The United States government is preparing to send non-lethal aid to Ukraine, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, just one day after the interim government there launched an operation against armed pro-Russian protesters.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters during a scheduled briefing in Washington, DC midday Wednesday that the Obama administration is “obviously evaluating requests and looking at ways that we can support the Ukrainian government.” Soon after that same afternoon, the AP reported that the US is indeed in the midst of preparing to provide assistance, according to anonymous sources who confirmed the existence of plans to the newswire but were not yet authorized to discuss the matter publically.
During Wednesday’s press briefing, Carney told reporters that the focus of the White House right now is “continuing to put pressure on Russia so that it understands that the international community is united when it comes to support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity." According to the AP, however, the Obama administration is about to announce that a round of non-lethal aid will be delivered to the region to assist with the Kiev-aligned forces pitted against pro-Russian activists — the likes of who were also reported on Wednesday to have taken control of armored vehicles ordered into the region by the interim government there.
“The incremental assistance would be aimed both at bolstering the Ukrainian military as it seeks to halt the advances of pro-Russian forces in the east, as well as showing symbolic US support for Ukraine's efforts," Julie Pace and Robert Burns reported for the AP. “But the aid is unlikely to satisfy the Obama administration's critics, who say what the Ukrainians really need are weapons to defend themselves.”
Previously, the US authorized a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine and sent a shipment of about 30,000 ready-to-eat meals, but concerns of further involvement and assistance from the west have emerged in recent days as the standoff between forces in the east of the country continue to escalate.
"We ought to at least, for God's sake, give them some light weapons with which to defend themselves," US Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said over the weekend.
Carney, Pace and Burns reported, “sidestepped questions about whether the US would supply military-style equipment like body armor that is not technically defined as lethal aid” during Wednesday’s meeting. The anonymous officials who spoke to the news agency did claim, however, that such assistance isn’t expected to be included in the new car package being prepared.
Last week, the NATO commander in charge of the alliance’s presence in Europe said that troops will likely be mobilized in order to ensure that member states in the region are safe should matters escalate further. On Wednesday this week, however, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that a package of further military measures would be deployed “to reinforce our collective defense and demonstrate the strength of Allied solidarity.”
Also on Wednesday, US State Department press secretary Marie Harf, told reporters that at the “top of the list” of US demands would be that Russia halts the alleged destabilising activities that Moscow has been blamed for bringing about in eastern Ukraine.
Representatives for the US, Ukraine and Russia are scheduled to meet in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday this week to discuss the conflict, and Harf said that onlookers shouldn’t expect any new sanctions from the State Dept. ahead of that meeting.
“But if there are not steps taken by Russia to de-escalate,” Harf added, “we will take additional steps, including additional sanctions.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded by saying that “the US State Department is frantically gathering any speculation spread by the acting powers in Kiev in order to justify charges against Russia about inciting and even organizing disorder in south-east Ukraine.”
“Washington must recognize the catastrophic consequences of such reckless support for its Kiev charges,” Moscow said.