LITHUANIA, Rukla – A soldier from the US Pennsylvania National Guard (L) speaks to a Lithuanian soldier as they take part in a field training exercise during the first phase Saber Strike 2014, at the Rukla military base, Lithuania, on June 14, 2014. Saber Strike, a NATO exercise that will span multiple locations in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, involves approximately 4,700 personnel from 10 countries. The Western military alliance launched on June 9, 2014 one of its largest military manoeuvres in the ex-Soviet Baltic states since tensions with Moscow spiked over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. AFP PHOTO / PETRAS MALUKAS © AFP
With Washington’s attention diverted, as radical ISIS forces march towards Baghdad, it is no coincidence that Russia chose to send tanks, missiles, and armored personnel carriers across its border into east Ukraine. Forget Putin’s assurances that he had nothing to do with this. Movements of heavy weaponry in border areas require authorization from the highest levels in Putin’s notorious power vertical.
The June 12 passage of Russian tanks, missiles, and armored personnel carriers across the border (confirmed by U.S. sources) was so blatant that even the timid NATO officially labeled it as “a grave escalation” by Russia.
Russian tanks entering Ukraine.
U.S. presidents must be able to deal with more than one emergency at a time. Whereas the Middle East has become a boiling cauldron that defies solution, Russia’s subversion of Ukraine can be dealt with effectively at low cost: The United States and Europe can simply give Ukraine the military means to defend itself and its territorial integrity. No “boots on the ground” are required, just a few billion dollars worth of real weapons. Thereafter, Ukraine will do the heavy lifting itself. Russia must pay its mercenaries. Young Ukrainians are fighting and dying for a cause.
So far, President Obama has denied Ukraine meaningful military assistance for reasons I find difficult to fathom. After months of stalling, Barack Obama announced on June 4 in Warsaw a $5 million (not billion) package of non-lethal military aid to Ukraine to supplement his earlier grant of military box lunches. The five million will buy fewer than 600 top-of-the-line night goggles at today’s prices. Better nothing than such an insulting token amount.
In contrast, analysts from Forbes.ua have placed a $250 million price tag on the two-month Donbass separatist operation paid by its shadowy Russian “sponsors.” The fifteen thousand $300-per-day mercenaries streaming across the border with their lethal weaponry account for most of this cost.
Russia has outspent the United States of America fifty times over on military assistance in the Ukrainian theater and by an infinite amount in terms of lethal assistance (a positive number divided by zero equals infinity).
Whenever the topic of Ukrainian military assistance is broached, European and American opponents immediately revert to “boots on the ground.” Ukraine is requesting training, advice and military equipment, not a “third world war” as naysayers hysterically prophesy. USA Today summarized Obama’s response to Ukraine’s pleas with its headline: “U.S. reaffirms: No weapons will go to Ukraine.”
To President Obama and the U.S. Congress: There are compelling reasons why the United States and NATO should supply embattled Ukraine with military equipment. My reasons are:
First. Ukraine is fighting the United States’ and Europe’s battle against a wealthy petro state, whose rogue leader, Vladimir Putin, has broken international treaties and norms, and must be reined in before he expands his horizons. Ukraine has fought this battle so far on its own paltry resources with little assistance from a civilized world too timid to confront a bully state. As a Der Spiegel panel concluded, “Ukraine is fighting our battle,” and we “need to step up.”
In military engagements in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the United States has provided military assistance to local allies unwilling to defend themselves (as the current rout of the Iraqi army shows). Ukraine, with its increasing loss of life and spilled blood, is fighting on its own behalf, as the United States and Europe spur it on with vague promises of sanctions and expressions of concern delivered safely from the sidelines. Continue reading