Current Brookings Institution senior fellow and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000) Steven Pifer, in a telephone interview with RFE/RL, talked about deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken's suggestion yesterday, at a confirmation hearing to become deputy secretary of state, that the U.S. should consider defensive lethal aid to Ukraine:
"It's significant if the U.S. government is thinking in these terms, because two months ago the U.S. government's view was: Providing arms to Ukraine would run the risk of Russian escalation. The fact that somebody like Tony Blinken goes up at his level and says that suggests to me that there is now serious consideration within the U.S. government to providing defensive arms. I don't know whether that decision has been made or not."
"The importance, it seems to me, of them -- of the provision of the weapons -- is that it might increase the Ukrainians' capacity to defend themselves and hopefully deter further Russian military action against the backdrop of the reports now over the last 10-12 days of increased deployments of Russian forces and equipment into Eastern Ukraine."
"My guess is that it is beyond the capacity of the U.S. to provide enough weapons for Ukraine and the Ukrainian army to defeat the Russian army. The focus here is: Can you provide the Ukrainian military with the capability to inflict greater costs on the Russian army, so that if there's consideration in the Kremlin to renewing large-scale military action, that they're also looking at greater costs, greater casualties."
"I think one thing that has perhaps changed in the calculation is a couple of months ago -- when the administration at the time was reluctant and they did not want to trigger an escalation -- two months ago you were at a point where the Minsk agreement had just been signed. There was, I won't say expectation, but there was certainly hope that the Minsk terms would lead the way to not only a genuine cease-fire but a more lasting process that would aim at some kind of a settlement. I think now, two months and two weeks after Minsk, it's pretty clear that the Minsk terms are not being fulfilled by the other side."
"My guess is that if they do move to lethal things, you're looking at things like light anti-tank weapons, that would actually be used to defend against and destroy, for example, enemy tanks."
"I think it's significant. I don't think Tony Blinken in that kind of setting would sort of idly be saying something like that."