The Pentagon wants to arm Ukraine in order to deter Russia

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A Grad multiple rocket launcher system fires during a military exercise for Ukrainian army reservists at a shooting range near the village of Goncharivske in Chernihiv region, Ukraine, June 22, 2016.
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REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

It looks like tensions between US and Russia aren’t going to simmer anytime soon.

The Pentagon has come up with a plan to arm Ukraine with defensive weapons so that Kiev can better defend against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The plan, devised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, includes supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles – possibly Javelin missiles – anti-aircraft systems, and other weapons, WSJ and USA Today reported.

The war in eastern Ukraine started shortly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 when pro-Russian Ukrainians proclaimed parts of the Donbas as independent states known as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. And Moscow has funded, managed and supplied weapons to these rebel states ever since.

The plan will need President Donald Trump’s approval, but he has yet to be briefed on the matter, WSJ said. But while Trump’s opinion on the plan is not known, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza said that Defense Secretary James Mattis is in favor of it.

The plan is also supported by Kurt Volker, the US special representative to Ukraine, who recently told the BBC that “defensive weapons, ones that would allow Ukraine to defend itself, and to take out tanks for example, would actually help” deter Russia.

France and Germany, however, are worried that the plan could increase the conflict, WSJ said.

“I think that argument that it would be provocative to Russia or emboldening of Ukraine is just getting it backwards,” Volker told the BBC.

Nevertheless, it could take months before the administration decides what to do, WSJ said.

Ukraine Avdiivka Russia

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A Ukrainian soldier shows spent artillery rounds fired at them by Russian-backed separatists in Avdiivka, Ukraine in April 2017.
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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

The plan was announced shortly after the US approved another round of sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. The Kremlin responded to the sanctions on Monday by expelling 755 US diplomats, and even locking them out of one embassy building before they could get their stuff.

In late June, the US also agreed to supply Ukraine with defensive equipment, including drones and radar systems.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has also risen lately, as 15 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 24 more were wounded in just three days earlier this month.

At least 25 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 43 more were wounded through the first 20 days in July, according to Liveuamap.

At least 10,090 people – including 2,777 civilians – have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.