The U.S. government is considering providing more weapons and military equipment to the Ukrainian forces in the wake of fresh attacks on Kiev troops by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, according to the New York Times.
The Times had quoted U.S. officials as saying that Secretary of State John Kerry, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are keen on discussing about providing lethal assistance to Ukraine, while Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s military commander, also supports the idea. Although Obama has not yet decided on supplying arms to Kiev forces, the latest rebel offensive has forced the Obama administration to reevaluate the question of military aid to Ukraine, the Times reported.
One official also told the newspaper that Susan E. Rice, the U.S. national security adviser who was against the idea of providing arms to Kiev, is now prepared to reconsider her previous stance on the issue. The latest development has come at a time when the West’s economic sanctions have failed to deter Russia from sending troops and weapons to help rebels in eastern Ukraine. Moscow, however, has so far denied that it supports the rebels.
Meanwhile, in an interview that aired on CNN Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama said while his administration continues to put diplomatic pressure on Russia, a full-fledged war between the two countries will be unwise.
"To those who would suggest that we need to do more, you know, what I've said to them is that we can exact higher and higher costs, and that's exactly what we're doing, and we can bring diplomatic pressure to bear. I don't think that it would be wise for the United States or the world to see a actual military conflict between the United States and Russia," Obama told CNN's Fareed Zakaria when asked about how he planned to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“Russian success would fatally undermine Ukraine’s stability and embolden the Kremlin to further challenge the security order in Europe,” according to a report, which is due to be issued Monday by eight former senior American officials, who have recommended that the U.S. government send $3 billion in arms and equipment, including missiles, drones, armored Humvees and radars, to Ukraine.
“The West needs to bolster deterrence in Ukraine by raising the risks and costs to Russia of any renewed major offensive,” the report said. “That requires providing direct military assistance – in far larger amounts than provided to date and including lethal defensive arms – so that Ukraine is better able to defend itself.”
Meanwhile, fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels escalated around the town of Debaltseve in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, killing at least seven civilians in shelling attacks, Reuters reported, citing the Interior Ministry.
Residents had to abandon the area due to heavy fighting, while many of the refugees were taken to Kiev-controlled Slaviansk from Debaltseve and other frontline towns.
Amid growing tensions, both Ukraine's representative and the separatist envoys have accused each other of disrupting negotiations. However, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has claimed that the rebel delegates are not ready to discuss crucial points of a peace plan.
“In fact, they were not even prepared to discuss implementation of a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons. Instead, they called for revision of the Protocol and Memorandum,” the OSCE said in a statement.