Obama, Pentagon clear way to send US aid to Ukraine neo-Nazis

New volunteers for the Ukrainian interior ministry's "Azov" battalion © Gleb Garanich
Despite the unanimous support of US lawmakers for amendments banning aid to the openly neo-Nazi paramilitaries operating in Ukraine, the provisions were removed from the final versions of the Pentagon funding bill and the 2016 omnibus budget.

After the $1.8 trillion budget deal was struck between President Barack Obama and the Republican majority in Congress, the White House praised the removal of numerous “ideological riders,” while Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) trumpeted the $64 million aid for European countries “facing Russian aggression.”

It now appears that one of those riders was the amendment passed unanimously by the House of Representatives last June that would have banned US aid to the notorious neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ battalion. The controversial unit is just one of many employed by the Kiev government against the residents of two eastern regions that have refused to accept the legitimacy of the government installed in the US-backed, February 2014 coup.

One of the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Obama signed on the eve of Thanksgiving, includes $300 million in military aid for the regime in Kiev.

The law authorized the Pentagon to provide Kiev with “anti-armor weapon systems, mortars, crew-served weapons and ammunition, grenade launchers and ammunition, and small arms and ammunition.” Counter-artillery radars, drones, and cyber capabilities were also included in the program. Training for the Kiev regime forces is managed by the American 173rd Airborne Brigade at a camp in Yavoriv near Lvov in western Ukraine.

Last summer, as the NDAA was making its way through the Congress, Representatives John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Ted Yoho (R-Florida) put forth an amendment that would have ruled out training or arming the notorious Azov battalion, an “openly neo-Nazi” and “fascist” unit that uses symbols of the Nazi SS.

“I am grateful that the House of Representatives unanimously passed my amendments last night to ensure that our military does not train members of the repulsive neo-Nazi Azov Battalion,” Conyers said in a statement on June 11.

By the time Congress and Obama finished resolving their differences six months later, the only part of the Conyers-Yoho amendment that had survived was the prohibition on the sale of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) to Ukraine, Iraq, or the Syrian rebels.

Section 1250 of the final version of the NDAA allocates aid to the “military and other security forces of the Government of Ukraine,” phrasing that can be interpreted to include the National Guard and the volunteer battalions.

Obama signed the omnibus spending bill, also known as House Resolution 2029, on December 18. In the 2000-plus page law, aid to the government in Kiev is listed under the Pentagon funding (Division C) in the section on “Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism” (Title IX).

Section 9014 of the law allocates $250 million “to provide assistance, including training; equipment; lethal weapons of a defensive nature; logistics support, supplies and services; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine,” without any exclusions.

Section 9016 retains the Carden-Yoho prohibition on MANPADS – but the ban on training or equipping the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ or similar units is notably absent.

Screenshot of HR 2029, the omnibus budget bill, showing the only remaining portion of the Conyers-Yoho Amendment