The aid package approved in March specified 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 Javelin launchers. Since 2014, the US has provided over $850 million to bolster Ukraine’s security. Although the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 allocates $350 million for this purpose, this is the first time Kiev has received lethal weapons from Washington. Shipments of Barrett M107A1 rifles are next.
The news has come at a time when the “anti-terror operation” (ATO) in the separatist Donbas region in eastern Ukraine has just ended (on April 30), to be replaced by a joint-forces operation (JFO). The regular military, the security forces (the SBU), the police, the national guard, and the border service will all be united under one command. The SBU had been in charge before what is being called the Donbas “reintegration law” was signed and took effect in late February. The US supports the idea of bringing in UN peacekeepers who will be deployed under the terms demanded by Kiev.
From now on, the talks between Volker and Surkov will be seen in a different light, because Washington is no longer a mediator, but rather an accomplice who is fueling the conflict. With such explicit US support, Kiev will double down on its military solution. Corruption is rampant in Ukraine. It will be no surprise if the weapons fall into wrong hands and are used against the US military somewhere outside of Europe.
The weapons deliveries are always followed by military instructors who come in to provide local training. It being gradually sucked into an armed conflict that has absolutely nothing to do with America’s national security. After all, Ukraine is a European headache. The US Navy is already present in Ochakov. Their military presence so close to Russia’s borders cannot go unnoticed by Moscow. Washington will be responsible for the consequences. Russia has not deployed its military along the American border. Nor has it sent weapons to any US neighbors.
The Javelins have been shipped to a country that has just been slammed for its human-rights violations in a report drafted by the State Department. Many international organizations have sounded the alarm over the abuse of power in Ukraine, which has just become a recipient of American military aid. There is nothing US officials love more than lecturing others on freedom, democracy, and human rights. Those are their words. Deliveries of lethal weapons to one of the most corrupt countries in the world are their deeds. The Javelins sent to Ukraine will swell the power of the oligarchs who are raking in fortunes thanks to their cozy relationships with the powers that be. The conflict in the Donbas is being used to distract public attention from the worsening domestic problems.
Washington is turning a blind eye to the abuse of power in that country because Kiev has agreed to relinquish its own national sovereignty and allow itself to be turned into a tool of US foreign policy. It has recently joined an anti-Russia bloc of three nations and was rewarded by being granted an official status in NATO.
Every move has consequences. Russia can easily supply the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine with the Kornet anti-tank system, which is militarily superior to the Javelin. The Russian weapon has proven itself effective on the battlefield even against state-of–the-art tanks such as the Israeli Merkava IV. Moscow can supply the republics with weapons and electronic warfare systems in greater quantities for the simple reason that it does not have to ship that equipment across the Atlantic Ocean and all of Europe. And now that the US has crossed the red line, Russia’s hands are now free.
In theory Russia could recognize the republics as independent states, once the Minsk II accords have been forgotten and war preparations are in full gear. If their governments invite Russian forces in, in order to guarantee their own security, Moscow will act strictly in accordance with international law by agreeing to those requests.
The Javelins will not change anything. Those weapons systems are not powerful enough to give Ukrainian troops the crucial advantage they will need to ensure a victory. But the move will certainly inflame tensions, making the lives of ordinary Ukrainians worse, not better. They need political and economic reforms, not new weapons. The last thing Europeans want is the resumption of war in Ukraine. But the weapons are there. The warnings have been ignored and there is no turning back. The repercussions will be destructive. From this moment forward Washington must bear the responsibility for whatever goes wrong.