Ukraine leader gets support in U.S., but not lethal aid


Story highlights

Ukrainian President addresses Congress and meets with Obama

Petro Poroshenko sought military aid for Ukraine to fight Russian separatists

After speech, White House announces $46 million in assistance that omitted lethal aid

Washington CNN —  

American leaders offered Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko a high-profile platform Thursday to advocate for greater support to his besieged military, though the levels of assistance ultimately offered by the United States fell short of his requests.

After an address to a joint session of Congress, Poroshenko met with Secretary of State John Kerry and later with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, where he requested help arming his troops to battle Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine – a request that once again was rebuffed.

“They need more military equipment, both lethal and nonlethal,” Poroshenko said of his military during his morning speech to U.S. lawmakers, saying Ukraine deserved special ally status that qualifies it for elevated levels of assistance.

Speaking in accented English, Poroshenko said during his emotional remarks that “blankets, night vision goggles are also important” in fighting Russian-backed troops but “one cannot win the war with blankets.”

As soon as Poroshenko completed his remarks, the White House announced $46 million in security assistance to Ukraine that omitted any lethal aid. The package includes body armor, helmets, vehicles and night vision goggles.

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer following his meeting with Obama, Poroshenko said he was “fully satisfied” with the package offered from the United States.

Poroshenko philosophical after meetings

“We received more than we asked,” he said, conceding later that Obama did not agree to the special ally status that would have led to greater levels of financial assistance to Ukraine.

American officials hoped images of the stars-and-stripes welcome for Poroshenko would make their way to the Kremlin, demonstrating to Russian President Vladimir Putin unwavering U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s new leader in his attempts to battle separatists backed by Moscow.

Obama, speaking immediately following his Oval Office session with Poroshenko, said “the people of America stand with the people of Ukraine” and called the Ukrainian president a personal friend.

Earlier, Obama’s spokesman said the picture of Poroshenko in the Oval Office “would be worth at least a thousand words, both in English and in Russian I think.”

Russia’s incursion into Ukraine has spurred rounds and rounds of economic sanctions from the United States and Europe, which have so far failed to get Putin to stop troop movements in the border regions.

Obama and other U.S. officials insist the measures have crippled Russia’s economy and made life hard for top aides to Putin, but some Ukrainian officials – as well as some U.S. lawmakers – say stronger measures like lethal aid are necessary to reverse the troop movements.