Why giving Ukraine lethal weapons would be a massive mistake

2017/8/8 11:00:41

Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, served on the National Security Council from 2014 to 2017.

 


By Charles Kupchan as published in the Washington Post, August 7, 2017

 

The Trump administration is in the midst of making a decision on whether to transfer lethal weaponry to Ukraine. This potential move is intended to give Ukraine’s military the ability to impose new costs on the Russians and their proxies engaged in a separatist revolt in the country’s eastern region of Donbass, thereby persuading the Kremlin to give up the fight.

 

But the result would likely be the opposite — an escalation in the conflict that would lead to further losses of Ukraine’s territory and compromise its political stability. Russia enjoys insurmountable military superiority over Ukraine. The United States should not encourage Ukraine to engage in an escalatory confrontation with Russia. Washington knows full well that Ukraine cannot prevail.

 

The urge to give Ukraine lethal arms — most likely in the form of anti-tank weapons — is understandable. Since 2014, the Russians have occupied and illegally annexed Crimea and sustained a separatist rebellion in Donbass that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. Moreover, Russia has engaged in these acts of aggression in order to block Ukraine’s desire to leave Moscow’s sphere of influence and join the community of Western democracies.

 

Under these circumstances, the United States should continue helping Ukrainians defend themselves by assisting with defense reforms and training Ukrainian forces. So why not take the next step and give Ukraine lethal weapons

 

For starters, the notion that Russian President Vladimir Putin would give up his hold on Donbass if a few more Russians come home in body bags is to dramatically misread the Kremlin. Putin is a master at manipulating the Russian public, especially when it comes to the Ukraine conflict and would hardly fold his hand if Russian casualties were to increase.

 

On the contrary, he would likely double down, blaming the United States and Ukraine for the intensified fighting and taking steps to offset the improvement in Ukraine’s military capability. The Russians have so far effectively countered Ukrainian military successes — in some instances, retaliating with devastating effect. When Ukrainian forces in the summer of 2014 advanced into Donbass and took the strategically located city of Ilovaisk, Putin promptly called in his own crack troops, which quickly decimated the Ukrainian unit that had taken the town.

 

[…]

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/gl ... uld-be-a-massive-mistake/

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