Pentagon chief ‘inclined’ to provide US arms to Ukraine
Ashton Carter, US President Barack Obama's pick for defense secretary
S President Barack Obama's pick for defense secretary says he is “inclined” toward providing weapons to Ukraine to help battle pro-Russian fighters.
Ashton Carter, who is expected to be confirmed soon by Congress as the new Pentagon chief, made the remarks before the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.
“I am very inclined in the direction of providing them with arms, including… lethal arms,” Carter said when asked by Senator John McCain, the chairman of the committee, if he supported sending weapons to Ukraine.
“The nature of those arms, I can't say right now,” he said, noting that he would have to consult with US military leaders and the government in Kiev before making a specific recommendation about what kind of arms the US should send to Ukraine.
According to The New York Times, Washington is considering providing Ukrainian forces with lethal weapons.
The Times reported on Sunday that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey as well as National Security Adviser Susan Rice were supporting the move and that Philip Breedlove, the top US military commander in Europe, supported providing such lethal aid.
Washington claims that it so far has only sent “non-lethal” assistance to Ukraine, saying it fears that sending weapons could trigger a tense confrontation with Russia.
On Monday, the State Department said it did not want a proxy war with Russia but its objective is to make Moscow change its behavior.
“I don't think anybody wants to get into a proxy war with Russia. And that is not the objective. Our objective here is to change the behavior of Russia,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.
Ties between Washington and Moscow deteriorated last year after pro-Western forces ousted Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
The US and its allies accuse Moscow of sending troops into eastern Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian forces. Moscow, however, denies any involvement.
The United States and the European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia, including visa bans and asset freezes