Russia & The West
Thinking Long-Term About Ukraine’s Defense

Moscow is planning for a long campaign in Ukraine. We should be too.

Published on: September 25, 2017
Kirk Bennett is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer who served in both Russia and Ukraine.
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  • QET

    The pons asinorum for understanding the war in southeastern Ukraine is to grasp that the antagonists are not Russia and the United States, Russia and NATO, or Russia and the West. They are Russia and Ukraine.

    Why not Russia and the World? Where are the progressives who squeal about war and colonialism each time the US dispatches a carrier task force somewhere? Where are the crowds of progressive anti-colonialist protestors outside Russia’s Western embassies, demanding “Russia Out of Ukraine!”? Where are all of the UN agencies that criticize each minute action of Israel and the US? N Korea routinely threatens the US with annihilation; Trump threatens it back; the World howls at the US. Has Ukraine threatened to annihilate or invade Russia?

    Or are all these questions “irrelevant” or somehow suggestive of that new favorite nonsense phrase of the Left–“false equivalence”?

    • adk

      “…who squeal about war and colonialism each time the US dispatches a carrier task force somewhere?”

      Simple/easy. The key word is the US (under a Republican administration). The progressives couldn’t care less about Russia until “it helped Trump steal the election”. That magic act by Putin (in places like Wisconsin) instantly turned Russia into an enemy of everything good and decent.

      But still not enemy enough (for the progressives) to call for providing defensive weapons to Ukraine.

      • LUSUS

        Paradox of the American media.
        When the hackers cracked Hilary’s correspondence and it turned out that she was involved in the removal of Bernie Sanders, then all of them began to lie not about the crime of Hilary, but about the fact that her mail was hacked!
        It is said that the reporter who hacked her mail was soon found dead.
        The Democrats made a big mistake by nominating Hillary Clinton. She had and has a very bad reputation

  • D4x

    Kirk Bennett needs to define “Washington”, when he writes “Washington lacks any real strategy, and is just blindly throwing more weapons into the mix.” President Poroshenko had a very busy day in Washington on June 20, 2017. He had White House meetings with both President Trump and VP Pence.

    He had meetings with SecDef Mattis:
    and, SecState Tillerson:
    and, SecEnergy Perry:
    and, SecCommerce Ross. (Note: the Dept’s of Energy and Commerce really need to update their websites.)

    SecState Tillerson met with Poroshenko in Kiev on July 9, which gives clues about the wide range of topics.
    “Remarks With Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko At a Joint Press Availability
    Rex W. Tillerson Secretary of State Kyiv, Ukraine July 9, 2017”

    SecEnergy Perry was in Kiev on August 29.

    SecDefense Mattis also visited Kiev in August, 2017. Both led delegations, for serious work.

    On Sept. 21, 2017, during the 72nd UNGA opening week, President Trump had a bilateral with Ukraine’s President Poroshenko, after Afghanistan’s Ghani, and before South Korea’s Moon, Japan’s Abe, including trilateral working lunch with Moon’s team and Abe’s team; followed by bilaterals with Turkey’s Erdogan, and Egypt’s al-Sissi,

    Both made comments before their bi-lateral:
    “10:22 A.M. EDT September 21, 2017
    PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. It’s wonderful to have President Poroshenko with us. We spent some time recently in the White House, and I know you’ve made good progress since then — a lot of progress, actually.
    And I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest place right now to live, but you’re making
    it better and better on a daily basis. And I do hear very, very good things.

    So Ukraine is coming along pretty well — pretty well. And at the borders, maybe you’ll tell them how you’re doing.
    Thank you. Thank you for being here.

    PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: Thank you very much indeed, Mr. President. That’s a real great honor for me to be here in the city which is so close to you. And I’m really happy to hear the words about the progress we both demonstrate after our last meeting.

    But first of all, I want to respect the great sympathy and solidarity with the American people because of the consequences of the
    hurricanes, and my admire with your very strong leadership in this hard time.

    And I really think that our cooperation, both in the security and defense sector, which is bringing already the first important
    results under your leadership, and the second, we seriously improved our economic cooperation.

    I just mention one single figure: The turnover between the United States and Ukraine during the last seven months increased 2.5 times
    because of the implementation of our agreement. And this is, again, the symbol
    that we welcome in American companies in the Ukrainian market, and creating
    hundreds of thousands of jobs both in Ukraine and the U.S. And this is really a delivery from effective cooperation between our nations.

    PRESIDENT TRUMP: [spoke about Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and especially Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands , noting his Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert was in the adjacent room. There were two Questions from media]

    Q Mr. President will you visit Puerto Rico?

    PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, I will.

    Q President Poroshenko, do you need more military aid from the United States? Do you need more military help from the United States?

    PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: We have a brilliant operation with the United States and security and defense sector. Definitely, and we very much satisfied with that.

    PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.
    END 10:28 A.M. EDT”
    The Trump-Poroshenko bilateral lasted more than one hour.
    09 21 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump (left) meets with his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in New York Radio FreeEurope Photo Kevin Lamarque Reuters

    My point? Why did Kirk Bennett publish this post on September 25, 2017, “Thinking Long-Term About Ukraine’s Defense”, with the damaging throw-away line: “Washington lacks any real strategy, and is just blindly throwing more weapons into the mix.”

    The American Interest Feature writers seem to be on a stealth mission to politely delegitimize the entire presidency of Donald J. Trump.

    I would not have bothered to post this comment, except I got curious when I read Poroshenko’s remarks, as I read through every single Statement and Press Release from the 72nd U.N. General Assembly.

    It has been twenty-five years since America had a POTUS who actually did his job. This is my therapy, to try to survive my cognitive dissonance triggered by the betrayal of trust in just about every part of America’s media and pundit class, who all still get paid, because, for some reason, they all still have jobs.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Putin thinks he will basically acquire Ukraine and probably will.

    • LUSUS

      Why Russian Ukraine?
      On the one hand it is 25 million people.
      On the other hand, this is an infrastructure destroyed to the ground!
      Only the restoration of heat in the cities will cost hundreds of billions of dollars!
      in 1991 the Ukrainian oligarchs seized everything that was possible! Water, gas, electricity, roads, land.
      for 26 years of septratism, they have not invested a single dollar in the reconstruction of infrastructure. Cheaper to build a new city than to repair Kiev

  • Alex Graydy

    Poroshenko is a thief and an alcoholic.

  • D4x

    When the author wrote: “Washington lacks any real strategy, and is just blindly throwing more weapons into the mix. Thus, in our ham-handed attempt to help Kyiv, we will only manage to send the conflict spiraling out of control.”, he implies very clearly he believes the 2017 Trump administration has done nothing to review, re-think, discuss, the 2014 agreements with Ukraine.

    No mention of President Poroshenko’s busy day in “Washington” on June 20, of Sec. Tillerson’s visit to Kyiv on July 9. His statement is detailed, which I post again here:
    “Remarks With Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko At a Joint Press Availability
    Rex W. Tillerson Secretary of State Kyiv, Ukraine July 9, 2017”

    Not one acknowledgement of Sec. Mattis visit to Kyiv on August 24, or this interesting analysis from Sept. 19, with links to this author’s sources:
    “US Defense Secretary’s Visit to Ukraine and Perspectives for US-Ukraine Military Cooperation
    Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 114 By: Ihor Kabanenko
    September 19, 2017 05:23 PM

    “Last month’s (August 24) visit of the United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis to Ukraine was the first such trip by a Pentagon head in the last ten years. …At the same time, the enduring military threats to Ukraine’s national security are forcing the government in Kyiv to consider different possible scenarios of enemy offensive operations against the country, not only on land but from the sea as well. …

    two of Mattis’ messages during his visit to Kyiv look particularly poignant: “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you are an aggressor, and clearly Ukraine is not an aggressor,” and “On defensive lethal weapons, we are actively reviewing it; I will go back now having seen the current situation and be able to inform the Secretary of State and the President in very specific terms what I recommend for the direction ahead” (, Espreso, August 24).”

    THAT conclusion links to:
    “Secretary Mattis Joint Press Conference with Ukrainian President Poroshenko Aug. 24, 2017”

    SecEnergy Rick Perry cancelled his delegation’s Kyiv trip on Aug. 29 because of Hurricane Harvey, but Poroshenko’s comments before his bilateral with Trump on Sept. 21 are clear that a lot of changes have happened since June 20, especially in Ukraine’s energy sector, even with the petulant sanctions HR 3364 imposed by Congress on July 29:

    POTUS’ official signing statement specifically cites Sec 257 Ukrainian Energy Security, the sanction making
    Germany & Europeans so angry:

    “Further, certain provisions, such as sections 254 and 257, purport to direct my subordinates in the executive branch to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives, in contravention of the President’s exclusive constitutional authority to determine the time, scope, and objectives of international negotiations.”

    My point is that Bennett writes here as if Obama, and Congressional dictates from 2014 are on auto-pilot, ignoring every citation here. He cites his own TAI post from Sept. 5 on the NordStream pipeline and the new Russia sanctions, a post I did not bother to read at the time, because I really do not care about any of this except to acknowledge that changes HAVE happened, and it is not Nov. 7, 2016 anymore.

    Sorry to be abrupt. I would not have bothered with my original comment, except I am so very tired of TAI’s pretensions that the Trump administration is doing nothing because the TAI Editorial Board thinks he is a cartoon, and worse.

    Kyiv was founded by the Rus more than 1,000 years ago. It was the soul of the Russian Empire, the birthplace of the Russian Orthodox Church.
    Too many wasted keystrokes because of a mapmaking exercise by Khrushchev in 1954.

  • Dmitry Fedotov

    If you do not pay attention to the fact that one half of this article is stupid propaganda, and the other half is complete madness, then I’m glad that Americans will supply weapons to the Ukrainians. Because the next day this weapon will appear at the Donetsk militia. Ukrainian officers will immediately sell it for personal enrichment purposes. Then Ukraine, inspired by the support of the United States, will try to launch a new offensive, its army will again fall into the “cauldron”, it will be destroyed, a crowd of Ukrainian soldiers will die, and then another mobilization from which the Ukrainian youth will hide in Russia will be called in Ukraine and everything will be the same. Except that there will be a little less Ukrainians. This seems to be the main goal of the United States. But perhaps Ukrainians will finally understand that the US is not their friend. Such a simple idea, but does not reach them.

  • Анфиса Бутусова

    Greetings from Ukraine former. I, as a participant of events, read and understood that it’s just that they lie to you. The events began in 2006 and not in Ukraine, it was from that moment that pressure began on Russia .. And sanctions on the invented cases of Magnitsky had started earlier. Ukraine itself was not touched by anyone, Putin was in power for 14 years and he was satisfied with Ukraine’s status as neutral. But in Ukraine, the United States conducted a coup of power and declared actions unacceptable for Russia. This is Ukraine’s entry into NATO, hence the whole conflict. We were amazed at what level the protests were organized in Kiev. Most of the “protesters” received money there, much higher than average salaries, and we went there to earn money. It was necessary to pass the passport and is on the square and then for every day they paid .. People were provided with food, toilets, garbage collection, heating. On the day, it cost 12 million dollars, just like the US said, they spent $ 5 billion. A huge number of agitational materials and posters was developed and produced, sound equipment and lighting were constantly installed on the square. There were also tents and blankets. With food, we received special medications, from which people lost fear and could be active more than 24 hours without being tired. But many elderly people suffered from these drugs they had consequences both from drugs. The main media were also taken under control and set up by the people against the government. For two weeks in advance, we were warned that the technology of the coup, and there should be snipers who shoot at both people and the police, to increase the conflict blood, we did not believe but it happened. Yanukovych, the Americans intimidated that they would take all the money, and he did nothing.

    • Анфиса Бутусова

      The war in Ukraine did not begin in the east, but in the west, where local authorities defected to the side of the putschists and began seizing military units and weapons. If Yanukovych tried to stay in power. The war was inevitable anyway. Russia itself does not have any plans to seize Ukraine. (in the Crimea, Russia has always been present and had troops, as well as a fully loyal population), Russia can always seize Ukraine, sanctions do not work for it, since the basic economies of the world except the US do not support sanctions. But Russia does not need Ukraine now, as it will need to be supported and financed. And now Western countries are being forced to finance. Russia needs a small slice of Ukraine as a guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO. If Ukraine forces come to power that will declare Ukraine’s neutrality, Russia will immediately leave the Donbass.

      • Анфиса Бутусова

        The conflict in Ukraine itself can be called a civil war, since the citizens of Ukraine are mostly at war. Despite all the statements, no one saw Russian soldiers, but many Russian volunteers, mostly elderly people aged 40-50 years who have old ideals. At the same time, the areas of the NDP and the LNR depend on supply from Russia and the rest of Ukraine depends on the supply and funding from the US and the IMF. Also in Ukraine, all control over the military and political decisions depends on the US .. The army of Ukraine and the Special Services are directly led by US representatives. In general, the goal of the entire conflict was to set Russia on fire from the side, and force it to engage in large-scale military operations. Russia did not go into conflict, which allowed it to reflect another threat in Syria. Since the US attack from Syria by Islamic radicals in the Russian Caucasus Chechnya Dagestan, could destroy Russia.

  • Midnight

    The whole point of the article was reduced to one thing – do not buy Russian gas, buy our gas, it’s democratic.

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