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Stark Choices
Stuck in the Middle with Ukraine

Potentially big news on Ukraine today: German Foreign Minister Steinmeyer announced that the four-way peace talks in Berlin bore fruit, and Russia and Ukraine have agreed to pull all artillery several kilometers back from the lines of control agreed upon under the Minsk peace plan in September.

But emphasis is on “potentially”; people hoping the facts on the ground in eastern Ukraine would reflect the decisions made by diplomats have been burned before. Fighting was raging and civilians dying around Donetsk as of only yesterday, and European leaders have other reasons to claim that progress has been made on Ukraine. They don’t really have the will or the money to do what it takes to deal Ukraine a winning hand, and so they are looking for a face-saving way out of this mess.

On both the economic and the military fronts, the West is hanging Ukraine out to dry. The amount of support Ukraine is getting seems calibrated to produce the worst possible results, not so much or so little that things come to a resolution one way or the other, just enough to keep Ukrainians in a very unhappy middle ground. That’s not an act of malice—it’s an act of indecision qua fecklessness—but it makes clear that the West still has not made up its mind about what to do regarding Ukraine. Moves like the ones Europe and America are making today are designed to make it look like we have a policy, but we don’t.

Consider what the United States is doing about the Ukraine crisis today. The Pentagon is deploying an unspecified number of soldiers on a mission to train units of the Ukrainian National Guard, as well as beginning to send over mine-resistant transport vehicles, Defense News reports:

American soldiers will deploy to Ukraine this spring to begin training four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard, the head of US Army Europe Lt. Gen Ben Hodges said during his first visit to Kiev on Wednesday.

The number of troops heading to the Yavoriv Training Area near the city of L’viv — which is about 40 miles from the Polish border — is still being determined, however.

The American training effort comes as part of a US State Department initiative “to assist Ukraine in strengthening its law enforcement capabilities, conduct internal defense, and maintain rule of law” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Vanessa Hillman told Defense News.

That’s all very nice, but the U.S. is just stringing Ukraine along here. Training missions and transports are helpful, but they are not a show of the kind of resolve and support it would take for Kiev to have the power to really push Russia out of Donbass and to stamp out the rebels. This isn’t a tank column and F-22 support. All that this level of support does is give Ukraine the tools to keep the conflict going as is, preserving the miserable status quo.

Meanwhile, Petro Poroshenko was at Davos, scrounging for desperately needed cash, and though he was warmly received, when he rushed off he didn’t do so with stuffed pockets. Of course, Europe is giving Ukraine some money—fifteen billion here, five hundred million there—but as with the military support, it is nowhere near enough to give Kiev a shot at actually overcoming the massive economic crisis it faces.

That’s exemplary of the way the West has dealt with the Ukraine crisis. Faced with a stark choice to either fish or cut bait, the West is choosing neither.

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  • Pete

    Cut bait

  • Josephbleau

    “Russia and Ukraine have agreed to pull all artillery several
    kilometers back from the lines of control agreed upon under the Minsk
    peace plan in September.” This will prevent the use of grapeshot in the battle.

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