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article imageUnited States ponders arming Ukraine

By Robert Myles     Feb 3, 2015 in World
Washington - The United States is considering upping military assistance to Ukraine in a move to aid the country counter pro-Russian separatists based in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. officials made the announcement Monday. A Pentagon official, reported by Le Point, said, “What’s under discussion is that perhaps we should provide defensive weapons, defensive equipment" to Kiev’s armed forces.
Another U.S. military source said views on the possibility of arming Ukraine had “matured” within the U.S. administration, primarily as a result of support given by Russia to rebels in eastern Ukraine and repeated cease-fire violations by pro-Russian insurgents going back to last September.
But at Monday’s press briefing the U.S. State Department was more cautious. In response to a question referring to numerous reports that military aid for Ukraine was under consideration, State Department spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, pointed out that the US had already increased assistance to Ukraine by providing a range of nonlethal equipment, such as body armor, helmets and vehicles over the course of the last several months. Such aid remained a matter for discussion but Ms. Psaki said,
"We haven’t taken options off the table”.
“We continue to evaluate the right steps and the appropriate approach here,” Psaki continued, adding, “Our focus remains on a political and diplomatic solution."
Asked why the President would want to get into a proxy war with Russia, Psaki replied, “I don’t think anybody wants to get into a proxy war with Russia. And that is not the objective.”
“Our objective here is to change the behavior of Russia. That’s the reason that we’ve put the sanctions in place,” she added.
On Sunday, speculation grew that the US was about to re-assess its options as regards assistance to Ukraine when a report appeared in the New York Times suggesting that Washington was about to take a fresh look over the question of military aid for Kiev.
The report said Secretary of State, John Kerry, who’s scheduled to visit Kiev, Thursday, may be open to new discussions concerning the provision of what it termed “lethal assistance” to Ukraine. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, was said to share Kerry’s position on the matter.
Strengthening military aid for Ukraine was backed by a new independent report, issued Monday, in which eight former senior American officials called on the US to provide Ukraine with $3 billion in defensive arms and equipment.
Retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, a former top NATO military commander; Michèle A. Flournoy, a former senior Pentagon official; and Ivo Daalder, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, were among the authors of the report that recommended delivery of a variety of weapons to Ukraine including anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees and radar.
“A firm Western response can bolster Kyiv’s ability to deter further Russian attacks,” ran the report, stating, “Moreover, if confronted by a strong Western response in support of Ukraine, the Kremlin will be far less tempted to challenge the security or territorial integrity of other states, including NATO members Estonia and Latvia.”
With the effectiveness of Western sanctions against Russia remaining a moot point and signs that attitudes in eastern Ukraine are hardening — on Monday, BBC News reported that pro-Russian separatist leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, was looking to boost rebel forces to a strength of 100,000 — Washington is likely to face increasing calls from the Kiev government for more tangible assistance to counter the rebels.
But if the US provides direct military assistance in the shape of lethal weaponry it knows it risks moving what is currently a local conflict to a new level. Such a move is likely only to inflame Moscow and, according to Fiona Hill of Washington think-tank, the Brookings Center, raises a real prospect of direct conflict with Moscow.
Quoted on i24 News, Ms. Hill said,
“There is a real risk now that we will end up in a war with Russia," adding, “As far as Putin's concerned we're already in one, an economic and financial war, and if we start sending in weapons then we've taken that up a notch."
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