Don't Send Arms to Ukraine

A report says the Trump administration is on the verge of sending arms to Ukraine. That's a terrible idea.


Markiyan Lyseiko/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Ukrainian politicians anticipate that the Trump administration will soon decide to send "lethal aid" to their country, which is embroiled in an armed conflict with Russia along its eastern border, Foreign Policy reports.

Sending arms to Ukraine would be a terrible idea. It would needlessly escalate tensions between Russia and the West while inviting Moscow to ramp up their own intervention in Ukraine.

The idea is one that the U.S. has avoided since the conflict began in 2014. Former Obama officials say they wanted to send lethal aid to Ukraine but were thwarted by Barack Obama and his national security advisor, Susan Rice. Abstaining from sending arms then "became the de facto policy, and then the urgency slipped away," Max Bergmann, an Obama-era State Department official, told Foreign Policy.

Nevertheless, the U.S. spent $300 million on "non-lethal defense aid" to Ukraine in 2016 alone.

Last year, the Trump campaign worked to remove a plank from the GOP platform that called for sending lethal aid to Ukraine. That move, which made the GOP platform less bellicose and brought it in line with the Democrats' stance on the matter of aid to Russia, was smeared as a "pro-Russia" move.

Not even European officials, who have a very vested interest in limiting the Russia's influence in Eastern Europe, particularly support the idea of sending lethal arms to Ukraine.

Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany and the longest serving head of government in the European Union, has opposed arming Ukraine to fight Russia-backed separatists as far back as 2015.

European leaders were similarly wary of sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia earlier this year, fearing such measures could put Europe's energy supply at risk.

And that's the crux of it: The U.S. has no vested national security interest in what happens in Ukraine. Regional players like the European Union do. If they decide arming Ukraine is in their best interest, they have the power to do so. The United States should not insert itself into the situation, not to "prove" the Trump administration isn't beholden to the Kremlin nor to assert its dominance vis a vis Russia.

As a candidate, Trump appeared to understand the U.S. was involved in all kinds of international drama it had no business in. He should resist efforts within his administration to ramp up Washington's involvement in other people's conflicts.