The US getting closer to providing Ukraine with weapons
Washington is moving closer to providing arms to Ukraine said President Barack Obama's nominee to become Defence Secretary yesterday.
Ashton Carter told Congress he was coming closer to providing weapons to Ukraine, in what would be a departure from American policy that opponents say could escalate tensions and boost prospects of a full-scale war.
Mr Carter, a former Pentagon number two, said he would "very much incline" in supplying defensive arms to Ukraine, adding the US needed to support the country's efforts to defend itself against Russian-backed separatists. US officials have acknowledged taking a fresh look at the issue.
"The nature of those arms, I can't say right now," Mr Carter said at his Senate confirmation hearing. "But I incline in the direction of providing them with arms, including, to get to what I'm sure your question is, lethal arms."
The Senate is expected to swiftly confirm Mr Carter and his comments on Ukraine and other issues including Afghanistan are likely to give comfort to Republicans sharply critical of the limits Mr Obama has set on assistance to allies.
Mr Carter would become Obama's fourth defence secretary and would succeed Chuck Hagel, who resigned under pressure last year, raising questions over whether Mr Carter, a 60-year-old technocrat, would be able to break into Mr Obama's tight-knit inner circle.
He has promised to give Obama his "most candid strategic advice".
But Senator John McCain, perhaps the most outspoken voice against President Obama's national security policies, questioned the extent of influence he might have within the administration.
"I sincerely hope the president who nominated you will empower you to lead and contribute to the fullest extent of your abilities," Mr McCain said.
"Because at a time of multiplying threats to our security, America needs a strong secretary of defence now more than ever."
Yesterday, American vice-president Joe Biden left for a series of meetings with top European leaders in Brussels and Munich this week to discuss boosting security and financial aid to Ukraine.
It is also expected that he will seek a tightening of economic sanctions against Russia. Mr Biden's visit, will also include trilateral talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"All of these issues will be on the table: financial assistance, increasing pressure through sanctions, and how we can most effectively provide security assistance to Ukraine," a senior official said.