Military Commanders to Obama: Arm U.S. Allies

Ukraine, Syrian rebels getting pummeled by Putin, Islamic State, Assad

Philip Breedlove
Philip Breedlove / AP

Top U.S. military commanders in both Europe and the Middle East support meeting the requests of allied forces for weapons that President Barack Obama has so far denied, according to reports.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s military commander, now backs the provision of "defensive weapons" to Ukraine’s military, which has been devastated by months of fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east. Secretary of State John Kerry and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are said to be open to the proposal.

Experts say a defeat for the separatists—who receive extensive financial and military support from Russia—would be a severe blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has sought to weather a domestic economic crisis and maintain popular approval by touting his defense of ethnic Russians abroad.

More than 5,000 people have died in the Ukrainian conflict.

Additionally, Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin reports that Gen. Michael Nagata—head of the U.S. program to train and equip Syrian rebels—favors providing them with anti-aircraft weapons or covering them with U.S. air support. Obama reportedly prefers that the rebels focus on battling the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria, and has been wary of offering anti-aircraft capabilities that could fall into the hands of jihadists. However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air forces could easily target the rebels without such weapons.

U.S. lawmakers have expressed concerns about the rebel training program and say that it will not equip enough fighters to combat the Islamic State, much less Assad’s military. More than 200,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war.