BRUSSELS, March 23 (UPI) -- NATO's top military commander said Russia continues delivering armaments into Ukraine, and warned of the risk of not providing arms to stop separatists.
Speaking Sunday in Brussels to a German Marshall Fund forum, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said countering Russian shipments of arms used to supply pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine was of prime importance, along with diplomatic and economic efforts.
"What we see is diplomatic tools being used, informational tools being used, military tools being used, economic tools being used against Ukraine. We continue to see disturbing elements of air defense, command and control, resupply and equipment coming across a completely porous border. So we, I think, in the West should consider all our tools in reply. Could it be destabilizing? The answer is yes. Also inaction could be destabilizing. So I think that's the other question that our nation should look at. Is inaction an appropriate action?"
A ceasefire agreement in Ukraine calls for Russian withdrawal of troops and equipment, and control of the border returned to the Ukrainian government, by the end of the year. The Obama administration is considering the delivery of weapons to Ukrainian forces fighting the separatists, but has not yet sent them, because of a lull in violence which has killed over 5,000 people thus far, and objections from most European countries. Victoria Nuland, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, told the forum Friday the U.S. government has not yet decided which course to take. She has been supportive of helping arm the Ukrainian military but at odds with other administration staff members who view an escalation of military equipment as an opportunity for Russia to send additional arms to the rebels, Bloomberg News reported.
"We've seen, month on month, more lethal weaponry of a higher caliber ... poured into Ukraine by the separatist Russian allies. The kinds of equipment that the Ukrainian forces are confronting are much more sophisticated than what they have. I think the number one thing is for Russia to stop sending arms over the border so that we can have real politics," Nuland said.