Insiders to Obama: Send Military Aid to Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin “must be checked before it’s too late,” one of National Journal’s Security Insiders said.

Ukrainian soldiers (behind) stand inside the gate of a Ukrainian military base as unidentified heavily-armed soldiers stand outside in Crimea on March 3, 2014 in Perevalne, Ukraine.
National Journal
Sara Sorcher
March 20, 2014, 9:46 a.m.

Crimea all but be­longs to Vladi­mir Putin now, and a nervous Ukraine is look­ing to the U.S. for help. But while the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has pulled dip­lo­mat­ic levers to re­buke Rus­sia and bol­ster Kiev, it has thus far re­buffed Ukraine’s re­por­ted re­quest for mil­it­ary aid.

And that’s a mis­take, ac­cord­ing to a slim ma­jor­ity of Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Se­cur­ity In­siders. Fifty-sev­en per­cent agreed that the ad­min­is­tra­tion should sup­ply Ukraine with mil­it­ary aid, in­clud­ing weapons, am­muni­tion, and in­tel­li­gence sup­port.

“It would get Rus­sia’s at­ten­tion and send a clear mes­sage to Putin that he can­not con­tin­ue to an­nex neigh­bor­ing ter­rit­or­ies with im­pun­ity,” one In­sider said. “He must be checked be­fore it’s too late.”

But 43 per­cent of In­siders said they op­posed sup­ply­ing Ukraine with leth­al aid — al­beit for dif­fer­ent reas­ons. Some ex­perts said it was too late to stop Putin, while oth­ers said leth­al aid would be in­ef­fect­ive at bridging the gap between the Rus­si­an and Ukrain­i­an mil­it­ar­ies and could in­flame ten­sions with Rus­sia.

Leth­al as­sist­ance could also open up a Pan­dora’s box, an­oth­er In­sider said, at too steep a cost for the U.S. “Should we get sucked in­to a proxy struggle with Rus­sia over a ter­rit­ory that isn’t stra­tegic­ally im­port­ant to us? No, we shouldn’t,” one In­sider said. “His­tory hasn’t shown these sorts of en­deavors to pro­duce happy res­ults. Be­fore long we’re throw­ing good money after bad, risk­ing end­less es­cal­a­tion with an ad­versary that has a lot more at stake than we do.”

1. Should Wash­ing­ton agree to the re­quest from Ukraine’s in­ter­im gov­ern­ment for U.S. mil­it­ary aid, in­clud­ing weapons, am­muni­tion, and in­tel­li­gence sup­port?

(61 votes)

  • Yes 57%
  • No 43%

Yes

“The West and Ukraine would be­ne­fit if Ukraine gained the ca­pa­city to in­flict high­er costs on its east­ern neigh­bor if the Krem­lin were to con­tem­plate ex­pan­ded ag­gres­sion.”

“[Mil­it­ary as­sist­ance] in­creases Putin’s risk cal­cu­lus. If he thinks that he can­not suc­ceed without great cost, he may be less likely to try. The easi­er Putin thinks it is to con­tin­ue to es­cal­ate in the short term, the more he is likely to do so. It is pos­sible to de­ter without pro­vok­ing.”

“Lim­ited mil­it­ary sup­port is ap­pro­pri­ate, but since it is not likely Ukraine will win a ma­jor mil­it­ary con­front­a­tion with Rus­sia, every ef­fort must be made to reach a dip­lo­mat­ic solu­tion be­fore mat­ters get out of hand.”

“We have a treaty, ne­go­ti­ated by Bill Clin­ton, guar­an­tee­ing the se­cur­ity of their bor­ders. Fail­ing to help here will undo much of the pro­gress to­wards demo­cracy that we’ve seen in the re­gion. We won the Cold War without fir­ing a shot. We will lose this battle without lift­ing a fin­ger.”

“To not provide at least in­tel­li­gence sup­port would be a total ab­dic­a­tion of glob­al lead­er­ship.”

“The U.S. man­aged to sup­ply Geor­gia when it was in­vaded by Rus­sia without get­ting us in­to a war; Obama can do the same, but evid­ently lacks the will to do so.”

“If Putin con­tin­ues to bring in troops to Ukraine.”

“We might want to build a Ukrain­i­an gov­ern­ment while we’re at it.”

“Yes. We have drawn a red line — now do the things ne­ces­sary to be cred­ible.”

“Mil­it­ary and State De­part­ment plan­ners should cer­tainly be draft­ing plans and identi­fy­ing aid needs and op­tions, but mil­it­ary ef­forts need to take a dis­tant back seat to the dip­lo­mat­ic pro­cess. The United States needs to wean it­self off of the stick and re­gain its ap­pre­ci­ation for and skill at de­ploy­ing the car­rot.”

No

“It’s too late. We need to ne­go­ti­ate a face-sav­ing solu­tion. We do not need an­oth­er Cold War. Putin per­ceives Obama is weak. Send­ing arms will not con­vince him oth­er­wise.”

“Weapons and am­muni­tion would not help bridge the yawn­ing cap­ab­il­ity gap between the Ukrain­i­an and Rus­si­an mil­it­ar­ies. Though in­tel­li­gence sup­port may help, any­thing more would only fur­ther in­flame U.S.-Rus­sia ten­sions.”

“We should not pre­tend Ukraine is with­in our/NATO’s se­cur­ity sphere: It isn’t. Provid­ing mil­it­ary aid could en­cour­age them to res­ist: They will be slaughtered. Bet­ter to work on re­in­vig­or­at­ing NATO’s de­fenses.”

“We ought not edge any closer to war with Rus­sia over Ukraine and Crimea.”

“The forces are asym­met­ric­al and the mar­gin­al be­ne­fit would not be con­sequen­tial. If we want to play hard­ball, re­vis­it our radar sites in East­ern Europe.”

“Es­tab­lish­ing more mil­it­ary ties between Ukraine and the West will only stim­u­late stronger Rus­si­an re­ac­tions.”

“While it can seem like a trav­esty to not aid Ukraine as it re­quests, the U.S. and its NATO al­lies can­not barge in­to Ukraine at this time. Putin has the ad­vant­age right now be­cause of in­teri­or lines and his cap­ab­il­ity to in­filt­rate forces in­to Ukraine without any ef­fect­ive re­sponse from Kiev. The NATO al­lies need to shore up their own com­mit­ments to the Balt­ic states (in­clud­ing con­sid­er­ing re­quests from Sweden and Fin­land) be­fore get­ting in­volved on the ground in Ukraine. Putin has done what the tsars be­fore him did — swal­low up those peri­pher­al states along with all their in­tern­al prob­lems, thus mak­ing them Mo­scow’s prob­lems (re­call Chechnya in the 1860s?). Let him over­ex­tend him­self for now while hold­ing the line along the front-line states. Work dip­lo­mat­ic­ally with Ukraine’s mil­it­ary to im­prove their skills but do so by train­ing Ukrain­i­an forces in Po­land. Con­sider hold­ing Ka­lin­in­grad host­age through eco­nom­ic stran­gu­la­tion and wa­ter patrols. Let’s get the con­di­tions set first be­fore of­fer­ing Ukraine the NATO um­brella.”

“We must nev­er for­get that the U.S. has no vi­tal in­terests in Ukraine while Rus­sia does. MAD still dic­tates a policy of cau­tion in deal­ing with an­oth­er nuc­le­ar state.”

“No, we’ve already lost this battle. Putin is not pulling back. If we want to do something, it should be in com­bin­a­tion with NATO aid and sup­port.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity In­siders Poll is a peri­od­ic sur­vey of more than 100 de­fense and for­eign policy ex­perts. They in­clude: Gor­don Adams, Charles Al­len, Mi­chael Al­len, Thad Al­len, Gra­ham Al­lis­on, James Bam­ford, Dav­id Barno, Milt Bearden, Peter Ber­gen, Samuel “Sandy” Ber­ger, Dav­id Ber­teau, Steph­en Biddle, Nancy Bird­sall, Mari­on Blakey, Kit Bond, Stu­art Bowen, Paula Broad­well, Mike Breen, Mark Brun­ner, Steven Bucci, Nich­olas Burns, Dan By­man, James Jay Cara­fano, Phil­lip Carter, Wendy Cham­ber­lin, Mi­chael Cher­toff, Frank Cil­luffo, James Clad, Richard Clarke, Steve Clem­ons, Joseph Collins, Wil­li­am Court­ney, Lorne Cran­er, Ro­ger Cres­sey, Gregory Dahl­berg, Robert Dan­in, Richard Dan­zig, Jan­ine Dav­id­son, Daniel Drezn­er, Mack­en­zie Eaglen, Paul Eaton, An­drew Ex­um, Wil­li­am Fal­lon, Eric Farns­worth, Jacques Gansler, Steph­en Gan­yard, Daniel Goure, Mark Green, Mike Green, Mark Gun­zinger, Todd Har­ris­on, John Hamre, Jim Harp­er, Marty Haus­er, Mi­chael Hay­den, Mi­chael Her­son, Pete Hoek­stra, Bruce Hoff­man, Linda Hud­son, Paul Hughes, Colin Kahl, Don­ald Ker­rick, Rachel Klein­feld, Lawrence Korb, Dav­id Kramer, An­drew Kre­pinev­ich, Charlie Kupchan, W. Patrick Lang, Cedric Leighton, Mi­chael Leit­er, James Lind­say, Justin Lo­gan, Trent Lott, Peter Mansoor, Ron­ald Marks, Bri­an Mc­Caf­frey, Steven Metz, Frank­lin Miller, Mi­chael Mo­rell, Philip Mudd, John Nagl, Shuja Nawaz, Kev­in Neal­er, Mi­chael Oates, Thomas Pick­er­ing, Paul Pil­lar, Larry Pri­or, Steph­en Rade­maker, Marc Rai­mondi, Celina Realuyo, Bruce Riedel, Barry Rhoads, Marc Ro­ten­berg, Frank Rug­giero, Gary Sam­ore, Kori Schake, Mark Schneider, John Scofield, Tammy Schultz, Steph­en Ses­t­an­ovich, Sarah Se­wall, Mat­thew Sher­man, Jen­nifer Sims, Su­z­anne Spauld­ing, James Stav­rid­is, Con­stan­ze Stelzen­müller, Ted Stroup, Guy Swan, Frances Town­send, Mick Train­or, Richard Wil­helm, Tamara Wittes, Dov Za­kheim, and Juan Za­r­ate.

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