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03/02 – Merkel resists US willingness to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons

The US is considering supporting Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons, including reconnaissance drones and anti-armour missiles. The proposal is supported by NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove and US Secretary of State John Kerry, but US President Barack Obama has not made a decision on delivering lethal weapons to Ukraine yet.

A group of eight former decision-makers, with former Pentagon number three Michèle Flournoy, former US NATO ambassador Ivo Daalder and former NATO military chief James Stavridis amongst them, released a report on Monday in which they said that “reinforced military assistance will increase Kiev’s capacity to stop further Russian escalation” and suggested that the US provides $3 billion of defensive weapons and equipment over three years. “The West must reinforce dissuasion in Ukraine by increasing the risks and costs of new offensive operations for Russia”, they said, quoted in La Croix.

However, analysts say that supporting Ukraine with lethal weapons would only raise tensions in the country, Nepszabadsag reports. Speaking at a seminar marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet-Finnish war, Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Erkki Tuomioja is quoted in vzglyad.ru saying that the question of supplying arms to Ukraine is not on the European Union’s agenda. German politicians fear that if the US decides to send lethal weapons as well as defense technology, the conflict may escalate further, reports Spiegel.de.

The West’s goal should be to end arms deliveries, rather than indirectly declaring war on Russia, Hubert Wetzel claims in SZ. CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto stresses that Germany is the key EU country in negotiations with Russia and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is still maintaining that a diplomatic solution to the crisis is the only viable one. The conflict cannot be solved militarily, she said as quoted by INYT.

As Hungary is becoming closer to Moscow, the German Chancellor was in Budapest yesterday – a visit garnering media attention in the US and Europe and dominating Hungarian media. Ms Merkel and Mr Orbán both declared that they will not sell weapons to Ukraine and that they support only peaceful solutions to the crisis.

Speaking from Budapest, Angela Merkel indeed stressed, as quoted by INYT, that Germany would not provide weapons to Ukraine and that the focus should be on negotiation and diplomacy. If the separatist crisis in Ukraine is resolved, the German Chancellor said that she could eventually support a common economic area between the European Union and the trade bloc of former Soviet republics pushed by the Kremlin. “We first need a peaceful and, above all, fair solution as regards Ukraine with Russia,” she said at a news conference on what is her first visit to Budapest since 2010, when Prime Minister Victor Orbán’s government came to power, WSJE reports.

In the middle of the Ukrainian conflict, the Hungarian opposition and the EU are concerned about the growing proximity between Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin, La Croix stresses – the Russian President will go to the Hungarian capital on February 17. Thousands of Hungarians took to the streets on Sunday to protest against Mr Orbán’s rule and pro-Putin policies, The Daily Telegraph reports.

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