Kurt Volker, the newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine, said that Washington is actively considering whether to send weapons to Ukraine, to aid Kiev in its struggle with pro-Russian rebels in the east.
Volker told BBC that arming Ukrainian forces could change Moscow approach. He also said he did not think the move would be provocative, despite Russia claiming that it would increase tension and jeopardise a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
“Defensive weapons, ones that would allow Ukraine to defend itself, and to take out tanks for example, would actually help” stop Russia threatening Ukraine, Volker said in a BBC interview.
“I’m not again predicting where we go on this. That’s a matter for further discussion and decision. But I think that argument that it would be provocative to Russia or emboldening of Ukraine is just getting it backwards,” he added.
Volker stated that a successful solution for establishing peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine would need a strategic dialogue with Russia. However, Moscow has previously warned that U.S. sending arms to Ukraine would aid to the escalation of the conflict.
We have said more than once that any actions that provoke tension on the line of separation, that provoke a situation which is already complex, will only take us further away from the moment when this internal Ukrainian issue is resolved”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told BBC.
The outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine was one of the major factors behind significant deterioration in Russia-U.S. relations. Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Janukovych was toppled in a coup d’etat in 2014, which led to chaos in the country and caused Russia to respond by annexing Crimea.
Pro-Russian rebels in the east established two breakaway republics centered around Lughansk and Donetsk, both major cities in Ukraine’s industrial heartland – the Donbass.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 people have died since the eastern Ukraine conflict erupted in April 2014, with some 1.6 million people displaced by fighting.
There had been no large scale warfare in eastern Ukraine after Russia, Germany, France, Belarus and Ukraine brokered a ceasefire dubbed the Minsk II agreement. The ceasefire had generally held, but the two sides continue to exchange fire along the front line and the situation remains tense.
The West has accused Russia of aiding the rebels in Ukraine, and both the EU and the U.S imposed sanctions on Moscow over its involvement in the conflict and the annexation of Crimea.
Kremlin has denied the accusations.
There have already been calls among the U.S. establishment to send weapons to Kiev, but the Obama administration has resisted the action.
Photo: (Reuters/Gleb Garanich) / Reuters