NATO's military commander is again calling on the West to consider sending defensive weapons to Ukraine, to help it offset Russia's continued support for the pro-Russian rebellion in Ukraine's east.
U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, speaking Sunday, told a Brussels conference that he does not think "any tool of (the) United States or any other nation's power should necessarily be off the table."
Breedlove cited NATO intelligence showing what he called "disturbing" new evidence of military hardware and other supplies flowing across "a completely porous" Russia-Ukraine border, in violation of a cease-fire deal Moscow helped broker in February.
In recent weeks, two of Germany's top diplomats have warned against providing lethal weaponry to Ukraine, without first considering the possibility of a massive Russian military response against Kyiv's overmatched armed forces.
German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier, speaking earlier this month, told the Associated Press that supplying Kyiv with such weaponry could send the ongoing conflict spinning "out of control."
Separately, Germany's United Nations Ambassador Peter Wittig said U.S. President Barack Obama had decided against supplying lethal hardware at this time. He said the Obama decision came after recent talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
For its part, the White House has not confirmed that decision, and says it is still evaluating the military situation in post-cease-fire eastern Ukraine. European monitors say the war-torn region has seen a marked decrease in fighting since the truce was signed in February by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.
Both Germany and France — key members of the NATO alliance — have opposed supplying lethal aid to Kyiv, with France saying last month it had no intention of providing lethal hardware to Kyiv "at this time."
Other military aid critics have argued that no amount of Western weaponry in Ukraine would stop a concerted Russian incursion by a military said to be at least four times larger than Ukraine's, with twice as many tanks and more than six times as many combat aircraft.