The administration’s “smart diplomacy” does not include providing aid to those who fight internal oppression or outside aggression and whose victory potentially would obviate the need for direct U.S. action. Hence, President Obama gave Iran’s Green Revolution the cold shoulder in June 2009. He denied aid, and then dragged his feet on delivering aid to non-jihadi rebels in Syria. Now, it should come as no surprise, he is unwilling to provide Ukraine with military aid or intelligence to defend itself against Russian aggression.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been hammering the administration for weeks for failure to provide assistance to Ukraine. He was flabbergasted at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week when a Democrat on the panel suggested this would be “provocative.” When Secretary of State John Kerry served up some double talk about working out an agreed list of defensive assistance for Ukraine, McCain called foul, telling him it would take “10 minutes” to come up with a list of items that would help Ukraine to protect itself.
And on Sunday, McCain declared on “Face the Nation” that “unless we act with firmness and strength, including beginning in my view with giving Ukrainians some weapons to defend themselves and some very, very severe sanctions,” Ukraine would be a sitting duck for continued Russia aggression. He warned that if Putin “starts moving in further encroachment in this way into eastern Ukraine, they will fight. We ought to at least, for God’s sake, give them some light weapons with which to defend themselves. So far, this administration’s not only not done that, but they won’t even share some intelligence with the Ukrainian government.” He summed up: “I can tell you from my conversations with people in the government, they feel abandoned by us. And rightfully so. This is shameful.”
That view is shared by others. Eli Lake breaks the story that a key general is trying to light a fire under the administration and Congress to act. (“During classified briefings on March 26 and March 27, Gen. Philip Breedlove painted for members of the House Armed Services Committee a bleak picture of Russia’s actions — and warned that the United States was not taking steps it could to help Ukraine better defend itself. On several points — from estimates of Moscow’s troops to intelligence-sharing with Russia’s likely adversaries — Breedlove’s briefing directly contradicted the message coming from other branches of the Obama administration.”) But, of course, the White House has not been moved to act.
Ukraine’s military has now begun action to subdue pro-Russian instigators in eastern Ukraine. Should it falter, or draw Russian forces who sense the government’s vulnerability, we will regrettably once again see the results of Obama’s failure to lead and to stand up to aggressors. Unlike Jimmy Carter, who was roused by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, this president still clings to the hope that his phone calls with Putin will dissuade him from acting. No wonder the general is trying to stir Congress.