Tags: Barack Obama | Russia | Ukraine | ukraine | russia | separatists | arms

Pressure Mounts on Obama to Arm Ukraine

Pressure Mounts on Obama to Arm Ukraine
(Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 March 2015 08:33 AM

Resisting the pleas of bipartisan lawmakers, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and others, President Barack Obama has so far refused to send arms to Ukraine to help the nation defend itself from Russian-backed separatists, according to The New York Times.

On Tuesday, according to the Times, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sided with Republicans "in unanimously pressing the administration to send weapons to Kiev."

Since the Ukrainians and Russians signed a peace deal last month in Minsk — which calls for heavy weapons to be withdrawn from the front line — there have been a reported 1,000 violations.

In a televised briefing on Tuesday, a Ukrainian official said separatists had attacked Ukrainian positions 31 times a day earlier, a figure that included five instances of artillery fire, and the wounding of nine servicemen in a 24-hour period, Reuters reports.

The pro-Russian separatists were also "amassing heavy weapons in depots around separatist-held Donetsk city," despite the ceasefire agreement.

Obama has remained firm in his opposition to arming the Ukrainians, reportedly because he is concerned that doing so could ramp up the situation and rankle the Russians into become more aggressive. The Times reports that the president is also committed to giving the cease-fire a chance, a position many European allies favor.

Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the U.S., told The Associated Press last week that during a meeting in February, Obama agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that "it was important to give some space for those diplomatic, political efforts that were underway."

"The two leaders exchanged views on that issue and there was unity by them not to impose, or not to go forward with, the delivery of lethal defensive weapons at this time," Wittig told the AP.

The Europeans are also fearful that arming the Ukrainians might goad Russia.

"I think we have to weigh carefully whether this would inject an additional element that could be a pretext or a trigger for counter-reaction by the Russian leadership," Wittig said.

But in the last few days, according to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Russia has transferred tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery and rocket equipment over the border to the separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Times reported.

A "spirited debate" was taking place within the administration about arming the Ukrainians, the newspaper said, but senators on both sides of the aisle are becomingly increasingly frustrated.

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said by the time the president makes a decision "it will be too late," while New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, also a Democrat, grumbled that the decision was "taking a very long time," according to the Times.

"There’s no question there’s strong consensus on this committee, and in the United States Senate, that the United States needs to do more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves," said Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin, a Democrat also on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Times reports that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and Michael McFaul, Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, have also all said the U.S. should consider sending lethal aid to Ukraine.

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Resisting the pleas of bipartisan lawmakers and numerous defense officials, President Barack Obama has so far refused to send arms to Ukraine to help the nation defend itself from Russian-backed separatists, according to The New York Times.
ukraine, russia, separatists, arms, lawmakers
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2015-33-11
Wednesday, 11 March 2015 08:33 AM
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