Trump May Arm Ukraine Against Russia, Says New U.S. Special Envoy

Ukrainian servicemen
Ukrainian servicemen carry their belongings as they leave their base in the village of Lyubimovka near Sevastopol, Ukraine March 21, 2014. Baz Ratner/Reuters

The U.S. is actively considering whether or not to arm Ukrainian forces in their war with Russian-backed insurgents in the east, the new U.S. envoy for Ukraine told the BBC.

Fresh from his first official tour in his new role, during which he claimed to be “astonished” with the “hot war” he had seen in the east, Kurt Volker said in an interview on Tuesday that arming Ukrainian troops could shift Moscow’s tactic but would not be provocative.

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"Defensive weapons, ones that would allow Ukraine to defend itself, and to take out tanks for example, would actually stop Russia threatening Ukraine," Volker said. "I'm not again predicting where we go on this, that's a matter for further discussion and decision, but I think that argument that it would be provocative to Russia or emboldening of Ukraine is just getting it backwards," he added.

Volker, a former U.S. envoy to NATO, voiced a hard line on Russia during his visit, blaming it for the hostilities in eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied it is officially involved in the conflict on its borders - something that failed to convince the previous U.S. administration and its European allies, though current U.S. President Donald Trump has been more vague on what he thinks Russia’s role in the conflict is.

Peace in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbas regions demanded new strategic dialog with Russia, Volker told the BBC.

Despite initial concern that Trump’s sympathies for Russian President Vladimir Putin could compromise the U.S.'s position on Ukraine, there has been virtually no change in Washington’s approach to Kiev since the administration came into office.

Members of Trump’s Republican Party—historically in favor of using more kinetic combat means to neuter any expansive visions the Kremlin may have—are rallying around a call for a more hardline policy.

“Vladimir Putin’s violent campaign to destabilize and dismember the sovereign nation of Ukraine will not stop unless and until he meets a strong and determined response,” McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee told Trump in February.