Ukraine: Arresting Dissidents, Eager for U.S.'s Military Support

Let's think more than twice about fighting Ukraine's battles.


Trouble is, still, a-brewing in Ukraine (see our P.M. links both today and yesterday) and prominent Republican candidate Ted Cruz seems to think it is our sworn duty to provide the Ukrainians with weapons to fight their enemies foreign and domestic, while the Obama administration is seriously considering it.

Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy gave some intelligent reasons yesterday why we shouldn't get involved in any way in a shooting war with Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine (yes, there are people who managed to live through the Cold War and to feed themselves daily who actually think getting us involved in any way in a shooting war even one step removed, supposedly, with Russia is a fine idea).

Walt's argument is based on the notion that Russia is not in fact an expansionist power getting out of control, but one spiraling downward fighting for continued relevance and influence:

It is lingering fear, rather than relentless ambition, that underpins Russia's response in Ukraine.

Moreover, the Ukraine crisis did not begin with a bold Russian move or even a series of illegitimate Russian demands; it began when the United States and European Union tried to move Ukraine out of Russia's orbitand into the West's sphere of influence. That objective may be desirable in the abstract, but Moscow made it abundantly clear it would fight this process tooth and nail. U.S. leaders blithely ignored these warnings — which clearly stemmed from Russian insecurity rather than territorial greed — and not surprisingly they have been blindsided by Moscow's reaction….

…..arming Ukraine will only make things worse. It certainly will not enable Ukraine to defeat the far stronger Russian army; it will simply intensify the conflict and add to the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

Nor is arming Ukraine likely to convince Putin to cave in and give Washington what it wants. Ukraine is historically linked to Russia, they are right next door to each other, Russian intelligence has long-standing links inside Ukraine's own security institutions, and Russia is far stronger militarily. Even massive arms shipments from the United States won't tip the balance in Kiev's favor, and Moscow can always escalate if the fighting turns against the rebels, as it did last summer.

Most importantly, Ukraine's fate is much more important to Moscow than it is to us, which means that Putin and Russia will be willing to pay a bigger price to achieve their aims than we will. The balance of resolve as well as the local balance of power strongly favors Moscow in this conflict. Before starting down an escalatory path, therefore, Americans should ask themselves just how far they are willing to go….

Our brave Ukrainian supposed allies gave an interesting sign of how devoted they are to American notions of freedom this week, by arresting a journalist for encouraging draft dodging. Not exactly (modern, at any rate) American values on freedom of political expression:

Ruslan Kotsaba — a television journalist from the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk — was ordered held in custody for 60 days pending investigations, his wife, Uliana, wrote on Facebook.

A senior official at Ukraine's SBU security agency, Markian Lubkivskyi, wrote online that Kotsaba was detained on suspicion of treason, an accusation that carries a possible 15-year jail sentence.

Kotsaba published a video on YouTube last month denouncing a new round of military call-ups by Kiev to boost its forces fighting pro-Russian rebels in the east.

"I would prefer to go to prison than to participate in this fratricidal war," Kotsaba said in the footage, which was viewed more than 300,000 times.

"I refuse to be drafted and call on everyone who is called up to refuse," he said.

May the U.S. also refuse to be drafted into this conflict.