U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis seeks to reassure Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of Washington's support, but stops short of committing to lethal weapons aid. Matthew Larotonda reports.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is visiting Ukraine in an effort to reassure its president, Petro Poroshenko, that the White House still has their back. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS, SAYING: "We do not and we will not accept Russia's seizure of the Crimea and despite Russia's denials we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force." He stopped short of promising aid in the form of lethal weapons - a proposal from the Pentagon that's awaiting President Donald Trump's signature. They call them "defensive" armaments, although they include enough firepower to take out a tank. Mattis' role as a moderator has become a recurring one for the former Marine Corps general. He and other Trump surrogates offsetting mixed messages from the administration on the diplomatic stage. In Ukraine's case: Trump's complicated relationship with Russia, and statements in June by the Secretary of State that the administration didn't want to be, quote, "handcuffed" to Ukraine's 2015 ceasefire agreement. Ukraine isn't a close ally, but its young Western-friendly government counts on Washington's support. It only took power three years ago in protests to topple the prior government which was heavily backed by Moscow. Ukraine is the final leg of a world tour that's brought Mattis to other sensitive allies: Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.