MILITARY

US leans toward arming Ukraine as rebels press attacks and Biden, Hagel, Kerry head to Europe

  • Ashton Carter,  President Barack Obama's choice to head the Defense Department, pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015,  before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to replace Chuck Hagel. Carter, who previously served as the No. 2 Pentagon official, is expected to easily win Senate confirmation but will face tough questions about Iraq and other issues. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

    Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama's choice to head the Defense Department, pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to replace Chuck Hagel. Carter, who previously served as the No. 2 Pentagon official, is expected to easily win Senate confirmation but will face tough questions about Iraq and other issues. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)  (The Associated Press)

  • Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama’s choice to be defense secretary, is greeted by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.. right, during a break in Carter's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee as the panel considers his nomination to replace Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. At far left is Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaking with former Sen. Joe Lieberman, third from left.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama‚Äôs choice to be defense secretary, is greeted by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.. right, during a break in Carter's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee as the panel considers his nomination to replace Chuck Hagel as Pentagon chief, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. At far left is Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., speaking with former Sen. Joe Lieberman, third from left. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  (The Associated Press)

The Obama administration is tilting toward sending arms to Ukraine to help it fight Russian-backed rebels as three Cabinet-level officials head to Europe for consultations with Ukrainian officials and NATO allies.

As President Barack Obama's pick to run the Pentagon said Wednesday he would support lethal weapons transfers, Ukraine's president said he was confident the U.S. would do so. Meanwhile, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry were flying to Europe. Vice President Joe Biden is to follow them on Thursday.

The moves are the latest in a series of signals the White House may reverse its opposition to arming Ukraine despite concerns that might escalate the conflict, turn it into a proxy war with Russia and set Washington at odds with its European partners.