As the war in east Ukraine between the Kiev government and pro-Russia separatists aided by Russian soldiers worsens, reports have surfaced that the United States wants to arm the Ukrainian military. The New York Times reported that NATO’s military commander Philip M. Breedlove wants the U.S. to provide weapons and equipment to the Army.
The war began after Ukraine’s Parliament ousted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22, 2014. East Ukraine, which is home to many ethnic Russians, erupted in protests and have since attempted to establish their own republics. Evidence continues to show the Kremlin is heavily involved in the conflict, including Russian soldiers and equipment. On January 20, Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk confirmed more Russian forces entered the country.
“I have just spoken with the national defense and security council secretary,” he said, adding:
Ukrainian military intelligence confirm the fact military personnel and equipment have been transferred from Russia to Ukraine. Tanks, GRAD multiple rocket systems, BUK and SMERCH systems, radio electronic intelligence systems are not sold at local Donetsk street markets. Only the Russian army and Defense Ministry have them.
Yanukovych depleted the military during his brief reign as president, leaving soldiers vulnerable. Ukraine inherited old Soviet army equipment after its dissolution. Yanukovych lowered the defense budget under his tenure, which also hampered proper training for the soldiers. Yanukovych used the majority of the money on the internal security services. Ukrainian citizens have even started fundraising sites to receive money to purchase weapons. Ukraine receives some help from the Baltics, but more is needed, especially since numerous attacks have killed civilians in the past several weeks. Ceasefires continue to be broken.
According to a report by the Atlantic Council, the Brookings Institution, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, America and other NATO countries need “to provide $3 billion in military assistance to Ukraine in the next three years.” Russia and the West continue diplomacy, but the experts said it is not enough:
We face a critical juncture in Ukraine. There is no real ceasefire; indeed, there was a significant increase in fighting along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine in mid-January, with Russian/separatist forces launching attacks on the Donetsk airport and other areas. Instead of a political settlement, Moscow currently seeks to create a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine as a means to pressure and destabilize the Ukrainian government. Russians continue to be present in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in substantial numbers and have introduced significant amounts of heavy weapons. This could be preparation for another major Russian/separatist offensive.
Russian success would fatally undermine Ukraine’s stability and embolden the Kremlin to further challenge the security order in Europe. It might tempt President [Vladimir] Putin to use his doctrine of protecting ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in seeking territorial changes elsewhere in the neighborhood, including in the Baltic States, provoking a direct challenge to NATO. Maintaining Western sanctions are critical but not by themselves sufficient. The West needs to bolster deterrence in Ukraine by raising the risks and costs to Russia of any renewed major offensive.
“One of the best ways to deter Russia from supporting the rebels in taking more territory and stepping up the conflict is to increase the cost that the Russians or their surrogates would incur,” said Michele Flournoy, one of the authors of the report. “Providing the Ukrainians with something that can stop an armored assault and that puts at risk Russian or Russian-backed forces that are in armored vehicles, I think, is the most important aspect of this.”
Kerry said he is “open to new discussions about providing lethal assistance,” along with General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.