Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army Europe commander, explained that the U.S. will start training Ukraine’s army so it can better defend itself from the Russian-backed insurgents. He explained that ultimately a diplomatic solution is necessary, but in the meantime, Ukraine is in need of military aid. Whether that assistance should include lethal weapons is still a fierce debate among politicians and military leaders.
According to Reuters, General Hodges says the U.S. training mission will start in March, with one American battalion training three Ukrainian battalions, which are currently fighting despite the recent ceasefire. Hodges explained the particulars of the training.
“We will train them in security tasks, medical (tasks), how to operate in an environment where the Russians are jamming (communications) and how to protect (themselves) from Russian and rebel artillery.”
NBC News reports that Ben Hodges agreed Ukraine’s military needs more equipment, but a diplomatic solution would be more desirable than a tense military one.
“Diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, those are all parts of a strategy. Most important is to identify what kind of relationship we want to have with Russia.”
Ashton Carter, who is expected to be confirmed as the new Secretary of Defense, said at a Senate confirmation hearing that he would consider sending arms to Ukraine, although he didn’t get much more specific than that.
“The nature of those arms, I can’t say right now. But I incline in the direction of providing them with arms, including, to get to what I’m sure your question is, lethal arms.”
As Ben Hodges prepares for the training mission, Russian-backed forces continue to violate the Minsk ceasefire.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Vladimir Putin came out of a tense 17-hour peace talk in February to announce a ceasefire between the two warring parties, but that peace has not held up well.
According to the BBC, Ukraine now claims that the rebels are taking a “piecemeal” approach to pulling back heavy arms in the agreed-upon demilitarized zone. More critically, the insurgents are fighting to take Debaltseve, a government-held railway junction that lies between rebel-held cities.
Ben Hodges commented on the current situation, placing the blame on Putin.
“I think it’s very important to recognize these are not separatists, these are proxies for President Putin. It is very obvious from the amount of ammunition, the type of equipment, that there is direct Russian military intervention in the area around Debaltseve.”
Experts at NPR previously said that arming Ukraine or providing other military aid could be disastrous and push Putin to escalate the fight. Nevertheless, it looks like U.S. military officials are looking to do just that, and Ben Hodges will be on the front-lines.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]