"Should these arms supplies of US weapons to Ukraine actually take place, this would indicate a major policy shift from the ‘do nothing’ Obama years," Schirach said.
Schirach, president of the Global Policy Institute and Professor of International Affairs and Economics at BAU International University said that if the Trump administration followed through on Mattis’ comments, they would plunge Ukraine into conflict worse than Obama ever had.
This opened the possibility for a striking reversal from Obama’s more cautious policies on arms supplies to Ukraine, Schirach emphasized.
"For several years Obama's deeds… indicated that America would not get involved, even indirectly, in any conflict involving Russia, especially in Eastern Ukraine, a region with deep historic, ethnic and religious ties to the Russian state," he said.
Although Obama’s public remarks angered Russian leaders, his refusal to let the United States become military committed to Ukraine enforced some restraint on the Kiev regime, Schirach explained.
"With Obama in the White House, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko realized that he was on his own," he said.
President Donald Trump now faced the dilemma of either continuing Obama’s relative caution on Ukraine or risking plunging the United States into strong military support for Kiev when the US armed forces were already overextended around the world in other theaters, Schirach cautioned.
"[Is there a] new approach to Ukraine in Washington? We shall see. Despite what Mattis just said in Kiev, I am inclined to believe that Trump does not want America enmeshed, even if indirectly, in yet another, almost impossible and probably endless conflict, far from home," he said.
The United States was already massively committed to providing a military presence in several conflicts around the world, Schirach pointed out.
"Does Washington want to add an insoluble conflict in Eastern Ukraine to the headaches list, while the US has a hard time keeping up with the existing commitments? I do not think so," he remarked.
Previously, US leaders had followed a pattern of encouraging the Poroshenko regime in Kiev to defy Russia but they had been reluctant to give it serious aid, Schirach recalled.
"Right after the pro-Western government took over in Kiev, back in February 2014, the then Obama administration was long on promises of aid and support; but very short on delivering almost anything of real value to Ukraine," he said.
Over the past two years, Poroshenko had repeatedly looked in vain for the United States to approve a flood of new weapons and equipment to his forces, Schirach noted.
"On the military side… back in 2015 it became obvious that Washington was not going to support the Kiev government in any meaningful way," he said.
Obama offered non-lethal equipment such as radar, food rations, blankets, uniforms, and even socks to the Ukrainian army, but no real weapons, Schirach recollected.
Ukraine, which has been mired in a military conflict in the southeastern region of Donbas for three years, has repeatedly asked to be supplied with lethal and non-lethal weapons from the European Union and the United States.
Russian officials have warned time and again that sending arms to Ukraine would only escalate the conflict in Donbas. Earlier in August, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that all the states, especially those engaged in settling the Ukrainian conflicts, should avoid actions leading to further escalation of tensions. This standpoint has been backed by several European officials.