Amid growing tensions between the United States and Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, Washington is considering providing the Ukrainian forces with lethal weapons, according to US officials.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey were open to discuss sending weapons to Ukraine, the New York Times reported on Sunday.
NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove also supported providing such lethal assistance to the country.
“A comprehensive approach is warranted, and we agree that defensive equipment and weapons should be part of that discussion,” a Pentagon official said.
According to the report, eight former senior American officials would issue an independent report on Monday and they would urge Washington to send $3 billion in weapons to Ukraine.
Anti-armor missiles and reconnaissance drones would be included in the aid.
One official said that Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, is also now prepared to hear arguments for helping Kiev battle the self-proclaimed republics. If true, this would signal a paradigm shift in the White House’s approach to the issue, which has so far been reluctant to escalate the crisis further than it already has.
“Although our focus remains on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means, we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
To discuss the plan with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and other officials, Kerry will visit Kiev on Thursday.
On Sunday, clashes intensified between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Both forces struggle for the control of the strategic government-held town of Debaltseve.
The United States and its allies accuse Russia of sending thousands of troops to support the pro-Russian forces.
Moscow, however, has denied any involvement in fighting over the territory.