Germany’s top diplomat has warned against supplying Ukraine with lethal weaponry in its fight against pro-Russian separatists, saying such a move could trigger a “dangerous, permanent escalation” of the crisis facing Kyiv and Moscow.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke Thursday in Washington after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. He told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that giving such weapons to Ukraine could send the ongoing conflict spinning “out of control.”
Steinmeier also predicted that pressure within and outside the United States to arm Ukraine will increase if pro-Russian rebels attempt to seize the strategically important Ukraine seaport of Mariupol.
The latest German warning comes just days after that country’s ambassador to the United States said President Barack Obama has decided against sending lethal weaponry to Ukraine at this time.
Ambassador Peter Wittig said Obama’s decision came after recent talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Wittig told the Associated Press that Western powers must be “fully prepared” for the consequences of arming Ukraine – a non-NATO country – including the possibility of a massive Russian military response that Europe is seeking to avoid.
Obama has come under increasing pressure from the U.S. Congress to bolster the vastly overmatched Ukrainian army with lethal defensive weaponry.
But French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last month that France has no intention of providing lethal hardware to Kyiv “at this time,” while Germany’s Chancellor Merkel has repeatedly voiced opposition to such a move.
Other military aid critics have argued that no amount of Western weaponry in Ukraine would stop a concerted Russian incursion by a military said to be at least four times larger than Ukraine’s, with twice as many tanks and more than six times as many combat aircraft.