US considering providing more weapons for Ukraine, general says

The United States is considering providing Ukraine with more weapons on top of the anti-tank missiles it has already sent, a top general said Tuesday.

U.S. European Command chief Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said any shipments still have to go through “policy deliberations,” but that weapons under consideration include naval systems to help Ukraine respond to incidents such as what happened in the Kerch Strait last year.

“As recommendations for Ukraine, particularly on the lethal side, work its way, it has to go through the policy deliberations that provide authority to deploy those kinds of weapon systems,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There are other systems, sniper systems, ammunition and, perhaps looking at the Kerch Strait, perhaps consideration for naval systems, as well, here in the future as we move forward.”

Asked by Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) whether there needs to be language in this year’s defense policy bill to allow that to happen, Scaparrotti said he “will have recommendations for that.”{mosads}

In November, Russia fired on three Ukrainian ships as they tried to transit the Kerch Strait, which links the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea. Several crew members were injured, and Russia seized the ships and their sailors. Russia has been detaining 24 Ukrainian sailors since, with Russian courts ruling several times to continue their detention.

Last year, the United States sold Ukraine the Javelin anti-tank missile system to help bolster its fight against Russian-backed separatists. Before that, the United States had limited its support to Ukraine to nonlethal aid.

The sale happened after contentious debate that dated back to the Obama administration over whether injecting such weapons into the conflict would make an already volatile situation worse.

On Tuesday, Scaparrotti, who is also the supreme allied commander of NATO, said the Ukrainians have been “responsible” in their use of the anti-tank weapons. 

“The Ukrainians, in my view, have trained very well for the use of that,” he said. “They’ve been responsible in the security and the deployment of it, and we watch that closely. So they’ve handled that well.”

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