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James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence of the United States, has said that he personally was in favour of sending lethal military aid to Ukraine, despite the intelligence community assessment that arming Ukraine would provoke Russia.
The hearing was part of the U.S. Senate Committee of Armed Services annual review of "Worldwide Threats" and its findings will further inform the U.S. defence authorization plans. However, it will take a decision by the White House for lethal aid shipments to start.
So what is going through President Barack Obama's head as he ponders such decisions, under increasing pressure from the likes of Senator John McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee and strongly supports arming Ukraine, and now the testimony of his most senior intelligence official, asks Adam Nathan?
Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said on 21 February in Kiev at an exhibition of Russian military hardware captured during fighting in the Donbass region: "Russia has brought a lot of equipment [to these militants] - They brought enough to arm a small European state."
He's right. What is going on in Ukraine is a real, full-blown shooting war. It is not a border dispute, it is not a back-and-forth incursion from one side of the border to the other; it is an all-out war prosecuted on Ukrainian territory with the complete and unrelenting support of the Russian government.
The units fighting on the Russian side in the east that are not regular Russian troops are Moscow-backed and armed militias. This is arming and providing support for an army-for-hire on the territory of another sovereign nation.
This is something that if any other nation were ever to try and do to Russia there would be condemnation on a level of severity not seen in more than 70 years emanating from Moscow.
The warfare being practiced in Ukraine by Russia is known as Hybrid Warfare – it has a number of elements and is used by Putin to leverage those components where Russia has an advantage and to mask those where it is weak.
It is not just military personnel that are affected by the war – many civilians are being killed including children and more than a million displaced persons. Russia's war has been killing Ukrainians at a rate of at least ten persons per day.
Moscow shows every intention of expanding the scope of this war by providing the artificially created Lugansk and Donetsk Peoples' Republics with air power assets and is constantly introducing new and more modern Russian weaponry into the conflict.
Those who say arming Ukraine with defensive weapons would somehow antagonise Moscow and would widen or exacerbate the intensity of the conflict miss the realities of the situation.
One is that Russia will continue to expand the fighting no matter what the West does. The other is that this Hybrid Warfare is being conducted against the West in its entirety – it is not limited to Ukraine.
Arguments against arming Ukraine come down to a number of indefensible positions – the chief concern is that there are a whole list of countries where "Russia's interests are greater than the West's" can be invoked as an argument.
This is a line that seems to recur with each generation no matter how roundly it has been discredited in the previous era.
I am reminded when I read through the history of the Cold War that then-West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt made a trip to Washington at the very beginning of the first Reagan Administration to tell then-Sec of State Alexander Haig that "the US has to understand that Russia thinks Poland belongs to them" that it was ridiculous for Reagan to think that he could "overthrow the post-World War II division of Europe." Schmidt also scoffed at the concept that political freedom was even possible in Poland.
The other battle cry in the camp of those who oppose arming Ukraine is that "there is no military solution" to the conflict. This position rests on the dubious assumption that doing something against an enemy, which cannot be decisively defeated is worse than doing nothing.
On this premise the US should cease all military and intelligence support for counter-narcotics programmes in nations of South America because the war on drugs will never be over and the enemy will never be defeated so why not just let the junk flow freely across the border. Why bother arming and standing up a new Iraqi Army, the insurgency cannot be defeated?
Why bother bombing IS/ISIS/ISIL encampments and killing their leaders with drone strikes? They also can never be eradicated.
Ukraine is asking for defensive weapons in full knowledge that Russia is likely to escalate. If they are willing to lay down their lives to defend their freedom, why should the West deny Ukraine that opportunity, when the arguments against are so frail?