Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel avoided giving any commitment Wednesday on sending U.S. weapons to bolster Ukrainian armed forces if Russian troops push toward the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C. asked Hagel what the Obama administration would do “if Russia continues to advance and there is a military conflict, if they move eastward toward Kiev” and the Ukrainian government requests arms from NATO.
“I have not spoken with anyone who has suggested that,” Hagel replied.
But Graham pressed him, asking about a scenario in which Russian President Vladimir Putin orders his troops to move beyond the Crimea and into eastern Ukraine.
“Would you support providing arms to the Ukraine if they asked NATO?” Graham asked. Hagel replied that all 28 NATO members would have to agree on such a course of action.
Graham then asked if the United States would unilaterally supply arms to Ukraine if Russian forces were marching toward Kiev and the Ukrainian government asked for U.S. weapons.
“That would be a presidential decision,” Hagel responded.
Graham said, “I hope it doesn’t happen, but I just want Russia to know that we’re not going to sit on the sidelines forever here. If they have an escalation plan in their thinking, I would them to know what comes their way. If the Ukrainian people are willing to fight and die for their freedom – I don’t want any American boots on the ground – but… that’s something that we need to think about as a nation.”