NATO, US Consider Arming Ukraine Forces
NATO’s military commander and Obama administration officials appear to be moving toward supporting sending defensive weapons to Kiev’s forces fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Though US President Barack Obama has not yet decided whether to send “lethal assistance,” his administration is reviewing the issue after a surge in fighting between Kiev and Kremlin-backed rebels, the Times said, AFP reported.
NATO’s military commander General Philip Breedlove now supports providing defensive weapons to Kiev’s forces, and US Secretary of State John Kerry is open to fresh talks about sending lethal aid to Ukraine’s beleaguered troops.
The US has accused Russia of conducting a proxy war in Ukraine, but has so far ruled out arms deliveries to Kiev. The White House has instead limited US assistance to “non-lethal” aid that includes body armor, medical equipment and radar to detect mortar fire.
“Although our focus remains on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means, we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis,” national security council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement.
An independent report to be formally issued Monday will urge the US to send US$3 billion in defensive arms and equipment to Ukraine, including reconnaissance drones and anti-armor missiles. Most of Ukraine’s ageing stock of anti-armor missiles is out of commission.
Pro-Russian separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko announced plans on Monday to recruit 100,000 men, as fighting with Ukrainian forces intensifies.
The separatists are trying to capture the key town of Debaltseve, while central areas of rebel-held Donetsk have been hit by artillery fire. Dozens of civilians were killed on both sides of the front line at the weekend. “Mobilization will start in 11 days,” Zakharchenko told Donetsk news agency.
Hundreds of civilians have been moved out of Debaltseve amid reports that the separatists have reached the outskirts of the town.
Attempts to negotiate a ceasefire failed on Saturday in the Belarusian capital Minsk when rebel representatives did not turn up.