A senior U.S. diplomat said Friday that there is no "military solution" to the conflict in Ukraine, but he did not rule out helping the country defend itself against "aggression" by separatists and their Russian backers.
Speaking to reporters in Kyiv, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there must be a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but added that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine must be shown they cannot win militarily.
“There is not a military solution to what is happening in eastern Ukraine. There has to be a diplomatic resolution,” he said. “And so on one level, the provision of weapons is not the way to get to a solution. Unfortunately, however, the only people who seem to believe that there is a military solution to eastern Ukraine are the Russians and the separatists. And they need to be disabused of that notion. So we will continue to look for ways to disabuse them of that notion and to advance a diplomatic solution.”
In an interview Friday with German radio (DLF), Blinken said the United States is in the process of supplying Kyiv with $130 million worth of protective vests, night-vision goggles and other equipment. "But if the aggression continues, I think there will be more and more pressure to give them other means to protect themselves," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.
Blinkin also told reporters in Kyiv that peace in Europe depends on resolving the conflict in Ukraine.
“If Ukraine is not whole, if all of its people are not free and if the country is not at peace, Europe won't be either. And so, it's very important that this conflict ends and that Ukraine finds the peace and security and sovereignty that it deserves.”
The best way to achieve peace in Ukraine, Blinkin said, is through a combination of security assistance to Ukraine, pressure on Russia through sanctions, and diplomacy.
"And that's exactly, I think, what we're doing and what we're looking at, and we're constantly reviewing how we can, in all three of those areas, maximize the chances for success, which is a resolution of the conflict, an end to the conflict, and a restoration of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Some U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the White House to supply Kyiv with "lethal defensive weapons," but the administration has not yet made a decision on the issue.
Some 6,000 people have lost their lives in eastern Ukraine since the conflict began there almost a year ago.
The United States and its European allies have accused Russia of exacerbating the conflict by sending troops and weapons to pro-Moscow separatists. Russia has continuously denied the charges.