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U.S. Senators Tailor Ukraine Bill to Maintain Moscow's Mideast Backing

A man handles a Russian military vehicle's machine gun on Thursday at a checkpoint on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Republican and Democratic U.S. senators said they do not expect an advancing Ukraine-aid bill to affect Russian cooperation on anti-WMD initiatives involving Iran and Syria. A man handles a Russian military vehicle's machine gun on Thursday at a checkpoint on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Republican and Democratic U.S. senators said they do not expect an advancing Ukraine-aid bill to affect Russian cooperation on anti-WMD initiatives involving Iran and Syria. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

A key U.S. Senate panel passed a Ukraine aid bill designed not to interfere with Russian anti-WMD work involving Iran and Syria, al-Monitor reports.

The measure that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved on Wednesday would address Russia's incursion in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. However, the bill is not expected to undermine collaborative initiatives aimed at stanching the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iran or Syria, or affect other matters, Democratic and Republican lawmakers told the publication. The Obama administration and U.S. legislators want to convey their disapproval of any Russian steps to undercut the new, Western-backed regime in Kiev, according to al-Monitor.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the bill's drafters "narrowed it to Ukraine involvement only." Corker was among the authors of the legislation, which would extend $1 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine's interim government.

According to one of Corker's colleagues, Moscow is unlikely to respond to the tensions over Ukraine by curbing support for an international operation to remove chemical-warfare materials from Syria.

"The Russians aren't anxious to have chemical weapons floating around, because the same people that get ahold of those could use them against us or against them in a terrorist capacity," said Senator James Risch (Idaho), the foreign relations panel's No. 2 Republican.

Dennis Ross, a former Obama administration Middle East adviser, said Moscow is likely to maintain its cooperation on Iran's nuclear program based on similar reasoning.

The expert said that Russian leaders may want the United States to "pay a price" for its actions in the Ukraine crisis, "but they're not part of the [Iran nuclear talks] as a favor to the United States."

"The possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state ... is not something that has a high degree of attractiveness to the Russians," he said.

Elsewhere, Belarus plans to request that Russia deploy over a dozen more combat jets on its territory in response to a slight uptick in the number of fighter aircraft NATO is fielding in member countries in the Baltics, Russia Today reported on Wednesday. NATO air patrols over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are to increase -- as are similar flights over Poland -- as a counter-move to Russia's military presence in Crimea.

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