The Pentagon and Department of State have developed plans to arm the Ukrainian military to fight off Russian-backed separatists and are now seeking White House approval.
U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal that both bureaucracies want to ship antitank missiles and possibly anti-aircraft equipment to counterbalance Russian aid to separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has taken place since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The conflict has claimed 10,000 lives.
Up to this point, despite the urging of numerous hawkish senators like GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, aid to the Ukrainian military has largely been limited to training and other non-lethal equipment like radar and night-vision goggles, but that could soon be changing with the continuing deterioration of relations between the United States and Russia.
A sanctions bill against Russia which passed the House and Senate has prompted a response from Moscow in the form of kicking out more than 700 U.S. diplomatic staff. Already, staffers are picking up their belongings from a warehouse in Moscow in preparation to leave the country.
The plans to arm Ukraine are still very much up in the air, as they have not yet come to the attention of President Donald Trump. Moreover, officials expect that once the plans do come up in meetings, it will take months before the White House arrives at a decision.
While Secretary of Defense James Mattis has backed the plan, U.S. allies in Europe may voice the same objections they did when the Obama administration considered similar moves. Germany and France are concerned shipping arms to the area could result in a marked escalation of the conflict.
It’s unclear whether a shipment of arms would push Moscow back or provoke more military aid from Russia to stir up the conflict.
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