US Considering Arming Ukraine As Rebels Aim To Boost Forces

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Russia warns that if the U.S. provides lethal aid to Ukrainian forces, it will lead to irreversible results

United States is now seriously considering to provide defensive weapons and equipment to Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces as Russian-backed separatists continue shelling in Donetsk. Pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that rebels will boost their strength to 100,000 men as fighting with Ukraine’s army intensifies. By comparison, Ukraine has only about 50,000 troops.

Kerry to visit Ukraine on Thursday

Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt of The New York Times said Sunday that NATO military commander Gen. Philip M. Breedlove supports providing weapons to Kiev. Many other military and administration officials are also supporting Breedlove’s position, sources told Gordon and Schmitt. After the Ukrainian forces faced a series of defeats in the past few weeks, the Obama administration is taking a look at offering military aid.

Secretary of the State John Kerry will be in Kiev this Thursday. Kerry and the U.S. Join Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey were open to new discussions over the issue. However, Russia has warned that if the U.S. government provides lethal aid to Ukrainian forces, it will lead to “irreversible results.” That’s why, until now, Washington has limited the aid to “non-lethal items” such as night-vision goggles, first aid kits, and body armor.

But sanctions have failed to dissuade Russia from sending military personnel and weapons to separatists. NATO and Kiev have accused Vladimir Putin of sending thousands of troops to help rebels advance with tanks and other heavy weapons. In recent weeks, Putin has shipped heavy weapons to eastern Ukraine to support separatists’ offensive. Rebels are armed with Russian multiple-launch rocket systems, T-80 and T-72 tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers, NATO says.

U.S. must send $3 billion in defensive arms to Ukraine

An independent report by eight former senior U.S. officials says that the U.S. should send $3 billion in defensive arms and equipment to Kiev. The report urges U.S. to send anti-armor missiles, armored Humvees, and reconnaissance drones. It says that the West should bolster deterrence in Ukraine by “raising the costs and risks to Russia of any renewed major offensive.”

That would require offering direct military assistance and lethal defensive arms, the report notes. With Russian support, separatists have taken control over the Donetsk airport and are marching towards Debaltseve. Overall, NATO says, separatists have captured 500 square kilometers of additional territory in the past four months.

Britain, Canada, the Baltic states, and Poland may also provide defensive weapons to Ukraine if the U.S. takes the lead.

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