As the Ukraine conflict escalates, President Petro Poroshenko has requested aid from the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany. Three cabinet-level officials are heading to Europe to meet with NATO allies. Until now, the United States has had a clear stance of not providing lethal weapons to Ukrainian forces, but Defense Secretary-nominee Ashton Carter is leaning in a different direction.
At his confirmation hearing, Carter told Congress that he thinks “we need to support the Ukrainians in defending themselves.” This may be the beginning of a change in the amount of aid the United States is providing to Ukraine. Many are concerned that supplying arms may cause an overt proxy war reminiscent of Cold War operations.
Poroshenko is in no doubt that the United States will decide to supply his military with badly needed weapons. However, the U.S. government is not ready to announce any decisions this week. Currently, the administration’s policy is to impose economic sanctions on Russia and provide non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine. President Obama has so far been reluctant to provide additional assistance. White House spokesman John Earnest said on Tuesday that providing any additional assistance is likely to cause an increase in bloodshed.
Poroshenko is also requesting aid from Germany in the escalating Ukrainian conflict, but Chancellor Angela Merkel is being less forthcoming than United States officials. She, like many who are putting pressure on Russia to end its support for the rebels, believes that there is no military solution. She has refused to supply Ukraine with military support.
The United States is reconsidering its stance in light of a recent escalation in fighting and Russian arms being supplied to the separatists. The administration still hopes for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
A bipartisan committee of 15 senators has urged Obama to increase military support in the form of defensive weapons. Their suggestions include antitank weapons, counter-battery radar, and armored Humvees. They also believe that training is critical to Ukraine’s defense of its territory.
Putin may not see defensive weapons the same way as the senators reccommending them. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov believes that Ukraine has opted for a military resolution with U.S. support. He urged talks between Kiev and the rebels.
Sean Kay, professor of politics and international studies at Ohio Wesleyan University, said that supplying any kind of weapons to Poroshenko’s forces may start an arms race that he would be unable to win. He believes that it would only encourage Putin to escalate the conflict rather than negotiate.
If a decision is made to honor Poroshenko’s request for aid in the escalating conflict in Ukraine, action will not be taken right away. An anonymous official said that a public effort to arm Poroshenko’s troops could cause tension between the United States and its allies in NATO and the EU. The official also said that it would take time to decide what to send. In the past, the government has sent Soviet-made weapons from a CIA warehouse in North Carolina. The official said that this could be a viable option in this case, if the United States decides to offer support.
By Kirstin Pinto