In a move that has angered Russia and fueled massive uncertainty over the future of the war in Ukraine, President Donald Trump has approved the sale of lethal munitions to the Ukrainian government in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in the country’s Donbas region.
ABC News reports that according to four sources in the State Department, Trump is expected to approve the deal soon. The US military’s European Command “is moving ahead with the plan for the weapons to be delivered,” according to ABC News.
The controversial $47 million sale includes 35 FGM-148 Javelin launchers and 210 anti-tank missiles.
The Javelin, a fire-and-forget anti-tank missile, is one of the most advanced anti-tank systems on the market due to its top-attack flight profile, and has been repeatedly requested by the Ukrainians as a way to counter Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers.
The self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics have a large inventory of tanks and other armored vehicles reportedly supplied by Russia. Ukraine alleges that the Russian Military also operates such vehicles in Ukrainian territory.
“The United States has decided to provide Ukraine enhanced defensive capabilities as part of our effort to help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told ABC News.
Nauert stated that the weapons were to be used purely for defensive means. “US assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself,” she said.
It seems that ABC News’ report angered Russia, as Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said that the US was “an accomplice in fueling a war,” according to a statement cited by the Associated Press.
Ryabkov said that the US had “crossed the line,” and implied that Russia may respond. “American weapons can lead to new victims in our neighboring country, to which we cannot remain indifferent,” he said.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said that the decision “will once again motivate the hotheads” and “unleash bloodshed again.”
It’s not new for NATO countries to sell weapons to Ukraine — earlier this month, Canada started to allow the sale of lethal weaponry to Ukraine, and Lithuania has been giving Ukraine lethal aid since 2014.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko praised the news, saying, “American weapons in the hands of Ukrainian soldiers are not for offensive, but for stronger rebuff of the aggressor, protection of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, as well as for effective self-defense,” and that US weapons are “a transatlantic vaccination against the Russian virus of aggression.”