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Choking on the Democrats’ Ukraine Fantasy Narrative

Officials and media delivered enough untruths and distortions yesterday to cause us all heartburn.

State Department deputy assistant secretary, George Kent, left, and acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor, right, appear for a House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearing Wednesday November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A top U.S. State Department official began his testimony before the House impeachment inquiry with eye-popping analogies comparing patriotic Ukrainians to the Minutemen of the American revolution. His narrative went unchallenged, as all of Washington appears to have suddenly fallen in love with the poor, defenseless, disadvantaged Ukraine that President Trump tried to deny arms to.

George Kent, a U.S. State Department official who served under five presidents, told the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning that after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, occupying seven percent of its territory, “Ukraine’s state institutions were on the verge of collapse” until “the 21st century Ukrainian equivalent of our own Minutemen in 1776” bought “time for the regular army to reconstitute.”

“Since then, more than 13,000 Ukrainians have died on Ukrainian soil defending their territorial integrity and sovereignty from Russian aggression,” said Kent. “American support in Ukraine’s own de facto war of independence has been critical in this regard.” Here’s more:

“By analogy, the American colonies may not have prevailed against British imperial might without help from transatlantic friends after 1776. In an echo of Lafayette’s organized assistance to General George Washington’s army and Admiral John Paul Jones’ navy, Congress has generously appropriated over $1.5 billion over the past five years in desperately needed train and equip security assistance to Ukraine…. Similar to von Steuben training colonials at Valley Forge, U.S. and NATO allied trainers develop the skills of Ukrainian units at Yavoriv near the Polish border, and elsewhere. They help rewrite military education for Ukraine’s next generation, as von Steuben did for America’s first.”

One would think, listening to this, that the U.S. had always provided arms to Ukraine, and that Ukraine has relied on this aid for years. But this is completely untrue, and the Washington blob knows it.

Back in 2014, when Russia annexed a large swath of Ukraine, the Obama administration declined to arm Ukraine, fearing that adding American weapons to the conflict would spark a hot war between the U.S. and Russia.  At the time, Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain argued vociferously against Obama’s policy.

“The Obama Administration’s policy in Ukraine effectively amounts to an arms embargo on victims of aggression,” Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain said in a joint statement. “The United States and the European Union must provide Ukraine with the arms and related military and intelligence support that its leaders have consistently sought and desperately need.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression “demands more than additional empty rhetoric and threats of lowest-common-denominator sanctions,” they wrote. “That has been the extent of the world’s response to Putin’s slow-motion dismemberment of Ukraine, and it has consistently failed to deter new acts of aggression.”

Even as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned of a “serious military buildup” by Russian forces inside Ukraine, the Obama administration still declined to provide Ukraine with lethal aid.

“We don’t think the answer to the crisis in Ukraine is simply to inject more weapons and engage in tit-for-tat,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told CNN.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stressed that the US didn’t want to “get into a proxy war with Russia.”

So instead, the U.S. responded to Russian aggression with sanctions and kicking them out of the G-8 (now G-7.) Instead of providing arms,Washington provided Ukraine with non-lethal aid and with military advisers and continued to engage in joint training exercises together with several other countries.

Back when a Democrat occupied the White House, foreign policy experts were comfortable with an unarmed Ukraine.

Foreign Policy magazine published an article called “Don’t Poke the Russian Bear” just after the Russian incursion into Ukraine. Providing arms to Ukraine would be a needless escalation of a conflict with Moscow, the piece argues.

Where are all these foreign policy experts and their fears about conflict with Russia now? Did they all suddenly change their minds now that Donald Trump occupies the Oval Office?

Obama’s opinion on arming Ukraine never wavered. Even as late as 2016, he argued to The Atlantic that Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one.

“The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” said Obama.

Thus, the Trump administration decision to provide Ukraine with weapons was a significant departure from previous US policy. In August 2017, then-U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the Trump administration was “actively reviewing” the question of whether to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine. Then in 2018, the State Department approved the sale of 210 Javelin portable anti-tank missiles, as well as launchers, associated equipment, and training, at a total estimated cost of $47 million.

The media appears to be deliberately blurring the timeline to obscure this fact.

From Politico:

The U.S. has provided about $1.5 billion in military support to Kiev between 2014 and this past June, according to an updated analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. And Trump’s temporary cut off of the aid represented a significant setback for the country.

But here’s what that CRS report Politico links to actually says: “During the Obama administration, arguments against the provision of lethal assistance centered on Russia’s ability and willingness to steadily escalate conflict in response,” says the report. But things changed significantly under the Trump administration which “has provided major defensive lethal weaponry to Ukraine.”

Note what appears to be deliberate obfuscation: Politico calls the aid “military support” and dates it from 2014. Even the title of this article is misleading: “How U.S. military aid became a lifeline for Ukraine.”

The U.S. has only approved the sale of weapons to Ukraine last year! But now, weapons Obama refused to provide are “a lifeline.”

Obscuring the timeline advances the narrative that Ukraine relied on military assistance which Trump suddenly precipitously withdrew. But the truth is that Ukraine did not even have this assistance until Trump came into office. How can a country rely on something that was only authorized last year?

about the author

Barbara Boland is TAC’s foreign policy and national security reporter. Previously, she worked as an editor for the Washington Examiner and for CNS News. She is the author of Patton Uncovered, a book about General George Patton in World War II, and her work has appeared on Fox News, The Hill UK Spectator, and elsewhere. Boland is graduate from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania.  Follow her on Twitter @BBatDC.

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