US Considers Arming Ukraine To Protect Against Russia

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The U.S. military is reportedly creating a plan to arm Ukraine against Russia.

The plan, which is under consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would require approval from the White House to go forward, USA Today reports. An anonymous official with the administration's National Security Council confirmed that the U.S. would not rule out arming Ukraine against Russia.

The possibility has been raised as Russian-supported insurgents have launched attacks on the Ukrainian government's forces. Russia is also reportedly planning a military exercise expected to place tanks near the Ukrainian border.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said attacks that left nine Ukrainian soldiers dead were carried out by insurgents who are "Russian-led and Russian-backed."

According to Nauert, Russia is leading anti-government fighters, though Russian President Vladimir Putin has said this is not the case.

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Former NATO envoy Kurt Volker said, "Defensive weapons, ones that would allow Ukraine to defend itself, to take out tanks for example, would actually help" deter Russia from attacking the country.

"I'm not again predicting where we go on this," Volker added. "That's a matter for further discussion and decision. But I think that argument that it would be provocative to Russia or emboldening of Ukraine is just getting it backwards."

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the Joint Chiefs of Staff's plan.

"It will be more than just a military recommendation," said the general. "This will be a policy choice on whether or not we're going to give the Ukrainian government the tools they need to defend themselves against what we believe to be a Russian-supported insurgency movement in [Donbass, a part of east Ukraine]."

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Former President Barack Obama had previously said that adding more weapons to the region would raise tensions and escalate the situation.

In July, Congress voted to strengthen U.S. sanctions against Russia because of its involvement in Ukraine, according to The New York Times. After the vote, Putin told 755 U.S. diplomats to leave the country.

"One of Putin’s greatest goals is to assure Russia is treated as if it was still the Soviet Union, a nuclear power that has to be respected and feared," said Georgetown University Director of Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies Angela Stent. "And he thought he might get that from Trump."

Stent, who worked as a national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia under former President George W. Bush, said Russia has seen "a level of unpredictability" in the Trump White House, "which makes them nervous."

Sources: USA Today, The New York Times / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, Global Panorama/Flickr, Michel Temer/Flickr

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