Near the end of December 2017, US President Donald Trump authorized the sale of lethal weapons to the Ukraine government. The approval marks the first time the United States has agreed to provide lethal aid to Kiev since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis in 2014. The sale includes $41.5 million worth of Model M107A1 sniper rifle systems as well as 35 FGM-148 anti-tank missile launchers, complete with 210 missiles. The Poroshenko government had requested the arms to bolster defenses against Russia-backed separatist forces in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, there are concerns that the sale could merely escalate tensions with Russia and lead to an arms race on both sides of the ceasefire line.
Ukraine is of essential strategic interest to Russia. As a flat landmass connecting Russia with Europe, the country has historically served as a rest stop along the route of invading land armies. In addition, Russian natural gas networks to Europe pass through Ukraine.
Fearing the possibility of NATO expansion in Eastern Europe, Russia took military action after the pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by protesters seeking stronger economic relations with the European Union. Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula, and continues to provide support to ethnic Russian separatists in the eastern Ukraine.