Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO states to send weapons to his country, saying in a newspaper interview that civilian deaths and the growing conflict should provide the Western alliance with enough reason to come to Ukraine’s aid.
The United States is reconsidering whether to provide weapons to Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists, senior administration officials said on Monday, but added that no decision had been made.
“The escalation of the conflict that’s happening today, the increasing number of civilian casualties, especially after the terrorist attacks in Volnovakha and Donetsk as well as the bombardment of Mariupol… should move the alliance to provide Ukraine with more support,” Poroshenko said in an interview published in Germany’s Die Welt today (5 February).
“(That) includes, among other things, delivering modern weapons for protection and for resisting the aggressor,” Poroshenko said.
Poroshenko stressed that Ukraine wanted peace, but that even peace must be defended, so Kiev needed a strong army and new, modern weapons.
Asked what he expected from the West, Poroshenko said: “We still need a lot of military, technical and specialist help to improve the fighting strength of the Ukrainian army in its resistance of Russian aggression.”
Poroshenko also said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was considering replacing Ukraine’s stand-by programme with an Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
“We expect a positive decision soon as well as the possibility to get extra support from the European Union and other partners,” Poroshenko said.
New US defense secretary in favour of providing arms to Ukraine
President Barack Obama’s pick to become defense secretary told Congress on Wednesday (4 February) he was leaning in favor of providing arms to Ukraine, but later cautioned that the focus must remain on pressuring Russia economically and politically.
Ashton Carter, a former Pentagon No. 2, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he would “very much incline” toward supplying defensive arms to Ukraine, adding the United States needed to support the country’s efforts to defend itself against Russian-backed separatists.
US officials are taking a fresh look at providing weapons, which advocates say could help end the conflict in Ukraine but opponents warn might escalate the war.
“The nature of those arms, I can’t say right now,” Carter said at his Senate confirmation hearing. “But I incline in the direction of providing them with arms, including, to get to what I’m sure your question is, lethal arms.”
After a break in the hearing, Carter was pressed about the risks of escalation. He said: “I think the economic and political pressure on Russia has to remain the main center of gravity of our effort in pushing back.”
Washington is keen to maintain solidarity on Russia with Europe, some of whose leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, strongly oppose arming Ukraine.
The United States has provided some non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine but has not sent arms, saying it does not want to be drawn into a proxy war with the Russians.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, in a comment to reporters during the hearing break, stressed the decision would ultimately fall to Obama as commander in chief, but added the president would listen to his advisors.
Carter, 60, would succeed Chuck Hagel, who resigned under pressure last year after struggling to break into Obama’s tight-knit inner circle of security aides.