Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is visiting Ukraine in an effort to reassure its president Petro Poroshenko that the White House still has their back.>> We do not and we will not accept Russia's seizure of the Crimea, and despite Russia's denials we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force.
>> He stopped short of promising aid in the form of lethal weapons. The proposal from the Pentagon that's awaiting President Donald Trump's signature. They call them defensive armaments, although they include enough firepower to take out a tank. Reuter's Mathias Williams, in Kiev. The main takeaway was the fact that the US is actively contemplating sending lethal weapons to Ukraine to help Ukraine fight Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region.
This is a step that the previous administration under Barrack Obama shied away from making, saying that it would possibly provoke Russia and escalate the situation further. So there wasn't a firm promise today, Jim Mattis said that he, or signaled rather, that he was personally in favor of sending the weapons.
But he emphasized that the decision would ultimately be up to President Donald Trump.>> Mattis's role as a moderator has become a recurring one for the former Marine Corps General. He and other Trump surrogates offsetting mixed messages from the administration on the diplomatic stage. In Ukraine's case, Trump's complicated relationship with Russia and statements in June by the Secretary of State that the administration didn't want to be, quote, handcuffed, to Ukraine's 2015 ceasefire agreement.
Ukraine isn't a close ally, but its young, western-friendly government counts on Washington's support. It only took power three years ago in protest to topple the prior government, which was heavily backed by Moscow. Ukraine is the final leg of a world tour that's brought Mattis to other sensitive allies, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq.