Former Obama official: Time to arm Ukraine

A former senior Obama administration official says "the time has come" to arm Ukrainian forces with lethal weapons against Russian-backed separatists,

"Yes, the time has come for Ukraine to receive critical capabilities like Javelin anti-tank missiles," said Derek Chollet, who stepped down as assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs last month, in an op-ed in Defense One.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Such weapons would take care of some Russian-supplied armor, raising the costs on Moscow and boosting Ukrainian morale."

Chollet's call comes as lawmakers raise pressure on the White House to provide more help to Ukraine.

Chollet, currently a counselor and senior advisor at the German Marshall Fund, though, added that such weapons would not "alter the military balance fundamentally." He cited the time it takes to procure and deliver such assistance, as well as the "limited quantities" under consideration.

Chollet said the U.S. also needs to help the Ukrainian military with trainin. The U.S. aims to begin training three battalions of Ukrainian forces next month along with a robust military-exercise program.

The White House has said it is considering providing lethal aid to Ukrainian forces, after a recently-negotiated ceasefire between Kiev and Moscow fell apart.

White House is Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that arming Ukraine is "under active consideration" by the administration. 

The president has so far decided not to provide the Ukrainian military with lethal assistance, out of concern that it would provoke further aggression from Moscow, which has fueled an armed insurgency in Ukraine since it invaded and annexed the Crimean peninsula last March.  

The U.S. and European Union have hit Moscow with multiple rounds of sanctions, provided over $200 million in non-lethal aid, and begun helping reform Ukraine's outmoded defense institutions. 

However, the White House is facing bipartisan pressure from both the House and Senate to provide arms to Ukraine to increase the costs for Russia of continuing aggression, and to deter another invasion.

Chollet implored the U.S. and European allies to step up and do more to help Ukraine, which borders NATO and has a "long history of security cooperation with the U.S. and European partners."  

"While there may not be a 'military solution' to the current conflict, Ukraine’s future rests on having a military that is strong, professional, cohesive and capable – a military that can defend its borders and contribute to regional security. That’s only possible if the U.S. and Europe work together to help," he wrote.