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Don’t Arm Ukraine (II)

Medien Bundeswehr / Flickr [1]

The Post insists [2] that NATO members provide Ukraine with weapons:

But Russia’s invasion could still be checked, or at least slowed, by concerted action this week. Individual NATO members, including the United States, should immediately begin supplying the Ukrainian army with lethal weapons, as congressional leaders from both parties have been urging. Ukraine needs anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, drones, spare parts and fuel, among other things, and these are readily available in NATO members’ arsenals.

It’s telling that no one in favor of arming Ukraine believes that it would do anything more than drag out the conflict. That’s the best-case scenario. It is just as likely that Russia would respond to the arming of Ukraine by Western governments with a much larger attack that inflicts even greater damage on the country. Russia has consistently been willing to go much farther than the U.S. and its allies in terms of what it will risk over Ukraine, and we should assume that will also apply to its response to attempts by Western powers to arm Ukraine. At each stage of the Ukraine crisis, Western governments have pursued their policies there without considering how Russia would respond to them. This has repeatedly put Western governments in the absurd position of provoking reactions from Moscow that they should have expected but failed to anticipate.

There are apparently no illusions that Ukraine can hope to win an ongoing war with Russia, but there is still the same impulse to throw weapons at the problem all the same. Perversely, supporting this bad option is considered the “pro-Ukrainian” position, as if Ukraine will somehow benefit by fighting a longer, more destructive war that it still cannot win. Arming Ukraine won’t result in anything other than more deaths and devastation in Ukraine before the government in Kiev is forced to come to terms with Moscow and its proxies. The U.S. and its NATO allies should make clear to Ukraine at the upcoming alliance summit that military aid won’t be forthcoming and that NATO membership for the country is out of the question.

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21 Comments To "Don’t Arm Ukraine (II)"

#1 Comment By MassivRuss On September 3, 2014 @ 11:33 am

“Ukraine needs anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, drones, spare parts and fuel, among other things, and these are readily available in NATO members’ arsenals”

And the trained personnel to operate these systems? No? That worked so well for MH17.

Feckin’ keyboard commandos.

#2 Comment By scott On September 3, 2014 @ 11:35 am

It really is startling how major media and political figures in this country seem entirely unfamiliar with the well-worn truism that Russians are sensitive to and paranoid about threats on their borders. Taking any kind of course in college on anything that has anything to do with Russia amply exposes you to this fact about them. Why we think that we can do anything we want without regard to that fact, and why we’re surprised when our expectations are dashed, are genuine mysteries of elite-group bubblethink.

#3 Comment By J On September 3, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

Better Western weapons won’t win the war. But they may provide enough deterrent to Russian planners and confidence boosting to Ukrainians to make the armistice bearable.

You’re not assuming, I hope, that Moscow will just leave Kiev alone after whatever semi-resolution is found to the current war. It’s not what Putin does.

#4 Comment By John On September 3, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

If Putin were to attack one of the Baltic states, they could at least claim to be protected by a treaty signed by a President and ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

It is telling that none of the warmongers wish this question put to Congress before the President acts.

#5 Comment By Clint On September 3, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

Barack Obama,
“NATO must make concrete commitments to help Ukraine modernize and strengthen its security forces. We must do more to help other NATO partners, including Georgia and Moldova, strengthen their defenses as well.”

Apparently Obama himself is willing to help Ukraine to drag this fighting out, while laying more sanctions on Putin.

#6 Comment By Jim in NH On September 3, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

I am more than a little tired of the constant repetition that “Russia invaded” Ukraine. The basis for any assertion of a Russian invasion must be proven with actual physical or technical intelligence data to confirm that assertion. Simply repeating the statements of the Kyiv government that forcibly seized power in an unconstitutional manner in February and then commenced this war of oppression on its own citizens in eastern Ukraine would be irresponsible and simply naive. Ten foot soldiers who didn’t fire a shot when captured does not an invasion make. Sketchy non-military sourced “imagery”, in this day and age when our satellites are ominipresent and have had capabilities since at least 1984 to read a license plate (NYTimes article Oct 7, 1984) being offered as “evidence” by NATO is patently absurd. Our defense department released imagery intelligence of Nicaragua in the Contra War, and when we invaded Granada. Tons of intel was fed to the pliant media during our Iraq invasion (which, need I remind you, was launched under completely false and fabricated pretenses with nary a skeptical inquiry by our “free press”). Where is our imagery today? Have our technological capabilities declined since so much that we can’t clearly prove with high quality satellite imagery that an invasion occurred? Clearly not if we can listen to Chancellor Merkel’s phone calls. Maybe the reason we haven’t released it is that it doesn’t exist.

Any “military expert” will know that if Russia were to invade, and pay the price in sanctions and threats coming from the west by doing so, it would have sent more than 1,000 men in antiquated armor (a few T-72BM) that has made such little progress in the past week; it would have launch a combined arms assault with masses of advanced armor, artillery and air forces to destroy Ukrainian artillery that continues to bomb eastern cities and seize whatever targets it desired, including Kyiv.

The evidence I see in paying attention to this crisis in Ukraine is that an extremist nationalist government controlled by western Ukrainians took power after removing the elected government in a coup d’etat, fully backed financially, politically and logistically by the US and EU, all because the elected President, and Rada (that was controlled by the Party of Regions and its allies, all whom had their electoral support principally in eastern Ukraine), decided to to not accept EU terms to the Association Treaty. In response, we helped the parties who drew most of their electoral support from western Ukraine, including extremist parties like Svoboda and the Right Sector alliance, conduct mass protests that led to a forcible, unconstitutional seizure of not only the presidency but control of the parliament and cabinet of ministeres. With the window dressing of Poroshenko’s election, all Ukraine did was remove one oligarch and replace him with another; the first oligarch stole from his people, the second has sent the army to kill his people.

I have also seen repeated accusations, entirely unproven by technical intelligence, of Russian forces in Ukraine for months now. How many times must we see and hear Mr. Poroshenko’s government cry wolf (or in this case ‘bear”), before his credibility is irrevocably destroyed. I personally think it is past that point.

Now that the rebels have absorbed the blows from Kyiv, an ineptly managed blow at that, and has counterattacked with great spead and effect, the Ukraine government blames Russia’s army of invading and calls for NATO’s help; the typical bully that can’t defeat the little guy then calls in his friends to fight his battles for him.

As to western credibility, need I remind you that the chief NATO advocate for increasing military efforts in eastern Europe is the inveterate liar Anders Fogh Rasmussen. You may recall what he said as P.M. of Denmark when he fully supported our illegal and immoral war of aggression against Iraq in 2003: “Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know…… there is no doubt in my mind.” How did that venture turn out; hundreds of thousand of dead and Iraq still in bloody turmoil as I type. In Syria in 2013, he said “I can tell you that personally I am convinced, not only that a chemical attack has taken place …, but I am also convinced that the Syrian regime is responsible.” (Reuters Sept. 2, 2013) The problem is that the facts were contrary to his statements; the gas in Ghouta was were more likely used by the rebels we surreptitiously supported and armed then, you know, the rebels who cut the hearts out of their defeated enemy and ate it. (See Seymour Hersh “The Red Line and the Rat Line”; Carla del Ponte of the UN). Rasmussen is nothing but the leading continental propagandist in chief for our neocon warhawks and repeating our mininformation campaigns (i.e. spreading lies, fabrication and faleshoods) in support of our pro-war neocons who are, after all, just conforming to our Wolfowitz Doctrine to harm Russia. Trust him if you dare, but history proves that a dangerous proposition.

Until today’s maybe breakthrough, the only peace plan that Poroshenko has offered is that the rebels surrender their arms before negotiations commence. Given the events from Odessa to today, with the Ukraine military dropping illegal phosphorous gas bombs on its cities, cluster bombs dropped on its cities, and even SS-21 Scarab ballistic missiles fired on its cities, not to mention the arming quasi-private oligarch funded militia’s manned by Svoboda and Right Sector extremists, that is clearly not a reasonable suggestion calculated to lead to a diplomatic solution. (By the way, am I the only person who finds the structure of Ukraine’s war effort today eerily similar to Germany circa 1938-1945; a true army like the wehrmacht and a privately run independent armed force manned by political zealots like the Waffen SS?)

Finally, after more than 6 weeks, I still await to see tangible evidence of responsibility for the MH-17 shootdown. No satellite images from Washington; no release of black box data from London; no air traffic control tapes from Kyiv ATC that was seized by the Ukraine military; the Ukraine army refusing a cease-fire to allow the investigators to thoroughly inspect the wreckage. The only nation that even discusses MH-17 to this date is, of all nations, Russia. The only “evidence” we offer is declaratory statements and social media. Maybe Robert Parry’s report in July was accurate after all (search Robert Parry MH-17).

#7 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 3, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

The following 34 words (courtesy of Daniel Larison) hold the key to putting the Ukraine crisis on the path to peaceful resolution:

“The U.S. and its NATO allies should make clear to Ukraine at the upcoming alliance summit that military aid won’t be forthcoming and that NATO membership for the country is out of the question.”

#8 Comment By Andrew On September 3, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

It’s telling that no one in favor of arming Ukraine believes that it would do anything more than drag out the conflict.

Disagree. This will shorten the conflict dramatically because it will allow Russia to get rid off plausible deniability as MO and will open the channels for real serious supplies for rebels. As I stated ad nauseam–the situation on the ground speaks (in fact–it screams) volumes about the state of Ukrainian so called Army. No amount of weaponry or advisers (which are already there) will help. There is a whole technical and operational issue behind all that–but this is not the issue which people who advocate arming of junta understand. The whole thing will continue to come in full circles (time and again, and again) to the same issue–how about they learn about real war and history. I don’t hold my breath, though.

#9 Comment By Andrew On September 3, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

@Jim in NH

Jim, a military aspect of the Ukrainian crisis is almost completely missing from US mainstream media. There is a reason for that, even when some generals have about 30 seconds to “comment” on that. But the military aspect is what really matters. Punditry as well as largely neocon war-mongers they simply have no clue about war. They never studied it, never served, don’t have serious military degrees. They are in a state of the deer frozen in the headlights of the incoming truck. That is why they also do not understand the gravity of the situation.

#10 Comment By Ethan C. On September 3, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

Why don’t we want to prolong the conflict? Why don’t we want to provoke Russia into further military engagement? If we want to weaken Russia as a geostrategic force, a nice irritating proxy war is a tried and true method. And I expect the Ukrainians would be much less likely to rebound on us than the Afghans were.

I seriously doubt that we would be capable of helping Ukraine enough to actually win them the war, but we can certainly make things harder and more costly for Russia. Could someone explain exactly why that’s not a valid geostrategic objective?

#11 Comment By collin On September 3, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

As much as I agree with you about supplying weapons is wrong, I believe it will happen evidently. At this point, most Eastern European nations are alarmed by the Putin’s actions and rightfully scared of long term Russian desires. Unfortunately sending weapons to the Ukrainian government as the longer the war last the more Russia is going to suffer for their actions.

In the long run, I still think this is to be the Russian Iraq War much like 1980 Afghanistan was the Soviet Vietnam.

#12 Comment By Daniel Larison On September 3, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

The longer a war goes on in Ukraine, the more instability and upheaval there will be on the borders of NATO. That makes it more likely that one or more members of NATO will be drawn into the conflict to their detriment. Waging a proxy war against another major power on its doorstep is not only a waste of resources and an exercise in pointless hostility, but it would help cause needless destruction on the country that Washington supposedly wants to “help” and burdens all of Ukraine’s neighbors with the costs that will come from a longer war.

“Why don’t we want to provoke Russia into further military engagement?”

The answer should be obvious. Ukraine can’t win. Further escalation on Russia’s part may be costly for Russia but it will be disastrous for Ukraine. Assuming that the U.S. and its allies aren’t going to come to Ukraine’s defense directly, this sets Ukraine up to be trounced. The U.S. would gain nothing from this except the shame of having encouraged Ukraine to persist in a fight that it was sure to lose.

#13 Comment By EliteCommInc. On September 3, 2014 @ 3:43 pm

“Don’t Arm Ukraine (II)”

Let’s start by unarming the politicians.

#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 3, 2014 @ 4:16 pm

“The U.S. and its NATO allies should make clear to Ukraine at the upcoming alliance summit that military aid won’t be forthcoming and that NATO membership for the country is out of the question.”

Everything I read leads me to believe that the opposite of the above will happen.

Putin interfered with the nice little war planned against Syria and offered refuge to the NSA’s whistleblower, both of which are unforgivable affronts to hegemonic world order.

#15 Comment By cecelia On September 3, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

thorny issues but I ‘d add do not sanction Russia either – sanctions are a virtual waging of war on a nation – economic but still war. And they do not work – as has been demonstrated going back to 1938 and the Japanese. They will however solidify support for Putin and his policies.

So why do it? For the same reason we will send arms – cause we have to look like we are doing something and the alternative is to engage in actual statecraft and work out a genuine relationship with Russia respecting her concerns. We don’t have a clue as to how to do that so off we go. Again.

#16 Comment By Ken Hoop On September 3, 2014 @ 5:32 pm


we have posters like Ethan asking why the United States shouldn’t want to weaken Russia as a “geostrategic force.”

I ask, why shouldn’t Americans favoring a small government Republic not an Empire welcome Eurasianism?

#17 Comment By sglover On September 3, 2014 @ 6:12 pm

Ethan C — you are simply heinous:

Why don’t we want to prolong the conflict? Why don’t we want to provoke Russia into further military engagement? If we want to weaken Russia as a geostrategic force, a nice irritating proxy war is a tried and true method. And I expect the Ukrainians would be much less likely to rebound on us than the Afghans were.

Yeah, sure, that’d be a good play in Risk.

Ukrainians, even those far from Donetsk, are already suffering from this war, and there are few happy prospects on the horizon. The Gryvnia’s been about 8 to the dollar for years; nowadays it’s running 12-13. In a poor country, the government proposes to spend 3 billion on arms. Unemployment seems to be rising steeply, and heating fuel will soon be much more expensive — right in time for winter. Perhaps worst of all, acquaintanceships and loyalties that haven’t been questioned for a lifetime are getting stressed and shredded.

So let’s make Ukraine a full-fledged battlefield, because we might get to stick it to some people whom — this month — we don’t like.

You would use Ukrainians as bit players in some childish power game. And for what?!?! The Russophobia on display since the Sochi Olympics has been one of the weirdest fads that’s ever swept America.

#18 Comment By AnotherBeliever On September 3, 2014 @ 10:57 pm

What on earth is a NATO partner? Sure we can help strengthen Georgia’s defenses. Cut them a military aid check valid only with Russian arms dealers. There, that should make everyone happy. I’m half serious.

My point is, the situation with NATO is currently unstable. It either needs to freeze accessions or shift to a program of fairly robust exchange with Russia. Otherwise we are backing ourselves into the most predictable corner in the world. Either Russia or the U.S. is going to go too far, and start a real crisis. If this takes place within spitting distance of Russia’s borders, things will get hairy. Best case scenario, this causes the grown ups to wake up and very carefully defuse the situation and institute long term structural stability. Worse case scenario, the maximalists and armchair warriors on both sides go for glory. In the aftermath, several nuclear arms deals could be shattered, more Eastern European territory could be eaten at great cost to its residents, a ruinous sanctions regime could really tank Russia’s economy, and the ensuing economic reprisals could take Europe’s economy down with it. Calls for military build up will be shrill and you really don’t want to see that bill, or think through the possible consequences of a new Great Depression in the region.

And to what end? We can see the cliff, any good reason to merrily continue towards it? We’ve come uncomfortably close to extending ourselves too far economically and militarily in the past ten years. Let’s not let the neocons seal that deal.

#19 Comment By Vladimir Makarenko On September 4, 2014 @ 1:32 am

The biggest problem to wrap up the crisis right now is that Kiev represents a ring of fighting rats – how otherwise to interpret that prime minister Yatsenyuk publicly humiliates president Poroshenko calling his announcement about tentative truce “a trap” and “fantasy”. If this not isn’t enough the paramilitary forces of ultra nationalists on their end announced that there will be no truce until the rebels are annihilated.
As to giving Ukrainian Army advanced weaponry – last I checked the more a weapon is “hi tech” the more time needed to train how to use it. Today’s Ukrainian Army consists of mostly poorly or untrained at all conscripts. But in response Russia definitely would supply the rebels with advanced weapons *and* the competent professionals to operate them.

#20 Comment By sglover On September 4, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

AnotherBeliever — This interview with a retired German general might interest you.


He laments that NATO has squandered mechanisms that it once had, which were devoted to understanding Russian motives and fostering cooperation.

#21 Comment By Mark Olejnic On September 5, 2014 @ 7:24 am

As the article states, the West has grossly miscalculated Putin’s intentions. They try to attribute it to simple personality defects.

Putin sees a non-hostile Ukraine as in Russia’s existential interest. For the West, Ukraine is just another potential colony in its global Empire. So of course any move made by the West will be countered by an even larger move by Putin.

If NATO succeeds in its plan for Ukraine, it will turn it into another Syria where bloody and inconclusive fighting goes on for years.