Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, has said that Britain hasn’t ruled out providing aide to the Ukrainian government in the ongoing crisis in the east of the country. However, he has also said that, while Britain currently has no plans for any direct involvement in the conflict, the government “reserved the right” to provide arms to stop the Ukrainian forces collapsing. Hammond said that he hadn’t ruled this out while speaking at the House of Commons.
“Different members of the alliance take nuanced positions on this question and are entitled to do so. However, we share a clear understanding that, while there is no military solution to this conflict, we could not allow the Ukrainian armed forces to collapse.”
During his speech, he said that the current conflict in Eastern Ukraine is now nearing what he described as a “conventional war,” albeit at a smaller scale, with over 5,000 people being killed since April, 2014, and over 1.5 million people becoming homeless.
“In recent weeks, Russia has aggravated the effects of its initial incursion by stepping up the military support it provides to its proxies. It has transferred hundreds of heavy weapons, including rocket launchers, heavy artillery, tanks and armoured vehicles and it maintains hundreds of regular soldiers, including special forces, in Ukraine as well as command and control elements, air defence systems, UAVs and electronic warfare systems.”
Hopes of reaching a successful deal in Minsk took a blow on Tuesday as both Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces rushed to seize ground ahead of the talks. In their first push-back following three weeks of steady rebel gains, Ukrainian troops launched a surprise offensive near the strategic sea port of Mariupol on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, separatists continued to tighten their grip on Debaltsevo, the strategic railway junction northeast of Donetsk where thousands of Ukrainian troops are facing encirclement. The struggle for Debaltsevo is the centerpiece of a three-week old separatist general offensive that has sparked panic in Western capitals and exposed divisions in NATO about how to respond.
Some American politicians have urged President Barack Obama to supply Ukraine with weapons, including anti-tank missiles and sniper rifles in a bid to “raise the costs” of Russia’s continuing involvement in the conflict. Obama said on Monday that he would consider the option if diplomacy fails to end the crisis.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that she will more than likely not be supplying arms to the Ukrainian government, saying that she believed arming more people would not be “successful.”
“The problem (today) is that I cannot imagine a situation in which improved arming of the Ukrainian army impresses Putin so much that he thinks he will lose militarily.”
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]