Ukrainian soldiers move with their tank on Thursday near the village of Debaltseve, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. (BULENT KILIC / AFP/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — US lawmakers who met Thursday with President Barack Obama said the commander in chief gave them no indication he intends to send arms to Ukraine.
On perhaps Congress’ final day in session before its August recess, Obama huddled with senior lawmakers about foreign policy and national security issues. Included were chamber leaders and the heads of the Intelligence committees and the panels focused on foreign policy.
Several lawmakers confirmed they discussed the question of whether Washington should send lethal weaponry to Ukraine’s military. The matter has been called for by Republicans -- and, this week, Democrats in the wake of the shootdown of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine several weeks ago.
“There were a number of questions, and answers by the president discussing the options,” Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters. “But there was no real announcement in terms of changes in plans or strategies.
The White House remains reluctant to send offensive arms to Kiev, worried such a move might set off dominoes that would lead to an all-out war between Ukraine and Russia.
Instead, the Obama administration has sent or says it will send things like radios, vehicles, night-vision goggles, meals ready to eat (MREs), as well as intelligence support.
Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, the Senate’s assistant majority leader -- and often a White House ally -- told reporters Obama’s message on Ukraine was that “we can support the legitimate Ukrainian national forces … and they can overcome” separatist and Russian forces “with the current military force.” Durbin said Obama wants to continue sending “non-lethal [military] aid, and [be] supportive in other ways.”
But during the closed-door meeting there was “certainly no suggestion of [sending] American troops,” he said, adding Obama did not indicate he is mulling a “ratcheting up of the type of aid.”
In a statement, the White House said “today’s meeting was constructive and the president committed that he and his team would continue to work closely with the Congress on these matters in the weeks and months ahead.”