The new top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday called on President Joe Biden’s administration to increase military and intelligence support for… Ukraine
“I believe that the government should actively arm Ukraine so that it can defend itself,” said Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio said in an interview. “They want to defend themselves. They have to be given every opportunity to do that.”
Washington has pledged more than $2 billion in military aid to Ukraine since 2014, when Russia took Crimea and supported an insurgency in the eastern region known as Donbas. In December, Congress increased security assistance to Ukraine to $300 million by 2022, with at least $75 million earmarked for weapons.
Russia has now gathered troops near Ukraine, raising fears in the West that it is preparing another invasion, while pushing its demand that Ukraine should never join NATO. The Biden administration has rejected Russia’s demand and is expected to provide additional military aid to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Republicans and some Democrats have urged Biden to act more quickly to provide Ukraine with deadly aid. Some lawmakers also want the US to impose sanctions on Russia before a possible invasion.
US and Russian diplomats are holding several meetings in Europe this week to resolve the crisis.
Turner replaces Rep. Devin Nunes a California Republican who left Congress to head up former President Donald Trump’s new social media company. While Nunes was chairman, the committee launched a controversial investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
After California Rep. Adam Schiff took over as chair, the committee led the investigation into Trump’s first impeachment allegations that he abused his power by inciting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Biden while he withheld military aid to Kiev. Nunes became one of Trump’s staunchest supporters.
Those investigations took a national look at the normally secretive intelligence commission and strained what members said was a silent, behind-closed-doors bipartisanship on many other issues.
“Not only do we need to refocus our attention on our outside adversaries and national security, we also need to make sure that information is used in a way that helps us make better decisions in Congress,” Turner said.
The committee will continue to be in the spotlight if the GOP wins back the House of Representatives this fall. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has already vowed to remove Schiff and fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell from the panel. Turner said on Wednesday that any decision about committee membership would be McCarthy’s “sole decision.”
Turner’s call for stronger US action abroad puts him at odds with some Republicans who take a more isolationist approach. In a much-discussed November interview, Turner argued with Fox News host Tucker Carlson after Carlson questioned why the US should help Ukraine and suggested that troops be sent to the US-Mexico border instead to prevent immigrants from entering the country. enter the country illegally.
“Apparently you need some knowledge about Ukraine,” Turner told the host.
On Wednesday, Turner said he wants the commission to do more to educate Americans about what he called “near-peer adversaries” like China and Russia.
“One of the reasons Russia could invade Ukraine is because they view the United States as weak,” he said. “If the United States is weak… it’s not just that the United States itself is in danger. Our allies are in danger, which of course inevitably puts us at risk.”