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Gasoline on a Fire: Why Arms Sales to Ukraine are a Really Bad Idea

December 23, 2017 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

It’s been a very bad month for Washington’s relations with
Moscow, culminating in the Trump administration’s ill-advised
decision to authorize the commercial sale of “defensive” weapons to
Ukraine.  The flippant comment that Secretary of Defense
James Mattis expressed earlier in Kiev apparently summarizes the
administration’s attitude.  According to Mattis, “defensive
weapons are not provocative unless you are an aggressor, and
clearly Ukraine is not an aggressor.” The reality is that given the
already lengthy record of U.S. meddling in Ukraine, especially
encouraging the demonstrators who overthrew the country’s
pro-Russian elected president in 2014, moving to arm Ukraine is
extremely provocative. That country not only is in Russia’s sphere
of influence, it is the single most important entity in Russia’s
core security zone.

The Ukraine arms sale came on the heels of the release of newly
de-classified documents confirming that U.S. leaders assured Russia in
1990 that NATO would not expand beyond the eastern border
of a united Germany. For years, U.S. officials and their defenders in the foreign policy community
and the mainstream media insisted that no such firm commitment had been given. And there was
no evidence of a written agreement.  The new revelations,
though, should effectively torpedo that disingenuous defense. It is
now clear that assurances were given, and that Washington’s
subsequent moves to expand NATO severely damaged trust between the two
countries.

The Trump
administration’s decision to approve arms sales to Ukraine is akin
to pouring gasoline on an already simmering fire.

President Trump’s announcement of a new U.S. national security strategy likely added to
Moscow’s irritation. It proclaims that both China and Russia are
“strategic competitors” of the United States. The president’s
speech also contained allegations of specific Russian misdeeds,
ranging from the annexation of Crimea to efforts to split the
Western alliance, to meddling in the internal political affairs of
other countries. Those actions supposedly pose a serious threat to
America’s security and well-being. The document’s language was
disturbingly reminiscent of Washington’s harsh, confrontational
rhetoric throughout the Cold War.

Approving even a limited arms sale to Ukraine, given the context
of those other developments, was especially maladroit.  A
secessionist war in the eastern portion of the country has simmered
since 2014.  Russia backs the rebels and even has unofficially
deployed its own forces at times in the conflict zone. The
situation in eastern Ukraine remains extremely tense and volatile,
despite the signing of the so-called Minsk Agreement designed to dampen the
fighting.

Washington’s authorization of weapons sales to Kiev risks
destabilizing a very …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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