International Affairs analysts are worried, and concerned really, that the United States and NATO allies have continued to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of military aid to Ukraine since 2014, including both non-lethal equipment and advanced weapons. Russia has equally expressed concerns that these arms could be used by Kiev to thaw the frozen civil conflict in the country’s east.
The US and NATO provision of weapons to Ukraine and the bloc’s diplomatic efforts to give Kiev the illusion that it enjoys strong Western backing are a recipe for disaster, Cato Institute senior fellow and National Interest contributor Ted Galen Carpenter fears.
In a recent report, Carpenter warned that Western leaders’ pursuit of “a reckless strategy” in Ukraine has been “generating increasingly pointed warnings from Kremlin officials,“ and facilitating the alleged buildup of Russian troops on the border.
Calling such policies “needlessly destabilising,” Carpenter pointed out that Ukrainian officials including President Volodymyr Zelensky have taken advantage of the expressions of support by “making jingoistic statements about regaining Crimea,” which broke off from Kiev in March 2014 following a Western-backed coup d’etat in Kiev, and by threatening to “crush the separatists in Donbass.”
Russian officials have stated repeatedly that Moscow has no plans to invade any country, including Ukraine, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling reporters on Friday that “Russia doesn’t threaten anyone,” and that “the movement of troops on our territory should be a cause for anyone’s concern.”
Peskov’s comments followed claims over the past two weeks by US officials and media about a ‘buildup of Russian forces’ near Ukraine. In early November, Politico published satellite photos ostensibly showing Russian military equipment in Russia’s Smolensk region – over 250 km from the Ukrainian frontier and over 800 km from the frozen eastern Ukraine conflict zone, and claiming it be evidence of a buildup.
In any event, Carpenter believes that Kiev should realise that its military is “no match for Russia’s in terms of either quantity or quality,” and that any confrontation which may lead to Russian involvement is futile. The analyst warned however, that “a belief in US or NATO military support may cause Ukrainian leaders to abandon prudence and mount an ill-starred confrontation.”
The danger of such a scenario was demonstrated in the case of Georgia, according to the observer, and the August 2008 misadventure which saw Washington egging on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to invade the breakaway region of South Ossetia. The invasion led to the deaths of ten Russian peacekeeping troops, who had been deployed in the region in the early 1990s to separate the two sides, and prompted Moscow to launch a full-scale counteroffensive that crushed the US-armed and trained Georgian forces and led South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway, to formally declare independence.
Between 2017, 2019, and again in 2021, the US sent tens of millions of dollars in Javelin anti-tank missiles to Kiev. In 2019, Washington’s Turkish allies delivered a dozen Bayraktar TB2 drones to the country, with the Ukrainian military deploying the drones in Donbass for the first time in late October and announcing plans to purchase more Bayraktar in 2022.
Other NATO defence deliveries, according to report, included US-made sniper rifles, US Humvee armoured personnel carriers and artillery-locating mobile radars, British-made Saxon armoured command centres used for artillery fire support, Czech 152mm howitzers, and Italian and German engineering and medevac vehicles.
US and its NATO allies should desist from increasingly dangerous policies in Ukraine, as Moscow has made it clear multiple times that it regards Ukraine as “a core Russian security concern.” Recent efforts to make Ukraine a Western military ally will only risk crossing a bright red line.
The conflict in Ukraine began in February 2014, when pro-Western, ultranationalist US and EU-backed protesters in Kiev overthrew the country’s unpopular but democratically elected government and set a course for its integration with the European Union. In March, the majority ethnic Russian region of Crimea – which had been part of Russia until it was handed over to Soviet Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in an administrative reshuffle in 1956, voted in a referendum to break off from Ukraine and rejoin Russia.
In April 2014, when local officials and residents in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk began demanding greater autonomy or even independence from the new authorities in Kiev, the government responded by sending troops to crush the resistance, sparking a bloody civil war which has left over 13,000 people dead, tens of thousands more injured, and caused nearly 2.5 million people to flee their homes.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine was frozen thanks to ceasefire negotiations in Minsk, Belarus in February 2015, with the Minsk protocols providing a mechanism through which Kiev could restore its control over the rebellious territories while providing the latter with constitutionally-mandated autonomy status.
– Agom writes from Jikwoyi District, Abuja