As Air Force One lifts off Tuesday for President Barack Obama’s trip to Estonia and then the NATO summit in Wales, he carries with him growing pressure for more direct involvement in Ukraine.
Over the weekend, leading Democrats joined calls for the U.S. to expand its role in responding to aggression from Russia. Recommendations ranged from granting a longstanding request from Ukraine for offensive and lethal aid to engaging in direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“With Putin’s second invasion of Ukraine, now is the time for the United States to act with our European partners to counter Russia’s irridentist goals by providing weapons to allow Ukrainians to defend themselves, as well as additional support and training to the Ukrainian military, and to impose further sectoral sanctions to isolate Russia,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wrote in a letter to the president on Saturday.Menendez is traveling through Eastern Europe ahead of Obama and met with the presidents of Estonia and Poland to discuss the security situation in Ukraine. Returning from Kiev on Tuesday, Menendez told NPR’s “Morning Edition” that the defensive weapons being used by the Ukrainian military are insufficient.
“I mean, you’ve had thousands of Russian troops with columns of tanks, armored vehicles and heavy artillery— including surface-to-surface missiles — come at the Ukrainian Army,” he said. “And they’re not in a position with the equipment that they have to go ahead and fight back. So while we have provided night-vision goggles, that’s great, but seeing your enemy and being able to fight them is two different things.”