Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers during a private reception in Germany that he personally supported sending lethal aid to the Ukrainian military, even though President Barack Obama has yet to make a decision on whether to say yes to Ukraine's arms request, the article on Bloomberg by Josh Rogin reads, Censor.NET reports.
Kerry is the latest top U.S. official to favor arming Ukraine's armed forces directly, as they struggle against heavily armed Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Vice President Joe Biden this weekend came very close to endorsing military aid for Ukraine when he pledged to continue to support Ukraine's "security" needs. The top U.S. general in Europe, Philip Breedlove, has for months been advocating internally for greater U.S. support for Ukraine. Defense secretary nominee Ashton Cartertestified said last week he was inclined toward sending arms to Kyiv.
Two U.S. lawmakers said that Kerry, in separate conversations Saturday evening at the Munich Security Conference, had told them he was for the lethal aid. Kerry's position matches that of the State Department writ large, led on this issue by the assistant secretary of state for Europe, Victoria Nuland.
The White House, especially National Security Adviser Susan Rice, have been resisting, concerned that sending weapons will lead to Russian escalation.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain declined to comment on his private conversations with Kerry, but told the reporter that many inside the Obama administration have told Congress they support the weapons plan.
"When you sit down with many members of this administration, it's like wink-wink nod-nod, we agree with you guys, we're trying," said McCain.
For many lawmakers, the situation is similar to the internal debate in 2012 over arming the Syrian rebels, a plan supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus. It was ultimately vetoed by senior White House staffers and Obama. "It always reaches the Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett level and then it dies," said McCain, referring second to the president's senior adviser.
In a statement to the reporter, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki didn't deny that Kerry has been advocating internally for providing arms to Ukraine. But she emphasized that he supports the negotiations among the U.S., European nations, the Ukrainian government and Russia.
Kerry has been engaged in fervent diplomacy with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for months to find a compromise. But after Lavrov made comments about Ukraine that led the audience in Munich to laugh and boo, Kerry told him he had not helped matters, according to McCain.
Vice President Joe Biden is also said to support giving lethal aid. He made a blustery speech in Munich criticizing Russian aggression, but didn't say outright that he supports arming Ukraine: "We will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance, not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself."