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Saturday, October 22, 2016

By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are hammering President Barack Obama for a stronger U.S. response to the crisis in Ukraine, but Congress has so far been unable to provide a unified course of action amid its own partisan divisions in an election year.

Various proposals are being floated in Congress to shore up the new Ukrainian government and punish Russia for its move toward annexation of Crimea.

Republicans want to expand U.S. natural gas exports to Europe to reduce Western allies’ reliance on the flow of fuel from Russia.

Democrats want to bolster the loan-making authority of the International Monetary Fund and are pushing for tougher enforcement actions against Russia in the World Trade Organization for previous rule violations.

“I’ve asked the House committees to examine additional steps that can be taken to impose greater costs on Russia,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Tuesday.

But the proposals may do more to bolster lawmakers’ standing at home than influence actions abroad.

Loosening federal licensing regulations for liquefied natural gas facilities, for example, is popular with industry groups, but it would take years before supplies could flow to allies, experts said.

Even a bipartisan measure Congress is considering to slap sanctions on Russian officials and provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine has hit political roadblocks.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure when Congress returns to session next week, despite objections from some Republicans over the Democratic-backed IMF provisions.

But the legislation will likely run into resistance in the House, where Republicans object to paying for the aid with funds from dormant Pentagon accounts.

Faced with a stalemate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who led a bipartisan group of senators to Ukraine last week with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., released a to-do list Tuesday of potential steps Congress and the administration can take to stem the crisis.

Among them: Send Ukraine food, fuel, spare parts, humanitarian aid and “modest” military assistance, in the form of small arms and ammunition. He said the aid should focus particularly on troops and civilians in the eastern part of the country, which could face further Russian incursions.

But such aid would still probably face a battle in Congress over how to pay for it.

AFP Photo/Filippo Monteforte

  • anarchommie

    I get the image of a cluster of brainless, hysterical chickens running in every direction amid a swirling cloud of feathers. What exactly are they up to beyond ridiculous posturing?
    Apparently no one has thought seriously about a diplomatic sit-down, without threats of sanctions (the good old standby, though they usually do more harm than good in the end) & the other accoutrements of macho bluster. In what way is the present government of the Ukraine legitimate? With fascists & discredited politico/oligarchs from past governments forming their ranks, how do they represent the people of the Ukraine? So far, I don’t see as Putin has done anything the US wouldn’t have done, & with considerably less fireworks.
    Unfortunately, the dolts who hold seats in Congress here want a war at any cost, despite the fact that the US has done nothing but blunder about for the past eleven years. Anyone with a grain or two of common sense has to wonder at the absurdity of the US body politic trying to claim a leadership role it can now just barely maintain.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    While the concept of shipping LNG to Europe to reduce their dependency on Russian natural gas, the problem is the tankers would be floating targets. Add to that the less than stellar safety (or is that “lack-of-safety”) record of the Panamanian and Liberian flags they sail under, I don’t thine we and the Saudis combined could meet the demands should Vladimir Vladimirovich shu off the valves in an attempt to cut his nose off to spite his face. Currently, that is the only source of cash revenue Russia has. I know! They can get natural gas from the Bus Driver! He can definitely use the money, especially as all Cuba pays him with are promises and socialist rhetoric.