Ukraine Needs Clear Communication, Not Weapons, From the U.S.
With approximately 100,000 Russian forces stationed near Ukraine’s eastern border and reports that Moscow might be planning an incursion as soon as next month, a casual observer can be forgiven for thinking war in Eastern Europe is just around the corner. U.S. officials are taking the threats of a Russian operation extremely seriously.
A session between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week did little to calm bilateral tensions over Ukraine. Neither did a two-hour video conference on Tuesday between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which at first glance appeared to be more of an airing of grievances than a conflict-resolution strategy session. At present, the U.S. and Russian positions on Ukraine are nearly irreconcilable, even as both pay lip service to a diplomatic process that has made little progress beyond a shaky ceasefire. Putin wants assurances Ukraine will not be swallowed up in the Western orbit, insisting on “legal guarantees” to this effect (a point he reiterated during his video call with President Joe Biden on December 7). Washington, meanwhile, demands Russia withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territory, sever support to the separatists in the Donbas, and hand back full control of the Ukrainian border to Kyiv.
In Washington and the West more broadly, the inclination is to get tougher with Moscow over the latest act of Russian brinkmanship and buttress Ukraine’s defense. The argument is as follows: if the West is unwilling to read Putin the riot act or enact even stronger sanctions against the Russian economy to ward off another invasion, then it’s catering to the Kremlin’s worst instincts. The Biden administration appears to be following the same logic; the White House is discussing sending additional lethal military equipment to the Ukrainian army, which would come on top of the $2.5 billion in U.S. security assistance already provided to Kyiv since 2014. “I will look you in the eye and tell you, as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House immediately after Biden’s call with Putin. Those options include leaning on Germany to cancel the Nord Stream II natural gas pipeline in the event Russian forces begin pouring across the border.
Those assumptions, however, simply don’t square with Moscow’s behavior over the past seven years. U.S. weapons shipments to Kyiv have done nothing whatsoever to push Russian forces out of Ukraine or alter the Russian political leadership’s calculus as it relates to the conflict. Indeed, in most cases, the Russians have simply responded to U.S. weapons shipments with weapons shipments of its own—something experts monitori
Article from Reason.com