The conflict in Ukraine dominated the agenda on the first day of the Munich Security Conference.
Former US Senator Joe Lieberman told the press he advocated supplying Ukraine with weapons, ‘to defend themselves’.
“The first thing we have to do is give them weapons. To defend themselves,” said Lieberman. “Otherwise, Russia will continue to move and take more territory. Just as they seized Crimea. This is setting a terrible precedent of allowing aggression to change borders in Europe, which hasn’t happened since the end of the Second World War.”
However, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen warned against sending arms, saying this would act as a ‘fire accelerant’.
“I am convinced that the supply of weapons alone will be a fire accelerant and brings us even further away from a desired solution,” she told the conference.
“The people in eastern Ukraine suffer very badly. There are already too many weapons in the region. The potential supply for the separatists is without end. Are we sure that we can really improve the situation of the people in Ukraine by supplying weapons? Are we sure that Ukraine can even win against the military machinery of Russia? Are we aware of the dangerous potential for escalation? And isn’t that only a pretence for Russia to enter the conflict openly?”
It’s an opinion Dr Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, seems to share.
“The only way you’re going to get the Russians to come up with, at the very best, a frozen conflict – never mind a comprehensive accord with the Ukrainians – would be a combination of both pressure and inducement. And I think that the diplomatic way is the only way,” he told euronews.
“Providing them with defensive arms doesn’t save Ukraine. And there’s no one, there’s not John McCain, there’s not a hawk in the United States that is actively prepared to do enough to save Ukraine. If that is your reality then you have to prepare yourself to accept that and to admit that to your friends – but not allies – the Ukrainians.”
Among the political leaders attending the three-day conference are Mayor of Kyiv Vitaly Klitschko and US Senator John McCain.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will address attendees later today.