According to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, it is time to consider arming Ukraine in its battle against pro-Moscow separatists.
Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that Washington "should absolutely consider providing lethal aid," Defense One reported,
and that this aid should be provided "in the context of our NATO allies because [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's ultimate objective is to fracture NATO."
The U.S. military estimates that there are approximately 12,000 Russian soldiers aiding pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. According to U.S. Army Europe Commander Ben Hodges,
the Russian forces are comprised of combat troops, weapons operators and military advisers.
Hodges also said some 29,000 Russian troops are in Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine last year and annexed, and that there are another 50,000 Russian soldiers massed on Ukraine's borders who are ready to take action if Kiev deals a major blow to pro-Moscow separatists in the east.
On Monday, the United Nations said an estimated 6,000 people have been killed and at least 1 million displaced since the pro-Moscow insurgency erupted in southeastern Ukraine 11 months ago, Time reported.
"All aspects of people’s lives are being negatively affected, and the situation is increasingly untenable for the local inhabitants, especially in areas controlled by the armed groups," said U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.
President Obama has thus far resisted calls to provide lethal aid to Ukraine.
Ukrainian military commanders have requested small arms, anti-tank weapons, and more advanced radar equipment — munitions that U.S. officials say have been provided to the separatists by Moscow.
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday that Obama has still not decided whether to provide Ukraine with lethal aid, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
But Hodges said Washington's plans to train three Ukrainian battalions had been put on hold to see if a ceasefire deal agreed to last month would be fully implemented.
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