WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is still struggling with whether to provide lethal, defensive weapons to Ukraine amid concerns that such a move might only escalate Russia’s military campaign there, US defense leaders told Congress Wednesday.
Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander, told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that he has laid out military options the administration could consider for Ukraine, ranging from sending small arms to more sophisticated weapons that would take longer to arrive and require extensive training. Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region and has supported Russian-backed separatists in the east.
Christine Wormuth, defense Undersecretary for Policy, said officials were discussing the possibility of sending defensive lethal aid to Ukraine that would not ‘fundamentally alter’ the military balance of the war there but would give Ukraine a better ability to defend itself.
“Russia continues to build their forces, continues to provide capability to the eastern Ukrainians. So, the fact that we’re not doing now is not changing their path forward,” Breedlove said.
“So I think that we have to be cognizant that if we arm the Ukrainians, it could cause positive results. It could cause negative results. But what we’re doing right now is not changing the results on the ground.”
Breedlove, who has sent his recommended options to military leaders, has increasingly sounded more supportive of sending some type of defensive lethal aid to Ukraine. He and other officials declined to detail his recommendations, but some actions under consideration could include providing anti-tank weapons, more sophisticated radar systems that can link to weapons for return fire, and small arms and ammunition.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers said the US and its European allies are ready to impose new costs on Russia through fresh sanctions if a faltering ceasefire for eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed rebels continues to struggle.
Breedlove, during a news briefing after the hearing, said that political, economic, military and information warfare should all be used in some part to bring an end to the Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“What is clear is that right now, it is not getting better, it is getting worse every day,” he said. “We have identified things that could — could change their (Ukraine’s) ability to defend their own country. We have put forward options for our senior most decision makers to make decisions, and now we’ll see what our nation decides.”