On a visit to Ukraine today, Defense Secretary James Mattis played up the narrative that the ongoing fighting in Eastern Ukraine was wholly Russia’s fault, vowing that the US “stands with Ukraine” against the Russians, and confirming active considerations are ongoing to providing lethal military aid to them.
Ukraine’s President Poroshenko claimed 3,000 Russian troops are in Ukrainian territory, a claim which appears to be built around the assumption that Crimea, which seceded from Ukraine and joined the Russian Federation, is still technically Ukrainian.
Still Mattis appeared to accept the number unquestioningly, accusing Russia of trying to “redraw” the map of Europe by military force, and vowing that the US would stand against them. Though he stopped short of promising arms to Ukraine, he gave the impression they were probably coming.
The Trump Administration has been keen on arming Ukraine in recent months on the grounds that it would be politically advantageous to do something anti-Russia. At the same time, the Eastern Ukraine war is in a state of ceasefire, with limited violations on both sides, and a huge influx of US arms could be seen as deliberately trying to undermine the ceasefire, and encourage an aggressive war against East Ukraine’s ethnic Russian rebels.