Sen. John McCain renewed his call for the U.S. to supply Ukrainian forces with the Javelin anti-tank missile in their fight against pro-Russian separatists.
The Republican senator from Arizona and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday called on the Obama administration to arm Ukrainian units with the portable missile system made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co.
“They need a Javelin,” he said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C. “That’s a defensive weapon and we won’t give it to them.”
McCain said blasted President Obama for failing to take a more active role in the Ukraine conflict, which he described as “the first time in 70 years a nation is being dismembered as we speak.”
His counterpart committee in Congress, the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas, approved a massive increase in funding for FGM-148 Javelin missile system.
Under the proposed legislation, the Army would receive $168 million for 850 Javelin missiles, up from the president’s budget request of $77 million for 331 missiles; and the Marine Corps would get $79 million for 441 Javelin missiles, up from the president’s request of just $1 million.
The Senate and House have begun negotiating differences in the bills, though a final version hasn’t yet been agreed upon. President Obama has threatened to veto the Republican-crafted legislation for using the Pentagon’s war budget to get around spending caps on the base defense budget.
Since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea territory from the Ukraine last year, McCain has repeatedly said the Ukrainian military will need the Javelin to strike pro-Russian separatists. The shoulder-launched, self-guided missile is designed to destroy tanks, helicopters and other targets.
The U.S. Army’s top commander in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, this week said his soldiers could begin training regular Ukraine army troops in November if the White House approves.
His comments came a week after Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, nominated to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ranked Russia as the greatest national security challenge to the U.S. for its role in backing rebels in Eastern Ukraine.
“If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,” he said. “If you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.”
–Richard Sisk contributed to this report.