- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2015

President Obama said Monday he’s considering providing Ukraine with lethal military arms to battle pro-Russian separatists, a potential move that would both ratchet up tension between Ukraine and Russia and also could create a rift between the U.S. and its European allies.

Mr. Obama made the comments at a White House press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who strongly opposes the idea of providing arms to the Ukrainian military. Ms. Merkel and French President Francois Hollande this week will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in yet another effort to diffuse the situation through diplomacy.

In the U.S., however, Mr. Obama said he’s asked his national security team to begin drafting plans that stretch beyond diplomacy.

“It is true that, if in fact diplomacy fails, what I’ve asked my team to do is to look at all options,” he said. “And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that is being examined, but I have not made a decision on that yet.”

Ms. Merkel skirted the issue, saying that even if the U.S. sends arms to Ukraine — a move Germany clearly opposes — the alliance between the nations will remain strong.

“You may rest assured no matter what we decide, the alliance between the United States and Europe will continue to stand, will continue to be solid, even though on certain issues we may not always agree,” she said.

Mr. Obama said that, even with U.S. arms, Ukraine could not defeat the Russian military. But such arms could help Ukraine “bolster its defenses” and fend off further advances by Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine, the president said.

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