During a visit to Ukraine, the U.S. Defense Secretary accused Russia of menacing Europe. Jim Mattis told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that Washington has Kiev’s back.
This comes as Ukraine celebrates 26 years of independence from Russia. CGTN’s Toby Muse reports.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis had tough words for Russia during a visit to Ukraine on Thursday. Attending Independence Day celebrations in the capital of Kiev, Mattis accused Russia of trying to redraw Europe’s borders.
“We do not and we will not accept Russia’ seizure of the Crimea and despite Russia’s denials we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe,” said Mattis.
Meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Mattis said the U.S. supports Ukraine in its dispute with Russia. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea. Ever since, there have been low-level clashes between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine.
“Under information of our intelligence confirmed by our partners minimum number of Russian troops now – regular troops – now being on the occupied territory is about 3,000,” claimed the Ukrainian president.
Still up in the air is whether the U.S. will sell more lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. said such a sale would be viewed as provocative by Russia.
However, now with President Donald Trump in charge, both the Pentagon and the State Department are thought to favor the move, which would see the U.S. sending Javelin anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons.
“I would also point out that on the defensive lethal weapons, we are actively reviewing it. I will go back now having seen the current situation and be able to inform the secretary of state and the president in very specific terms what I recommend for the direction ahead,” said the U.S. Defense Secretary.
The U.S. has already given around $750 million in nonlethal arms to Ukraine. It’s not known when or if a decision will be made. If the U.S. was to sell more lethal defensive arms, it could derail Trump’s stated goal of improving relations with Russia.
Russia has criticized Ukraine’s request for new heavy weaponry, saying it’s not the solution for a situation that should be resolved through diplomacy.