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A woman lights a candle in honor of the Ukrainian soldiers killed on the East of Ukraine on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. Fighting between Russian-backed rebels and the government in Kiev has surged in the last month in eastern Ukraine. That has fueled fears the conflict is threatening Europe's overall security and prompted the U.S. to consider giving lethal weapons to Ukraine, an option opposed by European nations. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)Sergei Chuzavkov/The Associated Press

Canada should be open to selling defensive weapons to Ukraine, and so should a few other Western countries. Up to a point, the armed forces of Ukraine, a pre-existing military organization, have some advantages over the pro-Russian militant rebels that sprang up only in the past year or so. But Russia is clearly supplying the rebels with weapons, often heavy, advanced equipment, so that in many respects Ukraine is at a severe disadvantage.

American policy types are increasingly in favour of providing such weapons to Ukraine, and Canada should seriously consider doing likewise.

Ashton Carter, Barack Obama's nominee to be the next secretary of defence, is "very much inclined" to send defensive weapons to Ukraine. And a paper published this month by the Atlantic Council in Chicago makes a good case for doing so. The apparent lead author, Ivo Daalder, is a former U.S. diplomatic representative at NATO; one of his seven co-authors is Strobe Talbott, a former deputy U.S. secretary of state who used to have a reputation, perhaps unfairly, for being a Russophile. In any case, this is not just some group of predictable hawks.

By all accounts, the Russians are using "unmanned aerial vehicles" to provide the rebels with surveillance and reconnaissance information, which in turn helps them with long-range artillery and rocket strikes. So the Ukrainians need similar UAVs, too, as well as equipment to counteract Russian drones, and "counter-battery radars" that would enable them to pinpoint where the rockets are coming from.

Again, the Ukrainian armed forces are sadly ill-served with radios and cellphones, so they need more secure communications if they are to be free from being overheard by Russian intelligence.

None of this could fairly be called "escalation," with unsettling echoes of the Vietnam war in the 1960s and '70s. Rather, it would go toward evening out the Ukrainians' chances against the rebels and their backers in Moscow.

A new Russian-supported offensive is quite likely with the spring thaw, in April or May.

Canada, with its strong Ukrainian connections, and specifically mentioned in the Atlantic Council paper, would be a natural vendor of defensive arms to the lawful government of Ukraine.

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