U.S. eyes military supplies for Ukraine, seeks to avoid escalation

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:01pm EDT

A Ukrainian soldier and armored personnel carrier guard a checkpoint near the village of Salkovo, in the Kherson region adjacent to Crimea, March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

A Ukrainian soldier and armored personnel carrier guard a checkpoint near the village of Salkovo, in the Kherson region adjacent to Crimea, March 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Thursday it was focusing for now on Ukrainian requests for non-lethal support, as opposed to any weaponry, as a senior U.S. official said Washington wanted to avoid further militarizing the standoff with Russia.

Ukraine's government has put its heavily outnumbered and outgunned forces on alert for an invasion from Russia in the east following Moscow's seizure of Crimea.

Kiev has asked for military support from the United States, which U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say includes small arms, as well as non-lethal assistance, such as medical supplies.

So far, the U.S. government has only approved providing military food rations, officials say, as President Barack Obama's government instead focused on financial support for Ukraine and pressuring Russia diplomatically.

"I think it's safe to say that right now, the focus of that review (of Ukraine's military requests) is on the non-lethal side of things," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told a news briefing.

"But it is very much still an active issue under consideration."

Obama's critics, including Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, have lambasted the hesitancy, saying last week the United States should not be "imposing an arms embargo on a victim of aggression."

Still, a senior administration official, defended Obama's approach on Thursday, as Washington unveiled new sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest long-time political and business allies.

"It's our view that the best course here is to lay down strong costs through these sanctions ... We don't want to take steps to add to a momentum of further militarizing the situation," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kirby did not offer a timeline for the review of Ukrainian requests. He noted the food rations have not been delivered yet.

"There are other non-lethal items which are being considered. I don't want to go into them by detail and give you a shopping list, but, in general, it's on the order of medical supplies and uniform equipment and that kind of thing," he said.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (12)
AlkalineState wrote:
It stands to reason that Ukraine belongs in NATO now. Surely Putin must have anticipated its entry. Why would we have Poland in NATO, and not Ukraine?

Mar 20, 2014 7:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
DURO wrote:
For Russia to survive as a nation they must occupy Eastern Ukraine. While the Russians are celebrating their perceived victory over the West, the US strategists are salivating and celebrating the real victory. If Putin stops at Crimean borders, he will be remembered as the person who started the decline of the Russian empire (or what is left of it today). Putin turned a neighboring friend into a bitter enemy. Ukraine is the most important Russian neighbor, and is the most technological advanced part of the ex Soviet empire. Is only a matter of time until NATO turns Ukraine in one launching pad of “democracy” to the Eastern former Soviet republics.

Mar 20, 2014 7:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
McCain obviously didn’t see the reports in which Ukraine had only 6,000 effective troops. Raising, training, and equipping an army takes time. How many senior and junior officers and senior and junior NCOs does Ukraine have? How many and what types of arms and munitions are available? How many and what types of military vehicles, artillery, and aircraft are available? How serviceable are these vehicles and aircraft? How many supplies of usable heavy munitions are available?

Russia has 200,000 troops in Europe supported by an air force and navy that Putin has modernized since 2008, so it is ready for battle. The US and NATO are not prepared, and the US and NATO have 70,000 US and NATO troops and civilians partially surrounded by the SCO, a military alliance of Russia, China, and 4 central Asian countries. China has close ties to Pakistan that has disputes with the US over drone strikes and incursions into Pakistan. Pakistan can cut off US and NATO forces; Iran would close its borders; and the last route would stop at Azerbaijian because the West did not stop or reverse an Armenian invasion in the 1990s. If China and Russia deploy air defense missile batteries to Pakistan and Iran, 70,000 US and NATO troops and civilians would be forced to surrender to the Taliban. The US and NATO should reconsider support for Ukraine.

Mar 20, 2014 7:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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