An advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States may decide to send arms to eastern Ukraine as tensions continue to worsen there between pro-Russian protesters and supporters of the country’s interim government.
Reuters reported on Monday that US State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon — a senior diplomat and member of Sec. Kerry’s inner circle — said the possibility of providing arms to Ukrainian forces is indeed currently on the table.
"Obviously we are looking at that as an option ... but at this point I can't anticipate whether or not we are going to do that,” Reuters quoted Shannon as saying.
The counselor’s remarks come following yet another intense weekend in Ukraine, where government buildings, a military airport and other facilities in the east of the country were reportedly seized by armed pro-Russian protesters. Weeks after a similar standoff in the adjacent peninsula of Crimea led to the severing of ties with Ukraine and the subsequent approval of a referendum agreeing to join the Russian Federation, critics in the West are questioning whether or not Moscow has been involved in the latest series of events.
"From our point of view what we are seeing in a series of cities mimics what we saw in Crimea both in terms of the tactics and in terms of the people involved," the State Department’s Shannon told Reuters early this week. "From our point of view there is a very obvious Russian hand in all of this and we consider these actions to be destabilising and dangerous." William Hague, Britain’s foreign ministry, has made similar remarks as well.
But Vitaly Churkin — Russia’s envoy to the United Nations — has denounced rumors of his country playing any role in the unrest as false, and the Foreign Ministry has called allegations “irresponsible.”
Also on Monday this week, Moscow's envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said he was worried about the possibility that force would be used against pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine, and said he strongly believes “it might lead to a civil war.”
“This is dangerous," Russian OSCE envoy Andrey Kelin told reporters.
Yet despite Shannon’s remark about possibly arming Ukrainian forces, others within the Obama administration have suggested that such might not be the case.
"We're not actively considering lethal aid but we are reviewing the kinds of assistance we can provide," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday afternoon.
"We are looking at a variety of ways to demonstrate our strong support for Ukraine including diplomatically and economically," Carney continued, adding later that there is “no military solution to this crisis”
Last week, the regional NATO commander told reporters that American troops could be included among any forces that are mobilized throughout eastern Europe in the coming days as the organization attempts to ensure that allied partners are put at risk as tensions worsen there.
Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting president of Ukraine, has since asked for the UN to conduct a joint "anti-terrorist operation" in that region as activity intensifies, though Russia — one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council — is all but certain to veto such a request.