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Merits of Giving Ukraine Lethal Aid Debated

  • Pamela Dockins

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has condemned what he calls Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine, but stopped short of saying the United States will provide Ukraine with lethal aid during comments made before wrapping up a visit to Ukraine that included talks with President Petro Poroshenko. But the White House nominee to fill the number two position at the State Department has said the United States should consider giving Ukraine lethal military equipment.

In a joint appearance with Poroshenko, Biden said Russian action in Ukraine is in violation of a September peace deal.

“We have seen more provocative actions, more blatant disregard for the agreement that was signed not long ago by Russia,” said Biden.

The United States and other Western powers have accused Russia of backing pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine with weapons and troops.

The United States has restricted its help to Ukraine to non-lethal aid, such as body armor and vehicles. But the question of defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine has never been off the table, said Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken.

“It remains on the table. It is something that we are looking at,” Blinken said.

Blinken told a Senate panel that Russia’s actions in Ukraine warrant a stronger response.

“I believe that given the serious Russian violations of the agreement that they signed, the Minsk accord, that one element that could hopefully get them to think twice and deter them from further action is strengthening the capacity of the Ukrainian forces, including with defensive lethal equipment,” he said.

Blinken appears to have support for his position. Ukraine needs to defend itself, said Republican Congressman Steve Stockman.

“The photographs, if you see what is happening [in Ukraine], are important and people who look at them cannot even look at what is happening. And yet, we stand silent. You cannot defend a nation without defensive weapons,” said Stockman.

But Russia-Ukraine researcher Keith Darden thinks the Ukrainian government’s problem lies more with its internal organization, rather than its military hardware.

“Strengthening the Ukrainian state does not mean arming Ukraine with American weapons, because they are a weapons producer. This is not the problem for them,” said Darden.

Meanwhile, Russia has warned that U.S. lethal aid to Ukraine would further destabilize the country's crisis.

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