The United States Congress has passed a bill authorizing lethal military aid to Ukraine and additional sanctions on Russia, as well as additional measures to support Georgia and Moldova. It declined, however, to give Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine "major non-NATO ally status," which would have made it easier for those countries to get American military equipment.
The bill, the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, passed both houses of Congress on December 13. It would apply sanctions to Rosoboronexport, the major state arms exporter, or any other country deemed to be involved in transferring weapons to Syria, or "Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova; and ... any other country designated by the President as a country of significant concern ... such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the Central Asia republics" against the will of the "internationally recognized governments" of those countries.
It also calls for sanctions if the Russian state gas company Gazprom withholds gas from those countries and "prioritizes" broadcasting into Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova by the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
“This legislation sends a very direct message to President [Vladimir] Putin who must change his calculus in Ukraine and abandon this disruptive path,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez.
But some original provisions of the bill were deemed too much: "Lawmakers dropped a key provision in the original bill that would have taken the rare step of giving major non-NATO ally status to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova," AFP reported. "Senate aides said the provision was removed at the 11th hour in order to ensure final passage."
Russia, naturally, opposed the bill, most of all for the prospect of arming Ukraine (a measure which would still have to be approved by President Obama, not a sure thing). "Undoubtedly, we will not be able to leave this without a response," deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax.
Separately, Congress also passed the huge government spending bill that includes $810 million for the "European Reassurance Initiative." Of that, $57 million would be for "building partner capacity" (i.e. training and equipping) Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
"This bill was supported by two major political parties - the Democratic and Republicans of the US – so not only the governmental structures support Georgia,” said the press speaker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs David Kereselidze, in welcoming the bill.