The U.S. might change its position on providing Ukraine with defensive weapons and equipment. The opposition to such a decision, led by U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice, seems to be overwhelmed by support for a tougher line towards Russia. The idea has also gained support from the military – the U.S. joint chiefs chairman Martin Dempsey, and NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove. The hardware might include anti-armour missiles and reconnaissance drones. What will this step mean, if it is finally taken?
First, the U.S. administration recognises de facto the failure of the peace process that started in autumn of 2014 with the signing of the Minsk Agreements. The recent rebel offensive is regarded in Washington as a serious challenge to maintaining the territorial status quo in the conflict, and to the truce agreed upon in September 2014. The balance of forces in the field is regarded as changing in favour of Russian-backed separatists, due to increased support allegedly coming from Moscow.
Second, the White House demonstrates its readiness for more direct involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. Though the fundamental American position – no U.S. boots on Ukrainian soil – remains unchanged, large scale shipments of sophisticated weapons have to be accompanied by maintenance personnel, military advisors and instructors. The physical presence of the U.S. in Ukraine is likely to increase significantly, along with all the challenges that such a presence may entail.
Third, such a decision, if taken and implemented, will signal that the United States has trust in the ability of the Ukrainian military authorities to control and to safeguard advanced and sophisticated weaponry. The risk of these weapons getting into the wrong hands is evidently considered to be low.