On Wednesday, President Obama issued a statement celebrating Ukrainian independence Day. “Twenty-five years ago today, Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union,” he wrote. “On behalf of the American people, I’m proud to join the Ukrainian people in marking this historic anniversary.”
That’s nice and all, but where were you when Russia hacked away at Ukraine’s sovereignty and casually invaded Crimea?
The fact is, the Obama administration is no friend to the Ukraine, and pretending to be so is an insult to the Ukrainian people.
Since President Vladimir Putin dispatched Russian troops (absurdly pretending to be civilian militia) into Crimea, the Ukrainian government has begged the Obama administration for military assistance. In its battle around the Crimean peninsula, the Ukrainian military is outmatched and overwhelmed by a better-equipped and well-funded professional Russian army.
Nearly two years ago, President Petro Poroshenko, the newly elected post-Maidan leader of Ukraine, traveled to Washington and made a desperate plea to Congress for expanded military aid.
“They [Ukrainian forces] need more military equipment, both lethal and non-lethal … urgently need,” an emotional Poroshenko stated. “Blankets and night-vision googles are also important, but one cannot win the war with blankets. Even more, we cannot keep the peace with blankets.”
The United States made a commitment that it would stand behind Ukraine’s territorial integrity and we hope that it will live up to that promise. It is Europe and America’s war too; it is a war for the free world.
The free world must stand its ground…[in a] choice between civilisation and barbarism.
The speech was met with boisterous applause from both sides of the aisle, but it received an incredibly cold reception from the White House.
“The White House responded to the speech by issuing a factsheet listing other US assistance measures to the Ukraine such as economic aid, but has been reluctant to include weapons, fearing it could never bridge the gulf in military capabilities with Russia and may trigger wider escalation,” noted The Guardian. “Nevertheless, Poroshenko’s aggressive appeal for greater US support was warmly received on Capitol Hill, where he received numerous standing ovations during an address lasting nearly an hour.”
A couple months later, Congress passed a bill that provided Ukraine with $50 million in lethal aid; “That includes $50 million for lethal weaponry such as antiarmor weapon systems, mortars, grenade launchers, small arms, and ammunition,” according to Radio Free Europe. Additionally, the bill granted $300 in general military aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russian separatists and mandated that the White House respond if Russia violates a major arms control treaty (that the US was de facto obliged to enforce anyway).
Despite the Republican majority’s full-blown support for Ukrainian sovereignty, Obama has continuously pushed back against enthusiastically implementing the bill's provisions, which he signed himself.
Ivan Medynskyi of the Institute of World Policy explains (emphasis added):
This document authorized President Obama to provide a wide range of defensive military articles, including the counter-artillery radars and anti-tank systems that the Ukrainian army urgently needed. Although Ukraine received considerable military support, including armored vehicles, drones, and radar, as well as training and joint exercises, the provision of lethal defensive weapons still remains a contentious topic…
In this regard, the U.S. Congress has consistently advocated for a more resolute support for Ukraine that includes defensive lethal weapons. In contrast, the Obama administration has adopted a more cautious approach that includes tougher sanctions and diplomatic efforts, yet in the military sphere the support to Ukraine has been limited to training and nonlethal aid. In less than a year, a new president will enter the White House.
In short, Obama has pussyfooted around helping the Ukrainians defend their sovereignty.
Despite turning his back on Ukraine, Obama is trying to fool us into thinking that he’s an ardent defender of the democratic post-Soviet world order. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
To this day, the Ukrainians continue to push for more assistance in its battle against Putin’s eastern scourge. And yet, the Obama administration remains ambivalent, refusing to do what’s necessary to protect Ukraine's sovereignty.
Ukraine may not be an official member of NATO, but if a neo-imperial Russia is given free reign to push forward into Eastern Europe, then we may have bigger problems to worry about than the preservation of democracy in Kiev.