Report: Pentagon, State Dept. draft plan to send weapons to Ukraine

Report: Pentagon, State Dept. draft plan to send weapons to Ukraine
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The departments of State and Defense have drafted a proposal to send Ukraine weapons to help in its fight against Russia-backed separatists, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The proposal reportedly recommends sending antitank missiles and other armaments, which American military and diplomatic officials say would be used for defensive purposes as Kiev fights back against rebels in its eastern region widely believed to be supported by Moscow.

A senior administration official told the Journal that President Trump has not been briefed on the plan, nor is his position on arming Ukraine known.

It could likely take months for the Trump administration to make its final decision on the plan, U.S. and Ukrainian officials tell the Journal.

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The U.S. has been providing non-lethal training and other aid to Kiev since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but weapons would be a significant escalation.

The report comes at a time of increasing tensions between Moscow and Washington after Congress this month passed a new Russia sanctions bill, which led Russia to announce it will expel more than 750 U.S. diplomats from the country by Sept. 1.

The Journal reports, citing officials, that Defense Secretary James Mattis supports the plan.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza confirmed to the newspaper that providing “lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine" is still an option on the table.

A State Department official would not outrightly confirm or deny the Journal's report about the proposal, but the official did also reiterate that said sending arms to Ukraine is a possibility. 
 
“I’m not going to respond to anonymous sources or share the details of our internal decision-making process on any topic," the official said in a statement to The Hill. "As we have said before, the United States has neither provided defensive weapons nor ruled out the option of doing so. We are examining how to best use our security assistance going forward to bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed the Obama administration when they similarly considered supplying Kiev with arms.

But U.S. officials tell the Journal that the conflict has since escalated, pointing to increased cease-fire violations that have stood in the way of peace efforts.

Russian officials, who deny supporting separatists involved in the conflict, have said that supplying Ukraine with weapons would stall peace efforts.

- Updated: Tuesday, 3:53 p.m.