Dempsey: Obama Should Consider Arming Ukraine

Another U.S. official says the president has still not made a decision after almost a year of fighting, 6,000 deaths

Martin Dempsey
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey / AP
March 4, 2015

The nation’s top military general said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama should consider sending weapons to Ukraine’s beleaguered military to aid its fight against Russian-backed separatists, becoming the latest of several U.S. officials to make such a recommendation.

The Washington Post reported that Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that, "we should absolutely consider providing lethal aid."

"And it ought to be in the context of our NATO allies because [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s ultimate objective is to fracture NATO," Dempsey added.

Dempsey joins Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, lawmakers from both parties, and former diplomats and defense officials in urging Obama to review the option of lethal aid.

The United Nations said on Monday that more than 6,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since mid-April 2014. While there has been a recent lull in the fighting between government forces and the separatists after a ceasefire reached last month, Ukrainian officials warn that the pro-Russian rebels could be preparing further assaults on areas such as Mariupol.

"If Russia wants to take Ukraine, it’s going to take it," Dempsey said.

Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that Obama has still not decided whether to provide Ukraine with lethal aid. Ukrainian military commanders have requested small arms, anti-tank weapons, and more advanced radar equipment—munitions that U.S. officials say have been supplied to the separatists by Russia.

"We do have concerns now about new firing on the ground now in the last couple of days," Nuland said, adding that U.S. and European leaders have agreed to impose further sanctions on the Kremlin if violations of the ceasefire persist.

"This is a manufactured conflict—controlled by the Kremlin; fueled by Russian tanks and heavy weapons; financed at Russian taxpayers’ expense and costing the lives of young Russians whose mothers, wives and children are told not to investigate their deaths too closely if they want to receive benefits," she said in her testimony.