U.S. move to arm Ukraine would force Moscow to “respond asymmetrically against Washington or its allies on other fronts”
President Barack Obama confirmed Monday that the U.S. was weighing the possibility of providing lethal arms to Ukraine if peace talks with Russia fail. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will hold a meeting with Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk on Wednesday to negotiate a new peace deal.
U.S. would become a direct participant in the conflict
Meanwhile, officials in Moscow are making extreme predictions. A member of the Russian Defense Ministry told The Moscow Times (via The Fiscal Times) that if the United States supplies lethal arms to Ukraine, Russia will consider it an “act of war.” It will heighten tension in the region and force Moscow to ” respond asymmetrically against Washington or its allies on other fronts.”
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The Russian official, who requested anonymity, said that Russia can also encourage or support Iran in a fight with Saudi Arabia, pushing the oil prices up. Russian economy is expected to contract more than 3% this year due to fall in oil prices. Evgeny Buzhinsky, a former lieutenant general in Russian Army, said that the Kremlin would consider the United States to be a “direct participant in the conflict.”
Russia shows military might ahead of peace talks
On Monday, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin told the state-run ITAR-TASS news agency that the U.S. was under “major pressure” to arm Ukraine. U.S. security experts have proposed sending at least $3 billion worth of lethal weapons to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against Russian-backed separatists.
Pro-Russia separatists said Tuesday that they had completely encircled Ukrainian troops in the strategic town of Debaltseve. The town holds strategic importance for both sides in the conflict as it connects the rebel-controlled Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) to Russia. Meanwhile, Russia has started a military exercise of 600 troops in Crimea a day before the four-way peace summit in Minsk. Another 2,000 Russian soldiers have started massive exercises near the Ukraine border in a show of military strength.