On Friday, U.S. officials said the Trump administration has approved a plan to provide lethal weapons to the Ukraine, to help it fight Russian-backed separatists. The long-awaited move “deepens America’s involvement in the military conflict and may further strain relations with Russia,” according to the Associated Press.
In a statement late Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. plans to provide “enhanced defensive capabilities” to help Ukraine build its military, defend its sovereignty and “deter further aggression.”
“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,” Nauert said.
The State Department would not confirm which weapons would be sent. But the AP reports that some officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly described the plan and demanded anonymity. According to their report:
The new arms include American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles that Ukraine has long sought to boost its defenses against Russian-backed separatists armed with tanks that have rolled through eastern Ukraine during violence that has killed more than 10,000 since 2014. Previously, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with support equipment and training, and has let private companies sell some small arms like rifles.
Although the portable Javelin anti-tank missiles can kill, proponents for granting them to Ukraine have long argued they are considered “defensive” because the Ukrainians would use them to defend their territory and deter the Russians, not to attack a foreign country or seize new territory.
The plan must now be reviewed by Congress. Lawmakers are considered likely to allow the sale, as both Democrats and Republicans have long called on the government to take the step. Former President Barack Obama also considered a similar plan.
Trump reportedly had the plan under consideration for “some time,” while the State Department and the Pentagon signed off earlier this year.
The U.S. and European nations hope to end the 3-year-old Ukraine-Russia conflict, which began when fighting broke out between Russian-backed separatists and government troops. The U.S. plan to provide weapons to the Ukraine will likely further increase tensions between Washington and Moscow, as the Ukraine and the U.S. say Moscow is arming, training and fighting alongside the separatists.
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