The Trump administration on Wednesday lifted a hold on $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, putting an end to the weeks of uncertainty about the assistance, CNN has learned from a number of sources.
The decision to temporarily halt this assistance raised serious questions and worried lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about the possible implications on Ukraine and the potential benefits for Russia. The military aid consisted of sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars, night vision and military medical treatment.
The assistance, which the outlet says could be used against pro-Russian separatists, was allowed to proceed this week, marking yet another instance in which the White House has yielded under pressure to allow foreign aid to move forward. Only last month, administration officials forwent efforts to cut $4 billion in aid across the board amid a bipartisan backlash.
According to an official, the Ukraine and other foreign aid is protected in a draft stopgap spending bill, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advocating for the funds to proceed against the insistence of the Office of Management and Budget to put them on hold.
Another administration official told CNN that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and then-national security adviser John Bolton were tasked by the President to oversee the review. The Pentagon recommended in August that the aid move forward, but the hold remained for several weeks afterward while Bolton had been meeting with Ukrainian officials in Kiev.
The hold on the funding, which acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney strongly opposed, was lifted only after Bolton left the administration.
“The administration supports Ukraine’s efforts of reform and self-defense, and these funds will advance Ukrainian efforts toward those ends,” said an official.
Several senators in favor of the assistance had threatened to withhold $5 billion from next year’s defense budget if the Trump administration refused to lift the hold. However, it remains uncertain now whether the Pentagon can actually execute the $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine, considering the funds were appropriated for the fiscal year ending on September 30.
“We expect the majority of the funds to be obligated by the end of the fiscal year. There are measures that would allow us to request an extension from Congress for those funds that remain unobligated,” a U.S. defense official said.