Tuesday May 19, 2015
Currently the United States is assisting Ukraine against Russia by providing some non-lethal military equipment as well as limited training for Kiev’s army. It has balked at getting more involved in the conflict, rightly so. With that in mind, I had a meeting with a delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians and government officials a couple of weeks ago. I tried to explain to them why many Americans are wary of helping them by providing lethal, potentially game changing military assistance in what Kiev sees as a struggle to regain control of Crimea and other parts of their country from militias that are clearly linked to Moscow. I argued that while Washington should be sympathetic to Ukraine’s aspirations it has no actual horse in the race, that the imperative for bilateral relations with Russia, which is the only nation on earth that can attack and destroy the United States, is that they be stable and that all channels for communication remain open.
I also observed that the negative perception of Washington-driven democracy promotion around the world has been in part shaped by the actual record on interventions since 2001, which has not been positive. Each exercise of the military option has wound up creating new problems, like the mistaken policies in Libya, Iraq and Syria, all of which have produced instability and a surge in terrorism. I noted that the US does not need to bring about a new Cold War by trying to impose democratic norms in Eastern Europe but should instead be doing all in its power to encourage a reasonable rapprochement between Moscow and Kiev. Providing weapons or other military support to Ukraine would only cause the situation to escalate, leading to a new war by proxies in Eastern Europe that could rapidly spread to other regions.