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Monday, February 9, 2015

Obama still weighing decision on arming Ukraine forces

US President Barack Obama has signaled that he will wait for the results of high-stakes talks on Ukraine before deciding whether to arm the Kiev government, saying diplomacy and sanctions remain his preferred tools to resolve the crisis.

Obama, at a White House news conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said providing weapons to Ukraine was among the options he and his advisors were considering.

But he made clear he had reservations about upping the ante in Ukraine and endangering US-European unity in the contest of wills with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Merkel opposes sending weapons to Kiev to help it fight Russian-backed separatists.

"It is true that if, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I've asked my team to do is to look at all options," Obama said. "But I have not made a decision about that yet."

Despite prompting by a German reporter, the US president pointedly declined to lay down a 'red line' that, should Putin cross it, would prompt him to authorize weapons for Ukraine.

In the face of a new offensive by separatists in eastern Ukraine, some of Obama's top advisors, as well as hawkish US lawmakers, are pressing him to do more to help the Ukrainian government defend itself.

But that question has been overshadowed, at least temporarily, by a revived diplomatic push led by Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. The two are due to meet with Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Belarus on Wednesday.

Obama has long been sceptical of arming proxies in places such as Syria and Ukraine, and "has not said anything ... to suggest he's moved on this issue," said Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But Kuchins said that if the latest diplomatic effort fails, "then it will be incumbent on the administration to do something in response," such as increasing sanctions on Russia or considering arming Ukraine.

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Tags:  Ukraine  US  Russia  attacks  arms  





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