The battle for Ukraine is entering a dangerous new phase, as the Kiev government is finally making an attempt to regain control over its eastern cities from local thugs and Russian special forces. Is it too much to ask the U.S. to offer the military means to help Ukraine keeps its own territory?
Vladimir Putin’s campaign to destabilize and disrupt his neighbor is escalating as the May 25 date to elect a new Ukrainian government nears. The Russian strongman wants to block the vote, or disrupt it enough so he can call it illegitimate. His Russian-sponsored fighters moved this week from smaller towns in eastern Ukraine to the regional centers of Donetsk and Luhansk, taking key government installations.
The interim authorities in Kiev, which came into office after Moscow crony and President Viktor Yanukovych fled this winter, have dithered. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov on Wednesday said the Ukrainian state had no authority in the east, a demoralizing and questionable admission. Seizing an opening, Putin the next day told Kiev to withdraw from the east and sue for peace. The Ukrainians might as well send him the keys to the capital.
We’re told the assault launched on Friday reflects a change in approach and a commitment to push back. The “restraint” shown by Kiev in Crimea and in the east—which President Obama praised again on Friday—has frustrated most Ukrainians and failed to stop the Russian advance. The interim government might have faced an uprising in Kiev over its defeatist approach.
Ukraine is desperately seeking Western military help, but so far the U.S. has refused. Earlier this week in Manila, President Obama tetchily addressed his Ukraine policy, saying, “Well, what else should we be doing?” He offered another rhetorical question: “Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army?”
Well, who knows?
But Obama is so worried about upsetting Putin that he refused to send even night-vision goggles, offering 300,000 meals-ready-to-eat instead. The Ukrainians are battling to free themselves of Russian domination and build a European democracy. They deserve more than Spam in a can from America.