by WorldTribune Staff, January 1, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump has approved the sale of lethal arms to Ukraine, which continues to battle pro-Russian separatists in its eastern province.
The move was supported by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to a report by The Washington Post.
Though Russia is certain to object, Mattis said the arms sale to Ukraine does not amount to a provocation: “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor, and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”
The Obama administration had been critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexing of Crimea and imposed sanctions on Moscow, but declined to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, instead opting for “non-lethal” aid such as blankets, meal packets and vehicles.
While the Trump administration is not selling Ukraine all the military equipment it has asked for, including anti-tank Javelin missiles, the State Department approved a commercial license authorizing the export of $41.5 million of lethal arms, according to the Post’s report.
The sale consists of sniper rifles, ammunition and other associated parts and materials, according to congressional sources.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration approved the sale to Ukraine of shoulder-fired rocket launchers by AirTronic, a U.S. manufacturer in Texas, the company’s COO, Richard Vandiver, told Voice of America.
A Ukrainian official told ABC News that “What we are awaiting and have called for is the provision of lethal defense weapons that are more advanced – a larger package that is under consideration right now, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. We are expecting this decision and would welcome it.”
The war in Ukraine’s eastern province has killed more than 10,000 since the conflict began in early 2014.
“We must address Ukraine. It stands as the single most difficult obstacle to us re-normalizing the relationship with Russia, which we badly would like to do,” Tillerson told reporters in Vienna on Dec. 7.
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