On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee discussed Ukraine’s military conflict with Russia as well as the $17.5 billion IMF austerity package backed by the US
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THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN PRODUCER: On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee continued its push to provide lethal defense security to the government of Ukraine. BOB CORKER, CHAIR, U.S. SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: In my view, any strategy will not be effective unless United States begins to provide Ukraine with the ability to inflict serious military cost, using defensive weapons on the thousands of Russian troops operating in its great eastern regions. HEDGES: Assistant secretary of state for European affairs Victoria Nuland told members of the committee that Russian tanks had crossed into Eastern Ukraine and that Moscow had implemented a reign of terror in the areas it occupies, including Crimea, which Russia annexed last year. Nuland also outlined the terms of a package of reforms put forward by the administration and enacted by the Ukrainian parliament, which calls for austerity and deregulation. VICTORIA NULAND, U.S. ASST. SECR. STATE FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS: Just last week, the Ukrainians passed budget reform, which is expected to slash the deficit significantly this year and to give more physical control to local communities and spur economic and political decentralization. They’ve made tough choices in just the last few days to reduce and cap pension benefits and to phase in a higher retirement age as requested by the IMF. With the help of USAID experts, they’re deregulating the agriculture sector and allowing family farmers to sell more of their produce in local and regional and wholesale markets. HEDGES: In exchange for following the terms, the United States is agreeing to supply defense aid to Ukraine. But on Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner criticized the Obama administration for only providing nonlethal materials, saying that route is completely ineffective. Other critics say the austerity package is part of an effort to open up Ukraine’s trade barriers and allow multinational corporations a foothold in the country’s markets at a time when the country is weak and needs assistance as it faces a war with Russia. As this crisis unfolds, it’s clear that Ukrainians will be battling two fronts: one of economic austerity from the West, and a military struggle in the East. For The Real News, Thomas Hedges, Washington.
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