President Barack Obama’s passive approach to foreign policy has taken Syria and Iraq from a state of cautious stability to consummate chaos. But while world attention is focused on ISIS terrorists in the Middle East, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is gobbling up eastern Ukraine unchecked.
The Obama administration’s response to Ukraine has been similar to its reaction to the Islamic State terror threat–“all show and no go”–big on words but short on action.
Obama didn’t act on ISIS because, as he said in January, it’s a JV team. Is his excuse the same with the Russian Republic?
“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,” wrote Paul Roderick Gregory in Forbes. “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,” he concluded.
After the set-up, Gregory listed his “five compelling reasons” for the United States to give Ukraine true military aid–not just meals ready to eat. They were:
First. Ukraine is fighting the United States’ and Europe’s battle against a wealthy petro state, whose rogue leader … has broken international treaties and norms.
Second. The United States need not fear that military assistance to Ukraine will turn Putin or the Russian people against us. This has already happened.
Third. In the case of Ukraine, the Obama administration has a rare international consensus on its side. Russia is the aggressor; Ukraine is the aggrieved party.
Fourth. Putin takes great pains to describe the battle for east Ukraine as a civil war between oppressed Russian speakers of the east and rabid anti-Russian extremists of the west.
Fifth. No diplomatic solution is possible, despite the European Union and OSCE’s [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] intense lobbying for round-table negotiations in the vain hope of freeing themselves of their eventual obligation to pitch in on Ukraine’s behalf.
But the two most compelling reason to offer more than words, a few bucks and some mild sanctions are that we are legally obligated to come to Ukraine’s assistance, and it’s the morally correct thing to do.
In 1994, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine, the United States and Great Britain signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. It provided that in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons, the United States and Great Britain would come to that country’s aid–up to and including military intervention–to protect Ukraine’s borders, according to the Daily Mail.
Ukraine lived up to its obligation under the treaty’s terms. It gave up what was then the world’s third largest nuclear weapons stockpile. It’s up to the U.S. to do the same.
But just as compelling as America’s legal obligations are its moral ones. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, (D-N.J.), is hardly known as a hawkish conservative, at least in our relations with Iran. Nonetheless, after meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, he began pressing for lethal military support to Ukraine.
“We need to give the Ukrainians the wherewithal to defend themselves,” against Russian-backed separatists, Menendez, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman told The New Jersey Star-Ledger in a phone interview from Kiev, Ukraine. “I know we’ve provided them with night vision goggles, but it doesn’t do much good to see the enemy and not be able to stop them.”
And the president’s response? Speaking before 1,800 attendees at a Tallinn, Estonia concert hall Wednesday, Obama called for military assistance to be directed on behalf of Ukraine, but stopped short of the United States offering such aid, according to The New York Times.
“Now, Ukraine needs more than words,” the president said ironically, The New York Times reported. “NATO needs to make concrete commitments to help Ukraine modernize and strengthen its security forces.”
So what of my original question? Will Obama give Ukraine meaningful military aid, or does he consider Russia to be another “JV team?” I threw the question out on social media, and here are a few responses.
“No, he won’t. But he believes if we’re just a little bit nicer to rest of the world it’ll all be OK,” Kenneth Guntkowski said on Facebook. “And he really needs to tamp down all of this talk about American exceptionalism, too. It offends people.”
I can’t argue with that. My favorite response, however came from Tom T., who tweeted:
.@MikeBPR Sadly – but Truthfully – the sole JV team in all this run-up to global Armageddon, is the one headed by Barack Obama.
— Tom T. (@VRWCTexan) September 2, 2014
When NATO gathers Thursday at its 2014 summit in Newport, Wales, Ukraine will be asking to be admitted as a full NATO member. I really hope they get it–Ukraine needs all the support it can get, and it can’t expect it from the White House. Unfortunately, the process isn’t likely to be completed at the summit, according to the International Business Times.
If current White House policy prevails, we can expect the president to offer yet more “military box lunches” together with a few words of encouragement. If Ukraine is nice, the president may even toss in a few copies of The Audacity of Hope as a bonus. Hope may be all they have.