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U.S. Has Ukraine’s Back, NATO Ambassador Claims as Impeachment Battle Rages in Washington

November 18, 2019, 5:05 PM UTC

The U.S. continues to “have Ukraine’s back,” the American ambassador to NATO insisted on Monday as presidential impeachment proceedings rage in Washington, centered on the allegation that the White House withheld military aid to Ukraine to gain political leverage.

Kay Bailey Hutchison said at the Fortune Global Forum in Paris that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had made “a good start” on democracy-strengthening reforms, and that the U.S. periodically meets with Russia to “urge them first and foremost to leave Donbass, to let Ukraine be the sovereign nation that they deserve, and also to leave the Ukrainian part that is Crimea.”

“So we do have Ukraine’s back, and we work with them, and we hope in the future that they will eventually be a partner” to NATO, Hutchison said.

President Donald Trump is alleged to have withheld military aid to Ukraine, in an effort to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Ukrainian business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of potential Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. If proven true, this may constitute the solicitation of a foreign country’s interference in next year’s U.S. election.

Ukraine needs military aid largely because of ongoing Russian incursions into the country’s eastern Donbass region.

Hutchison also hit back at the suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that the defense alliance is experiencing “brain death” due to the U.S.’s waning commitment, among other things.

“I think the French president is trying to build what he’s saying is a European defense force, a European army,” she said. “I think that is a big mistake because right now America is the foundation of NATO. We do spend the money. We do identify our risks, and then we take the pains and we put the muscle behind assessing the risk and protecting against the risk.”

Hutchison said the biggest risk out there was currently Russia, with a militarizing China presenting a potential threat as well. No single country could face up to these dual risks, she said.

“I don’t see France stepping up and saying this is a risk that we must face,” Hutchison said. “It’s America that is saying that. I think we have a good combination with America, which is very proactive in defense, and Europe, which is not as aggressive as we are, but is a good ally and partner in our missions.”

Macron’s comment, made earlier this month in an Economist interview, provoked a backlash—from figures such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg—in which the French president was characterized as being hypocritical. Indeed, Europe’s diplomats have reportedly been agreeing with him in private.

The main issue is the growing uncertainty around whether Trump would still abide by the core NATO tenet of mutual defense, known as Article 5. Trump’s repeated criticism is that has that NATO’s other members do not spend enough on defence. His recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from the north of Syria, which followed a deal with NATO ally Turkey, also raised hackles among many other of the alliance’s members, France included.

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