Giving Ukraine military aid and lethal weapons may be required by the terms of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, but President Barack Obama has been reluctant to go beyond using diplomacy and economic sanctions in order to combat the influence of Vladimir Putin. Now U.S. officials are saying the Obama administration is seriously considering sending military weapons to Ukraine.
In a related report by the Inquisitr, President Obama claimed that giving Ukraine lethal aid was not an option since "it would not be effective to engage in a military conflict with Russia."
"We are deeply concerned about the latest break in the cease-fire and the aggression that these separatists — with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training and Russian troops — are conducting," Obama said according to The Moscow Times. "I will look at all additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation and try to address this issue. And we will be in close consultation with our international partners, particularly European partners."
Officials in the United States and NATO have been claiming for weeks that Russia has shipped Russian tanks, including the T-80 and T-72 models, to support the separatists in eastern Ukraine. In addition, they have also supplied heavy weapons such as multiple-launch rocket systems, artillery and armored personnel carriers.
It's believed these Russian weapons would require training not available to the separtists, so NATO officials are estimating that there are at least 1,000 members of the Russian military actively supporting the separatist movement from within Ukraine. Government officials in Kiev insist the number of potential Russian troops fighting in Ukraine is even higher, with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claiming there may be as many as 9,000 Russian troops inside Ukraine.
Russia insists that any Russians involved in the fighting are volunteers, but NATO rejects the explanation.
"Russian troops in eastern Ukraine are supporting these offensive operations with command and control systems, air defense systems with advanced surface-to-air missiles, unmanned aerial systems [drones], advanced multiple rocket launcher systems and electronic warfare systems," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. "I strongly urge Russia to stop its military, political and financial support for the separatists, stop destabilizing Ukraine and respect its international commitments."
The Russian military also recently claimed that Russia's nuclear weapons were upgraded recently with new technology which supposedly makes U.S. missile defense system useless. Members of the U.S. Congress also claim that Putin has stationed Russian nuclear weapons in Ukraine already, and may even use Crimea for an invasion.
When President Obama signed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act into law on December 18, 2014, he was given until February 16, 2015 to provide documents specifying plans for giving Ukraine military aid. The law specifically outlined a list of military aid to be provided, including "anti-tank and anti-armor weapons, crew weapons and ammunition, counter-artillery radars to identify and target artillery batteries, fire control, range finder, and optical and guidance and control equipment, tactical troop-operated surveillance drones, and secure command and communications equipment." But President Obama fears Vladimir Putin would respond aggressively to the U.S. military giving Ukraine weapons, so instead aid has been limited to items such as body armor, night-vision goggles, first aid kits, and engineering equipment.
Since Russia continues to send heavy weapons into Ukraine, the United States is reconsidering these options.
"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," said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
According to the New York Times, Obama's security adviser, Susan Rice, and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, are also open to providing Ukraine military aid. An unnamed Pentagon official also claimed, "A comprehensive approach is warranted, and we agree that defensive equipment and weapons should be part of that discussion."