Susan Rice: No Focus on Providing Arms to Ukraine

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said the United States is not interested in providing military equipment to Ukraine, and is focused on deescalating the increased Russian aggression.

Rice, speaking Friday ahead of President Barack Obama’s international trip next week, was asked by one reporter about options, specifically Sen. John McCain’s urging to to provide small arms and ammunition to the government of Ukraine, which its leaders requested.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice, accompanied by White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaks during a briefing on President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 21, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

“As a national security team we have to review a wide range of options,” Rice said. “But our focus has been and remains on the economic and diplomatic instruments at this point. Our interest is not in seeing the situation escalate and devolve into hot conflict. Our interest is in a diplomatic solution, deescalation, and obviously economic support for Ukraine and to the extent that it continues to be necessary, further costs on Russia.”

Rice spoke to reporters during the White House press briefing Friday as Russia is reportedly increasing the number of soldiers along the Ukrainian border. On Sunday, the Russian-speaking population in Crimea voted for secession, and Russia moved almost immediately to annex the region.

McCain said earlier this week that the United States should “rush the modest military assistance to the Ukrainian government that its leaders have requested, including some small arms and ammunition, as well as significant non-lethal assistance, such as protective equipment, spare parts, fuel, and sharing of intelligence.”

McCain mentioned arming the Ukrainians along with other options in support of strong economic sanctions.

The question specifically about McCain’s proposal was a follow up to the reporter’s initial question, “How far is this White House willing to go beyond sanctions when it comes to Russia and the isolation of Russia?”

Rice stressed international diplomacy.

“The United States has been leading the international community to the point where we are now, which is Russia finds itself highly isolated from the norms and the expectations of the international community,” Rice said. “I mentioned what occurred in the United Nations Security Council, which is emblematic of that.”

“We have Europe, the United States and many other countries outside of Europe coming together to impose economic costs on Russia and to indicate that those economic costs will escalate if the situation on the ground escalates,” Rice continued. “We are supporting Ukraine in an affirmative way to get on it’s economic feet and to be able to conduct the upcoming elections. With this action, which is coordinated and collected among the entire world, I think it’s both emblematic to our commitment to Ukraine but also of the isolation Russia is facing.”