May 6, 2014 by Darius
There have been increasingly shrill cries lately about how the US needs to be arming Ukraine to aid it against Russia. There are two problems with that argument: (1) Ukraine is not a US ally, and (2) there’s a difference between punishing Russia and supporting Ukraine.
Taking up the second point first, there needs to be a clear objective in US policy relative to Ukraine: US actions should be designed to punish Russia for its unacceptable aggression. Russian behavior towards Ukraine is a menace to regional peace and stability. For that reason, US involvement should deliver the message, to Russia, that its naked land grab is unacceptable in the 21st century.
As for Ukraine, it is not a member of NATO, it is not a prospective member of NATO, and it should not be. Since its independence from the USSR, Ukraine is a democracy only in the sense it holds regular elections. It is widely considered to be the most corrupt country in Europe and one of the most corrupt countries in the world, coming in 144th out of 177 on Transparency International’s corruption index. In fact, the most apt description I’ve heard of Ukraine recently was from Brookings’ Jeremy Shapiro who referred to Ukraine as having “a unique system of alternating kleptocracies.”
Ukraine is not Lithuania. US interests do not include protecting or arming Ukraine.
Punishing Russia: good. Aiding Ukraine: not necessary. It’s important that US leaders, and the American people, understand that there’s a difference between the two.