day took the last steps needed to send a Ukraine aid pack­age to the White House con­demning Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea.

But the long-awaited aid pack­age, which has been in the works for a month, is largely sym­bol­ic and not ex­pec­ted to tip the scales or even ne­ces­sar­ily main­tain the status quo.

The le­gis­la­tion is meant to sup­port Ukraine’s new gov­ern­ment — it in­cludes $1 bil­lion in loan guar­an­tees and $150 mil­lion in dir­ect as­sist­ance — as well as send a mes­sage to Rus­si­an Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin to back off by co­di­fy­ing sanc­tions against his al­lies.

The House ap­proved the com­bined aid and sanc­tions pack­age, which the Sen­ate passed last week, on a vote of 378 to 34. It also ap­proved on a vote of 399 to 12 an ad­di­tion­al pro­vi­sion that had been in­cluded in pre­vi­ous House le­gis­la­tion, which would au­thor­ize in­creased broad­cast­ing in­to Ukraine and eth­nic Rus­si­an com­munit­ies in sup­port of demo­cracy.

Talks between the U.S. and Rus­sia have failed to pro­duce a res­ol­u­tion to the crisis, and fears that Rus­sia will at­tempt to seize more ter­rit­ory in the re­gion are still run­ning hot. NATO said Tues­day it was sus­pend­ing all co­oper­a­tion with Mo­scow be­cause it sees no sign that Putin is with­draw­ing troops from the Ukrain­i­an bor­der.

“It’s go­ing to be more psy­cho­lo­gic­al than any­thing else,” said Lawrence Korb, a seni­or fel­low with the lib­er­al Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress. “It shows we are not as dys­func­tion­al as some folks may think we are.”

Korb said the mes­sage the U.S. is send­ing to Rus­sia is, “If you even think about the Balt­ics, that’s war, be­cause they are NATO mem­bers, and if you con­tin­ue to do this, there is go­ing to be in­creas­ing pres­sure. At some point you are go­ing to have to make the de­cision wheth­er it’s worth it.”

Oth­er de­fense ex­perts said they were hope­ful but not con­fid­ent the pack­age would help dip­lo­mat­ic ef­forts.

“In the short term it’s not go­ing to have any im­pact,” said Steven Bucci, a dir­ect­or with the con­ser­vat­ive Her­it­age Found­a­tion. “It’s not go­ing to cause the Rus­si­ans to pack up and leave Crimea. Hope­fully there will be enough sting in here to at least get Putin’s at­ten­tion and hope­fully dis­suade him from do­ing any­thing fur­ther, like go­ing in­to the rest of east­ern Ukraine or go­ing in­to Mol­dova, but there’s no guar­an­tee of that.”¦ We’re not ter­ribly op­tim­ist­ic about this.”

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