WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Sputnik asked experts to comment on Mattis' statement during his visit to Ukraine last week that the United States is considering Kiev's request for the supply of lethal weapons.
Russian officials warned that the US government sending arms to Ukraine at this time would likely undermine a ceasefire that recently took effect in the war-torn Donbass region.
Possible Voice of Reason
"Mattis and the other generals are talking tough but would Russophile Trump go along? That is an entirely different question," Eland said.
Trump, Eland added, was probably sending a signal as a ploy, which makes sense given his professional background as a successful billionaire businessman and negotiating skills that the president himself has often boasted about.
"Trump likes to bluff, so we'll see what happens," Eland said.
Eland also noted that Mattis had stayed within careful parameters in his comments in Kiev during a press conference with President Petro Poroshenko, and had taken care not to hint he would supply Ukraine with weapons that could be used in wars of aggression.
"They are talking only about defensive weaponry," Eland argued.
Trump appeared to be following a pattern of threatening escalation, like he did vis-a-vis in relation to Afghanistan and North Korea, to force the other party to enter into substantive negotiations, Eland observed.
Retired professor and political commentator John Walsh told Sputnik that Mattis’ comments could be a carefully choreographed negotiating ploy.
"So what is this talk about arms to Ukraine? Is it another feint? I am inclined to think so. There may even be a few token pieces of equipment sent. But I would bet that is about it," Walsh said.
Walsh also suggested Mattis’ comments could be designed to give Trump political cover from the hawks in Congress and elsewhere who were his greatest critics.
"Trump finds himself in a deeply paradoxical situation. He wants to improve relations with Russia but at the same time he must look like he is being ‘tough’ with Russia. One way to do this is to speak loudly but carry no stick or a very tiny one," Walsh said.
Trump had carried out such "feint" or "misdirection" tactics when he used cruise missiles to bombard a Syrian military airfield and then took no further action against Damascus, Walsh recalled.
"It was a pin prick really and some say coordinated with Russia. But it earned Trump wild praise from liberals and even a few neocons — but most neocons seemed to treat it as a feint and they were probably right," he said.
Russia has repeatedly warned against plans to supply arms to Ukraine, since such a step would only lead to an escalation of the conflict in Donbass. Earlier in August, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that all the states, especially those engaged in settling the Ukrainian conflict, should avoid actions leading to further escalation of tensions. This standpoint has been backed by several European officials.
In April, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko first suggested the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Donbas region. Last week, Poroshenko discussed the possibility of deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in Ukraine’s conflict-torn Donbass with Mattis. Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov said the Minsk accords did not provide for peacekeeper presence in the region.