Under pressure from the Pentagon, Congress has stripped the spending bill of an amendment that prevented funds from falling into the hands of Ukrainian neo-fascist groups.
by James Carden
In mid-December 2015, Congress passed a 2,000-plus-page omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2016. Both parties were quick to declare victory after the passage of the $1.8 trillion package. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters “we feel good about the outcome, primarily because we got a compromise budget agreement that fought off a wide variety of ideological riders.” The office of House Speaker Paul J. Ryan touted the bill’s “64 billion for overseas contingency operations” for, among other things, assisting ”European countries facing Russian aggression.”
It would be safe to assume that one of the European countries which would stand to benefit from the omnibus measure—designed, in part, to combat “Russian aggression”—would be Ukraine, which has already, according to the White House, received $2 billion in loan guarantees and nearly $760 million in “security, programmatic, and technical assistance” since February 2014.
Yet some have expressed concern that some of this aid has made its way into the hands of neo-Nazi groups, such as the Azov Battalion. Last summer the Daily Beast published an interview by the journalists Will Cathcart and Joseph Epstein in which a member of the Azov battalion spoke about “his battalion’s experience with U.S. trainers and U.S. volunteers quite fondly, even mentioning U.S. volunteers engineers and medics that are still currently assisting them.”
And so, in July of last year, Congressmen John Conyers of Michigan and Ted Yoho of Florida drew up an amendment to the House Defense Appropriations bill (HR 2685) that “limits arms, training, and other assistance to the neo-Nazi Ukrainian militia, the Azov Battalion.” It passed by a unanimous vote in the House.
And yet by the time November came around and the conference debate over the year-end appropriations bill was underway, the Conyers-Yoho measure appeared to be in jeopardy. And indeed it was. An official familiar with the debate told The Nation that the House Defense Appropriations Committee came under pressure from the Pentagon to remove the Conyers-Yoho amendment from the text of the bill.
Source: The Nation