Max Seddon identifies the danger of treating Ukraine like the “new Georgia”:
More dangerously, the western politicians basking in the adulation of the protesters risk giving pro-European Ukrainians false hope. For all the caveats McCain and his colleague, Sen. Chris Murphy, dropped into their speeches, telling the crowd that, “if you are successful, the U.S. Senate will stand with you every step of the way,” as Murphy did, leads ordinary Ukrainians to assume they have the backing of Western governments while raising the ominous question of what happens if the protests fail.
As much as the senators might enjoy pandering to a cheering crowd, it’s not clear what they think they’re doing there. It might seem harmless to make vague promises that the U.S. will “stand” with them to the end, but in practice that creates unrealistic expectations of American backing that can lead to miscalculation and can make it harder to resolve the dispute through political negotiation. I don’t think that the U.S. should be taking sides in the dispute, but there is also something needlessly cruel in making people believe that help is on the way when in all likelihood it won’t be forthcoming.
That might not matter so much as long the protests don’t succeed, since Western governments wouldn’t have to make good on their promises, but in the event that the opposition forced Yanukovych out and gained power it could matter quite a lot. Suddenly Western governments would be expected to back up all of their fulsome declarations of solidarity, and only then would it dawn on the opposition’s supporters that there was not much chance that those declarations would be followed by tangible aid. Some American politicians might want to treat Ukraine like a “new Georgia” for their own reasons, but then everyone should remember how horribly that turned out for Georgia. Creating expectations of future support that will never materialize in a real crisis is both unwise and cruel.