With fighting between government forces and pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine intensifying once again, the US government is taking a fresh look at arming Kiev's forces, despite the risk of Russian retaliation. Assistance so far has been limited to "non-lethal" items like body armor, but after recent setbacks for government forces, administration officials are moving closer to agreeing with NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Philip Breedlove that Ukrainian forces should be supplied with defensive arms and equipment like anti-armor missiles and armored Humvees, the New York Times reports.
An independent report from eight former senior US officials to be released today calls for sending $3 billion in equipment to Ukraine. "The West needs to bolster deterrence in Ukraine by raising the risks and costs to Russia of any renewed major offensive," they write. "That requires providing direct military assistance—in far larger amounts than provided to date and including lethal defensive arms." NATO says that over the last four months, the Moscow-backed rebels—who recently rejected a peace deal—have captured nearly 200 square miles of additional territory in eastern Ukraine. The latest peace talks fell apart on Saturday as more than 1,000 people fled fighting around the town of Debaltseve, while Kiev said 13 more of its soldiers had been killed, the AP reports. (Read more Ukraine stories.)