Home/Daniel Larison/Arming Ukraine Is Still a Terrible Idea

Arming Ukraine Is Still a Terrible Idea

A new report from The Brookings Institution, The Atlantic Council, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs urges the administration to be reckless and arm Ukraine:

Assisting Ukraine to deter attack and defend itself is not inconsistent with the search for a peaceful solution–it essential to achieving it. Only if the Kremlin knows that the risks and costs of further military action are high will it seek to find an acceptable political solution. Russia’s actions in and against Ukraine pose the gravest threat to European security in more than 30 years. The West has the capacity to stop Russia. The question is whether it has the will.

The argument for arming Ukraine is just as awful as it waslastyear. It is the result of insisting that Western governments must “do something” about the conflict in Ukraine and then overestimating the ability of Western governments to do something that will hasten the end of the conflict. Providing weapons to the weaker side in a lopsided conflict certainly is inconsistent with the search for a peaceful solution, since it encourages the weaker side to continue fighting when it has no chance of prevailing. It creates the impression that the U.S. and its allies will keep continue backing Ukraine’s war effort despite the impossibility of defeating Russia, and that will make Ukraine less willing to accept a settlement. That isn’t going to “stop” Russia from what it is currently doing. As ever, Western governments are not willing to fight for Ukraine, nor should they be, and therefore the means that Western governments might use are bound to be inadequate to the task of “stopping” Russia. There is a real risk of triggering a much larger and more dangerous Russian response by doing this, and it is a risk that the U.S. and its allies must not take.

Notice that the authors of the report fail to acknowledge of the potential costs of this course of action to Ukraine or to the governments that are expected to provide the military aid, nor do they take seriously the possibility it could spur Russia to more aggressive action. If Western governments help to fuel the conflict with arms shipments, they are guaranteeing that Ukraine will be exposed to a longer war that will inflict even more damage on the country. That may impose additional costs on Russia, but it will almost certainly be imposing even greater burdens on Ukraine. At best, it sets Ukraine up for an even bigger defeat, and at worst it risks pulling the U.S. and its allies deeper into the conflict.

Or as Sean Kay put it earlier today:

If it is not the worst foreign policy idea of the last decade, it is certainly in the top three.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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