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Why Ukraine Needs Weapons

Just as there is no purely military solution to the conflict in Ukraine, there is no purely diplomatic one. Only by strengthening Ukraine's defensive capabilities – and thereby reducing the chances that a separatist military campaign would yield major territorial gains – can the US and Europe hope for a lasting political agreement.

MUNICH – It has become something of a mantra among diplomats and other foreign-policy analysts that there is no military solution to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The only viable path to peace and stability, observers almost unanimously proclaim, is a diplomatic one. But, despite the recent ceasefire agreement announced in Minsk, ongoing violence – reflected in the violent expulsion of Ukrainian forces from the town of Debaltseve – strongly suggests that it is time to consider what is needed to block any Kremlin-imposed military solution.

Three influential American think tanks have already done so, and arrived at the conclusion that the United States should begin supplying Ukraine not only with more non-lethal aid – such as drones, armored Humvees, and medical equipment – but also with “lethal defensive military assistance," in the form of light anti-armor missiles. European governments, however, remain unwilling to reconsider their position on supplying defensive equipment to Ukraine, and have instead reiterated that a diplomatic solution is the only option.

Of course, from Ukraine's perspective, a one-on-one military confrontation with Russia is not a viable option. Last year, when separatist forces in the Donbas region appeared to be crumbling under the weight of Ukraine's counter-offensive, it seemed possible that Ukraine would be able to reassert its sovereignty over the area. But the Kremlin quickly deployed battalion-size tactical groups from the Russian army to support the rebels. Ukraine's relatively weak forces did not stand a chance.

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