Rarely does the fecklessness of current American policy toward Russian aggression against Ukraine emerge as clearly as it does in today’s New York Times.
Compare these two passages from a top story entitled “U.S. Joins Europe in Effort to End Fighting in Ukraine:”
1. “The Russians have sent modern T-80 tanks, whose armor cannot be penetrated by Ukraine’s aging and largely inoperative antitank weapons, along with Grad rockets and other heavy weapons. Russian forces have also used electronic jamming equipment to interfere with the Ukrainians’ communications….Ukraine has requested arms and equipment, including ammunition, sniper rifles, mortars, grenade launchers, antitank missiles, armored personnel carriers, mobile field hospitals, counterbattery radars and reconnaissance drones.”
2. “The $16.4 million in aid that Mr. Kerry will announce in Kiev is intended to help people trapped by the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk. The aid will be used to buy basic items like blankets and clothing, along with counseling for traumatized civilians and to help those who have fled the fighting.”
So it is unfair to say the United States is just sending blankets; it is also buying some counseling. This is not a policy of stopping Russian aggression, but an embarrassing substitute for a policy.
Perhaps this policy will change soon, and in his testimony at his confirmation hearing the new secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, made it clear that he favors some military help. My bet: by the time the Obama administration chews on this issue and achieves an internal consensus that meets the president’s desires, whatever military aid is offered will resemble the military aid and training being given to Syrian rebels: very little and very late. It is as if Roosevelt offered Churchill the Lend-Lease not of battleships but of blankets for Londoners made homeless by the Blitz. The United States thus becomes not the “Arsenal of Democracy” but the linen closet. Americans, and Ukrainians resisting Russian aggression, deserve better.