Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is back in Washington after a week-long trip that began in Jordan, included stops in Iraq and Turkey, and wrapped up in Ukraine. There, Mattis issued a sharp rebuke of Russia, and hinted more defensive firepower could soon be provided to the Ukrainian military by the U.S. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Mattis said at a news conference in Kiev. “Despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”
Standing next to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Mattis said the two discussed improving Ukraine’s defensive capabilities in the face of aggression by Russian separatists in the east, and dismissed the idea that sending arms to Ukraine might increase tensions. “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor, and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”
As for whether President Trump will approve lethal aid, “We are actively reviewing it,” Mattis said. “I will go back, now, having seen the current situation, and be able to inform the secretary of state and the president in very specific terms what I recommend for the direction ahead.” Doing so could be yet another source of tension between Washington and Moscow, as Russia makes threats of retaliation over sanctions and expels U.S. diplomatic staff.
Source: Washington Examiner
Why it’s on our radar: We cover this very subject in this week’s Executive Intelligence Summary, due out today (subscribe here). We’re not convinced that supplying Ukraine with weapons, “defensive” or not, will do much to quell the violence or deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from seeking to keep Ukraine within Moscow’s traditional zone of influence, simply because Putin seems to have already decided that it’s in Russia’s strategic interests to do so. We go into much more detail in the Executive Intelligence Summary this week, but suffice to say, based on what we’re seeing this morning, it seems as though, given the diplomatic tone, the Trump administration is leaning towards arming Ukraine.