"I would have provided arms to Ukraine early on because I think they need to have the military aid necessary to send Russia a message," Panetta told the publication.
Panetta said that he doubts that the current ceasefire will last, saying that "like the last one, it will only be temporary unless the West is willing to enforce it with both economic and military support to the Ukrainians."
Panetta added that he would act from a position of strength, and would also give more military aid to NATO countries which border Russia.
France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Finland have all rejected the idea of providing Ukraine with lethal assistance. Russia has warned that the proposed US arms deliveries to Kiev could lead to a sharp increase in violence in Donbas, where fighting intensified at the start of 2015. In addition, Russia denies that it is militarily involved in the conflict.
Leon Panetta was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011 and US Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013.