As the White House completes plans to send anti-armor weapons as well as small arms to Ukraine, the Russian government is taking notice. The move has been long anticipated by the Ukrainian government who is waging a war with Russian backed separatists using surplus munitions and weapons. United States officials declared that among the shipment, Javelin missiles would be included; a type of anti-tank missile system. The Javelins will be incredibly valuable to the Ukraine’s defense as the separatists employ the use of modernized tanks such as the T-72 and T-68 as well as other armored vehicles to attack Ukraine’s military forces.
The move has drawn attention from Moscow and Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Ryabkov bluntly stated, “It’s not a mediator. It’s an accomplice in fueling the war,” in reference to the U.S.’s actions and suggested Russia would respond accordingly. However, despite the Russian backlash, Ukraine and the United States both agree that Russia is arming and fighting alongside the separatists. As always the U.N. is heavily involved with coordinating cease fires at the moment and said the support comes at a delicate time in the conflict
Russia was quick to propose sending in peacekeepers initially which made the U.S. and NATO show reserved optimism but disagreements quickly surfaced when the subject of stationing came up. Major disagreements were experienced in this regard and while Russia only wanted peacekeepers stationed along the “line of conflict”, the US and its allies demanded they be deployed to all areas of separatist occupation along the border of Ukraine and Russia. Thus far an agreement has not been reached but a series of ceasefires have come into being and have been broken to date; who is at fault there is anyone’s guess.
In providing weapons to Ukraine, the United States government believes it may gain leverage over these ongoing negotiations. Skepticism is a standard response to Russia’s plan to retake Crimea but many believe it’s President, Vladimir Putin, is looking for a way to back out of the conflict gracefully. The former deputy secretary general for NATO, Alexander Vershbow, said that the United Nations peacekeeping mission could give Russia the opportunity to withdraw its forces from the area and not appear as if retreating.
The current U.S. administration has had the plan to send weapons to Ukraine on it’s mind for sometime now and the plan was even considered by the Obama administration but never came to fruition. While the State Department won’t confirm if the armaments will be sent or not, the State Department spokesman, Heather Nauert, said that the United States will be determining if it will be giving Ukraine “enhanced defensive capabilities. Nauret declared that the weapons would, “deter further aggression,” and, “U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself.”
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, expressed his concerns over the weapons use while thanking the United States for its continued support. Poroshenko later wrote, “American weapons in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers are not for an offensive, but for a decisive rebuff of the aggressor, the protection of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, as well as for effective self-defense,” and, “It is also a trans-Atlantic vaccination against the Russian virus of aggression.”
At this point in time it will be up to Congress if anything is to be sent as a period of review is required for any planned foreign military sales. During this time it would be up to lawmakers if anything is to be approved. However, they are unlikely to block any proposal made as both major political parties are in favor of supplying the weapons.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has repeatedly warned about the increase in clashes between Ukraine and Russian proxies and stated that it was the greatest point of tension since the cold war. Tillerson said, “It stands as the single most difficult obstacle to us renormalizing the relationship with Russia, which we badly would like to do.”
Both the United States Presidential administrations of Trump and Obama have expressed deep concern about sending more weapons into the conflict in the past. The fear that Russia would retaliate with greater force was ever present. The idea that American arms would be killing Russian soldiers was a risky afterthought as well. With Russia/U.S. relations on the fence and sanctions placed over Russia’s head, the two superpowers are at each others throats.