NATO top commander in Europe says 'military option' possible in Ukraine

U.S. General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

NATO’s commander in chief says the West should not rule out arming Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove said no troops would be sent to the region, but providing Kiev with weapons and equipment was on the cards. Speaking to reporters at a security conference in Munich on Saturday, Breedlove said: “I don’t think we should preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option.” His strong comments come as the US is considering sending weapons to help Kiev in its fight against anti-government militias. The chief commander of NATO said the proposal made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine was “completely unacceptable,” and added “there is no conversation about putting boots on the ground.” The head of the Russian Duma committee on CIS affairs and Eurasian integration, Leonid Slutsky, slammed Breedlove’s comments as “absolutely cynical.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Munich and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, while US Vice-President Joe Biden is also due to give a speech.  NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already said the organization’s Response Force in Europe may increase to 30,000 troops – more than double the current 13,000 – with the majority to be posted near Russia’s borders. However, there are reports that NATO and the US have been arming the Kiev forces. Russia’s ambassador to the organization, Aleksandr Grushko, says “there is a bulk of evidence that Western-made arms are being used in Ukraine,” mentioning lethal munitions such as NATO standard artillery shells. He has asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to investigate the claims. More