State Depart­ment, Pen­tagon want to arm Ukraini­ans

Pro­posal made as fight­ing in the coun­try in­creases.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - Eric Sch­mitt ©2017 The New York Times

The Pen­tagon and State Depart­ment have pro­posed to the White House a plan to sup­ply Ukraine with anti-tank mis­siles and other arms, ac­cord­ing to De­fense Depart­ment of­fi­cials.

The pro­posed trans­fer — which also would in­clude anti-air­craft arms that would be de­fined as de­fen­sive weaponry — comes as fight­ing be­tween Ukrainian troops and Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists has in­creased in re­cent days, and the United States is tak­ing steps to de­ter ag­gres­sive mil­i­tary ac­tions by Moscow.

The plan by the Pen­tagon and State Depart­ment has been pre­sented to the White House, but no de­ci­sion has been made, said a De­fense Depart­ment of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss a pro­posal still un­der re­view. It was not clear if Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had been briefed on the pro­posal.

Whether to pro­vide more sub­stan­tial weaponry to Kiev’s be­lea­guered forces has em­broiled U.S. pol­i­cy­mak­ers for sev­eral years.

Two years ago, eight for­mer se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials urged the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to send $3 bil­lion in de­fen­sive arms and equip­ment to Ukraine, in­clud­ing anti-ar­mor mis­siles, re­con­nais­sance drones, ar­mored Humvees and radars that can de­ter­mine the lo­ca­tion of en­emy rocket and ar­tillery fire.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ul­ti­mately de­cided against pro­vid­ing such lethal as­sis­tance, de­spite a se­ries of strik­ing re­ver­sals that Ukraine’s forces suf­fered on the bat­tle­field.

Fear­ing that the pro­vi­sion of de­fen­sive weapons might tempt Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia to raise the stakes, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion lim­ited U.S. aid to “non­lethal” items, in­clud­ing body ar­mor, night-vi­sion gog­gles, first aid kits and en­gi­neer­ing equip­ment.

But the is­sue was rekin­dled when Trump took of­fice.

Un­der the new pro­posal, the ad­min­is­tra­tion would pro­vide anti-tank weapons, most likely Javelin mis­siles, as well as pos­si­bly anti-air­craft weapons, in ad­di­tion to other arms.

Ukraine has long sought Javelins to counter Rus­sian-made ar­mored ve­hi­cles in rebel-held ar­eas.

While it has not supplied anti-tank mis­siles thus far, the U.S. mil­i­tary has been as­sist­ing the Ukrainian army by train­ing sol­diers in meth­ods to halt ar­mored ve­hi­cles with­out mis­siles, such as by lay­ing traps of wire that coil into the treads of tracked ve­hi­cles.

The U.S. train­ing at the Ya­voriv base in western Ukraine is fo­cused on forg­ing a dis­ci­plined, pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary from the mix of vol­un­teer groups that first fought the Rus­sian in­cur­sion, rather than plac­ing bets on any high-tech weapons sys­tems.

Still, the Ukrainian mil­i­tary has been clam­or­ing for bet­ter equip­ment.

The de­fense min­is­ter, Stepan Poltorak, said last month the mil­i­tary was ready to re­ceive U.S.-made lethal weaponry if Trump ap­proved the trans­fer.

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