Why the United States should not be arming Ukraine
Military aid to Ukraine serves absolutely no national security interest, prolongs the conflict in Donbas, and wastes billions of dollars that should be spent on more important things.
A week and a half ago, the American news cycle exploded into a state of pandemonium as the White House made public a transcript-like memorandum of President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The call itself had already been the subject of intrigue thanks to a whistleblower complaint originating from within the intelligence community; however, House Democrats quickly weaponized both the call and complaint with allegations that President Trump had inappropriately extended a quid-pro-quo to President Zelenskiy involving American military aid in exchange for Ukraine’s help in investigating possible wrongdoing by Former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Debates on cable news have raged on like the Great Fire of Rome since the release of that now-infamous transcript, with most of the parley focusing in on the ethicality of Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president and the plausibility of impeachment. The one thing that hasn’t been up for debate is the question at the center of this controversy, “Should the United States be arming Ukraine in the first place?”
Back in August, news outlets started reporting that the Trump administration was slow-walking $250 million dollars in military aid to Ukraine. This solicited outrage from figures across the political spectrum who rushed to denounce the move as undermining “American national security interests.” What was shocking about this series of events was the sheer uniformity on display. Pundits and politicians alike lined up behind arming Ukraine without question or even discussion, eventually mounting enough pressure on the Trump administration to fold its cards.
According to reporting by the Washington Post, the White House decided to release the aid intended for Ukraine after Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) threatened to freeze $5 billion in Pentagon funding for next year unless the Trump administration went forward with the military assistance promised to Ukraine. It should be noted, Senator Durbin is the Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, which is a sub-group of lawmakers in the Senate who advocate, lobby, and vote collectively for pro-Ukrainian policies. That fact alone might explain the lack of thought diversity on display. Absent of any pro-Russian lobby in the United States, the pro-Ukraine lobby has been able to monopolize Congress and coalesce support around its interests.
That, however, should not stop us from having an honest debate about whether or not the United States should be sending millions of taxpayer dollars to Ukraine each year to fund a war that has nothing to do with the United States. The fact is the United States should not be arming Ukraine and there are at least three fundamental reasons why.
First of all, the United States does not have any “national security interest” at play in Ukraine. Despite what many leading pundits and politicians say in these vague, buzzword-filled speeches that advocate for military aid, America’s security is not being threatened. The civil war in Ukraine is not similar to the Syrian Civil War, where the government was once on the threat of collapse and groups like ISIS had the stated goal of overthrowing the government as well as launching attacks on the Western world. The separatist movement in Donetsk and Luhansk is nothing like that. The War in Donbas is motivated by the separatist movement’s goal to gain independence from Ukraine. If the Donbas region breaks away and becomes an autonomous republic or reunites with Russia, then how is America national security threatened by that? Simply put, it’s not.
Second of all, American military aid is counterproductive to resolving the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The conflict itself has already claimed more than 13,000 lives, but instead of fostering a peace settlement, America’s military aid encourages Ukraine to prolong the war and the suffering that coincides with it. Tendentious cable news experts might say that Ukraine needs America’s military aid to “defend itself,” but the truth is that Ukraine has fought almost entirely on the offensive side of this war. American military assistance gives Ukraine the impetus to continue its offensive on the Donbas region, even while the conflict sits in a stalemate, ripe for resolution. It promotes a military solution for what should and could be a diplomatic or democratic solution.
Last but not least, the United States is wasting billions of dollars that could be spent elsewhere on more important things — things like healthcare and education, which are far more important to average Americans than aiding and abetting a proxy war with Russia. More accurately, the US has reportedly provided $1.5 billion dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine since 2014, while at the same time a large number of Americans have been drowning in exorbitant debt incurred by ever-rising education and healthcare costs. From simply the point of view of a return on investment, sending millions of dollars to Ukraine each year yields virtually nothing for the United States. American economic interests do not profit from prolonged instability in Ukraine, which military aid arguably perpetuates.
That said, if the United States wants to be a force for good and advocate for democracy then it has several avenues to do so. For example, the United States could organize an internationally-recognizable status referendum for Donbas to resolve the conflict, act as a mediator between the two sides, and send humanitarian aid to the areas most affected by the conflict. Either one or all of these approaches would have a verifiably positive impact on the conflict. More importantly, such approaches would do more good for more people.
This article was originally published with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).