White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said President Obama has not made a decision on aid to Ukraine beyond the MREs and uniforms they currently receive.
But the New York Times reported Secretary of State John Kerry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey are open to the idea, with National Security Advisor Susan Rice also poised to reconsider her reluctance.
The re-examination comes as the Moscow-supported rebels stage a new offensive.
“We do provide military equipment to the Ukrainians. We do have a training relationship with the Ukrainian military. But we look across the range of tools we have available. And we still think that the best way to influence Russia’s calculus is through those economic sanctions that are biting deep into the Russian economy,” Rhodes told CNN on Monday.
“We are not going to bring the Ukrainian military into parity with Russia’s military, certainly not in the near future. So, we will look at these options. But, again, we have to keep the perspective that the best tool that we have to apply pressure on Russia is that economic pressure through the sanctions.”
Rhodes acknowledged that the Ukrainian government has long been appealing for military aid, but “we don’t think the answer to the crisis in Ukraine is simply to inject more weapons and get into that type of tit for tat with Russia.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said arming Ukraine “should have been done a while ago.”
“Nobody wants to get involved if it can be avoided into something that might be able to suck us in. But I think it’s pretty clear to anybody now that Putin is going for the kill. These are not separatists. These are Russian troops aided and abetted by Russia,” Engel told CNN.
He stressed that it’s no less than a continuing Russian invasion and “the West cannot sit idly by and just put its head in the sand.”
“I think the time has come to really move. If this is not stopped now, we’re going to see the end of a democratic Ukraine,” the congressman warned.
Engel said Monday that lawmakers would be briefed on the administration’s decision-making process regarding arming Ukraine sometime this week.
“I couldn’t tell you if they’d made a decision, but my admonition to them is that they should make the decision to help the Ukrainians,” he said. “…I think if we don’t stand up to Putin now, he’s not going to stop at Ukraine. There are other countries there that were very nervous. The former eastern bloc countries, Moldova, the Baltic States.”
“Crimea is part of Ukraine. It’s not part of Russia. [Putin] needs to understand, you know, way back when before World War II, when World War II started, there was another dictator who said if you just give me Czechoslovakia, if you gave me the Sudetenland, there are people who thought just give it to him and then he’ll be happy. And we saw that that didn’t work then. This won’t work now. If we think we can appease Putin by letting him be aggressive in Ukraine, we are kidding ourselves. It’s not going to stop at Crimea, it’s not going to stop at Odessa. It will just continue.”