The Mindless Hawkishness of Arming Ukraine
Trump is pressing ahead with the foolish option of arming Ukraine:
The Trump administration has approved the first ever U.S. commercial sale of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, in a clear break from the de facto U.S. ban on arms sales that dates back to the Obama administration.
As I said last month, Trump would be a fool to arm Ukraine, so it comes as no surprise that this is what he has decided. While the U.S. isn’t giving Ukraine everything it was asking for, it is still recklessly throwing weapons at the problem. Russia will view this as a provocative act on our part, and it will respond with its own aggressive measures before long. When these weapons fail to have the desired effect, the drumbeat for sending more and more advanced weapons will start. Trump has already shown how easily he can be led by his advisers to endorse needlessly destructive measures. The U.S. will find itself caught in a fruitless and unnecessary competition with another major power that has far more at stake in the conflict. Because it has more at stake, Russia will always outmatch whatever support the U.S. provides, and so by adding more weapons to the mix the U.S. is simply fueling a conflict that it should be trying to resolve peacefully.
TAC contributor Harry Kazianis objects to the sale:
This is dumb. Why do this now? This weapons system won’t change the situation on the ground and will only cause a reaction from Moscow. Dumb. Just dumb–just like the NSS. #Russia#Ukrainehttps://t.co/nqbismDgu2
— Harry Kazianis (@GrecianFormula) December 21, 2017
The Ukraine decision fits into a pattern of bad choices by the president in which he regularly sides with the advisers and Cabinet officials favoring the more aggressive available option. When they counsel caution, as Mattis and Tillerson did on the question of recognizing Jerusalem, Trump ignores them and goes with the more provocative option. When they counsel escalation and confrontation, as Mattis and Tillerson did in this case, only then does Trump listen to them. This leads him to make the wrong call on many major issues from escalating the war in Afghanistan to increasing support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen to decertifying the nuclear deal. Trump is instinctively drawn to more belligerent and dangerous options, and he heeds his advisers only when they are recommending the things he already wants to do. When they suggest anything else, he dismisses their concerns or publicly rebukes them. As a result, Trump’s foreign policy is defined by one mindlessly hawkish move after another.
P.S. Kazianis’ objections to the administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) and the timing of its release can be read here.