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U.S. Leans on Europe for Stronger Smackdown Against Russia

Amid escalating violence in Ukraine, Biden looks to enlist Europe in new push against Moscow.

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With Russia accused of escalating aggressions in Ukraine, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is pushing Europe anew to step up its own response.

European officials are set to meet next week on whether to extend and broaden economic sanctions to punish Moscow for its military meddling in eastern Ukraine and goading separatists there into violence. Biden heads to Europe on Thursday, in part to lobby leaders there to impose additional costs on Russia.

Obama administration officials on Wednesday told reporters that Biden will also urge leaders to continue financial aid to the beleaguered government in Kiev. He is expected to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and other top European officials.

With Russia accused of escalating aggressions in Ukraine, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is pushing Europe anew to step up its own response.

European officials are set to meet next week on whether to extend and broaden economic sanctions to punish Moscow for its military meddling in eastern Ukraine and goading separatists there into violence. Biden heads to Europe on Thursday, in part to lobby leaders there to impose additional costs on Russia.

Obama administration officials on Wednesday told reporters that Biden will also urge leaders to continue financial aid to the beleaguered government in Kiev. He is expected to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and other top European officials.

Because Russian-based rebels in eastern Ukraine are “pushing beyond the line of control, we are evaluating our security assistance,” one senior Obama administration official said. The officials refused to be named in discussing Biden’s plans, and briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

The call to step up military assistance to Ukraine was bolstered this week in a report by eight former American officials, who urged Washington to send up to $3 billion in defensive equipment to the government in Kiev. The equipment would include drones, anti-armor missiles, radar, and military vehicles.

In recent weeks, Moscow-backed separatists who are armed with Russian military gear have captured the airport in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk. It’s believed the rebels control an estimated 500 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory, in violation of cease-fire agreements.

In the coming days, the Obama administration’s focus on Ukraine will be heightened as Biden goes to Brussels and later attends the annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday. Secretary of State John Kerry also goes to Ukraine on Thursday. Merkel, meanwhile, will be in Washington for a Feb. 9 meeting with President Barack Obama.

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Gopal Ratnam is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering the White House, the Pentagon and broader national security issues. A native of India,Gopal has covered topics ranging from child-labor law violations and the automotive industry to the international arms trade, the politics of weapons purchases, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has reported from dozens of countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently he was the Pentagon reporter for Bloomberg News. Twitter: @g_ratnam

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