US senator John McCain called on the United States to arm Ukrainian forces fighting pro-Russian separatists in the country’s east, during a press conference on June 20 in the Ukrainian capital Kiev,
“This is shameful that we will not provide [the Ukrainians] with weapons to defend themselves. They are fighting with 20th-century weapons against Russia’s 21st-century weapons. That’s not a fair fight,” said McCain, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
The US senator, who is one of the key supporters in the United States Congress on arming Ukraine, also said during the conference that the Ukrainian people had “proven they are willing to fight.”
During his official visit on Saturday, McCain met with Ukrainian officials including President Petro Poroshenko and visited troops as well as volunteers working on the front line.
Although approval from Congress and the White House is still pending, on June 18 US Senate approved a bill that incorporates provisions to aid Ukraine with $300 million worth of defensive military weaponry.
US Senator Tom Cotton, who was also present at the meeting, said that western leaders have provided Russian President Vladimir Putin with multiple “off ramps” to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, however, according to Cotton, Russia has constantly ignored the call.
Since Moscow annexed Crimea and allegedly gave military and political support to the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, relations between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as the European Union (EU) have worsened to the levels once witnessed during the Cold War era.
The Kremlin blames the current bad relations on the US and NATO, claiming that the two are encouraging the eastward enlargement of the Euro-Atlantic alliance further into post-Soviet space, while the alliance has in turn raised concerns over Moscow’s recent increased military presence in Eastern Europe.
Over 6,400 people have been killed in the fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists, which started in April 2014 after the separatists gained control of large parts of the two regions.
The potential weaponry deployments to NATO countries close to Russia - Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary - are most likely on the agenda when NATO defence ministers meet in Brussels on June 24 and 25.