The Pentagon and the State Department have proposed to the White House a plan to arm Ukraine with lethal weaponry for defensive purpose.
According to Defense Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, the United States could provide Ukraine with anti-tank missiles, antiaircraft weapons, and other weapons.
Washington’s willingness to provide weapons to Ukraine comes after an increase in clashes between Ukrainian troops and separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk (DNR) and Luhansk (LNR) People’s Republic. The U.S. also believes that arming Ukrainian troops could deter Russia’s support to the DNR and LNR.
Anti-tank missiles such as the FGM-148 Javelin has been sought by Ukraine to counter separatist armoured vehicles. Providing antiaircraft weapons, however, remains unclear as the separatist does not have any aircraft.
Although the proposal is still under review, providing Ukraine with weaponry has been embroiled in American policy makers for years, according to the New York Times. In 2015, the Obama administration refused to provide lethal weaponry to Ukraine due to the possibility of having Russian supply more weaponry to the two self-proclaimed Republics.
Up until now, the United States has been providing Ukrainian troops with nonlethal equipment such as body armours, night-vision goggles, first aid kits, and engineering equipment. Adding to that, American soldiers has been on the ground in Ukraine to assist their counterparts with training such as halting armoured vehicles without missiles by using tank traps and wire traps that coils into the threads of tracked vehicles.
Russia firmly against U.S. supply of lethal weaponry to Ukraine
Moscow believes that supplying lethal weaponry will further escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine
“The masterminds of the plan to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, apparently, proceed from the assumption that the situation in the east of this country isn’t explosive enough already and that it’s needed to add fuel to the fire,” said Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian foreign ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control.
Ulyanov added that even if the weapons are being supplied as a defensive nature, “it doesn’t change the essence of the matter,” and that Kiev has “no one to defend from” since both the DNR and LNR “aren’t making attempts to expand their territory.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov firmly believes supplying Ukraine with lethal weaponry will be counterproductive to the resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“Our stance is well-known: we believe that all countries, especially those that are looking to be part of the settlement [of the Ukrainian conflict], must avoid any sort of actions which can provoke another spike in tensions in the already difficult region,” Peskov said.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 10,000 lives with around 24,000 injured, according to UN estimates. The fighting has displaced more than 1.6 million people.