Dem chairman breaks with Obama, endorses lethal weapons for Ukraine

The chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday said the U.S. should provide “certain types” of lethal weapons to Ukraine’s military.

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“We should allow them to have types of lethal equipment, which are not the most provocative, but which are defensive,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters after his panel received a classified briefing from administration officials.

He said the assistance could include ammunition and surface-to-air missiles.

“There are not provocative, these are defense capabilities,” Levin said. “They are lethal and I think that that type of lethal capability is appropriate providing Ukraine asks for it and understands the risk.”

His comments put him in line with Democratic and Republican panel members who say the administration should provide military equipment to Kiev in the face of Russian aggression.

President Obama, however, on Tuesday ruled out providing arms to Ukraine, one day after the country’s defense minister asked for more military assistance.

“The issue, at this point, is not the Ukrainian capacity to outfight the separatists,” Obama said.

Levin said he disagreed.

"What the president said … is not satisfactory to me, when he said 'we're hoping for a peaceful outcome,’” Levin said. “Obviously we are."

“I don’t think it’s defensible to draw a line between lethal and non-lethal as to what type of assistance we provide,” he added.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Ukraine’s wish list includes items ranging from body armor and Humvees to F-16 fighter jets.

Levin said Ukraine understands the U.S. would not send in troops, but acknowledged that if Russian forces did cross the border “it would be very difficult to stop them.”

He said Ukraine’s military leader recognize they might be undertaking a “difficult road” that could lead to a “guerilla-type effort against the Russians.”

Levin predicted that Moscow would give a “flimsy excuse” to move across the border into Ukraine.