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Gen. Walter Jajko: Arm Ukraine

USAF Brigadier General (Ret.) and IWP professor of defense studies, Gen. Walter Jajko, published an article on the rapidly escalating situation in Ukraine. His analysis is the cover story of the March 5 issue (No. 10) of the Polish weekly, Gazeta Polska.

In the article, Gen. Jajko argues that “the US should deliver as quickly as possible anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, artillery, small arms, and helicopter gunships to western Ukraine. The long-term effects of subordinating Ukraine-a country of fifty million-to Moscow gives the Kremlin the ability to exercise hegemony over Eurasia, dictate terms to the European Union, and to systematically weaken NATO.”

Below is an English version of the article.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by Brig. Gen. Walter Jajko are strictly his own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense or The Institute of World Politics. .

For US and EU warmed-over Chicken Kiev?

Walter Jajko

Even before Russia’s invasion of the Crimea, I argued that the widespread popular nationalist revolt in Ukraine has the potential for a tectonic geostrategic transformation.*  Depending on the outcome, there could be a permanent shift benefiting either Russia or the West.  Based on the West’s record of talk and no action, the odds favor Russia.

Putin and his ilk believe that Ukraine is forever attached inseparably to Russia.  If Putin can hold Ukraine, Russia can rebuild its empire.  Without Ukraine there can be no reconstructed Russian empire.  Then, in the long term, Russia would be able to dominate Eurasia, subordinating the EU and hollowing out NATO.  In the near term, Russia can continue to threaten the Baltic States and Poland directly with force, as it has repeatedly, and Germany and Poland with nuclear missiles from its illegally occupied Kaliningrad. 

If the West secures Ukraine, its independence and sovereignty – and ultimately its prosperity – will be solidified, the EU and potentially NATO would abut the very heartland of Russia, Belarus would collapse, and Europe genuinely would be whole and free and its eastern border secure.  Poland for the first time in its history would have a secure border widely separated from a diminished Russia by fundamentally friendly allied states.  Russia, with its declining population, notwithstanding its nuclear weapons and increasing oil and gas reserves, would be left a landlocked lesser power ruled by spooks and crooks, or as the Russians call them “thieves in law”, caught between the US and an assertive, much stronger China reclaiming its lost territories.

So far for the US, the Ukrainian revolt is, at heart, nothing more than an internal political dispute exacerbated by the regime’s Soviet-style gross human rights violations and protesters resorting to violence, though the US fears a Ukrainian civil war and or a Russian military invasion.  Still, the US would prefer to return to its quixotic pursuit of a strategic relationship with Russia  – even though its failed one-sided “reset” has bought only Russian active opposition to US policy on defensive missiles in Poland, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela, and nuclear disarmament – and now Ukraine.  Obama continues to delude himself that there can be some sort of partnership while Russian principles, values, objectives, and methods are implacably hostile to the West.

Thus far, the US and EU have played a weak and marginal role in Ukraine, although their primary national security interests are at stake; their misperception of this stake is sustained by fear and wishful thinking.   Neither of them have the courage, resolve, and imagination to confront Russia directly with action.  Putin knows this.  The EU is deathly afraid of anyone raising the issue of force and Obama will not use force.  The US and EU have not taken sides forcefully supporting the pro-European Ukrainians.   So far, they have done no more than spout empty words – including Obama’s latest announcement of another useless “line” not to be crossed.  The EU and US did not even treat Yanukoyych as a dictator like Lukashenko.  That the US and EU, including Poland with the most to lose, urged only negotiations and mediation between Ukrainian freedom fighters and Yanukovych’s gangsters meant that Ukraine is not a security issue for them.

For Putin, Ukraine is a primary national security interest.   Putin certainly will not accept the loss of the Russian naval bases in the Crimea.   Putin also has limited, temporary use for a partitioned Ukraine, even if the Ukrainians themselves, east and west, agree to separate.  These will be strong indicators of an imminent Russian invasion.  Yanukovych’s flight to Kharkiv and attempt to fly out of Donetsk to Russia indicate that he cannot return to Kiev and is of limited value as a Putin puppet even in Left Bank or eastern Ukraine.   Yanukovych may return as a front man on the bayonets of the Russian Army only if Ukraine, at least Right Bank or western Ukraine, rejects any tie to Russia or a civil war begins.   Putin then almost certainly will render “fraternal assistance” on the “invitation” of Ukrainian “legitimate” authorities against “terrorists” supported by US “interference” in Ukraine’s internal affairs.   

There are some practical steps that the US and EU can take immediately:  They can warn the Ukrainian Army to stand by its people and against the Russian Army, jointly with the IMF and European Central Bank raise $50-$100 B as a grant to Ukraine, and establish a strong covert action program, especially with Poland, as was done for Solidarity and Riukh, against Jaruzelski and the Soviet regimes.  The US separately could begin shipping anti-aircraft and anti-armor missiles, artillery, small arms, and helicopter gunships to western Ukraine.

*   Since events transpired very quickly, a few comments are in order to update the article: 1.  Yanukovych is finished.  He is of no use to Putin even as a Russian stooge.  2.  The US (Secretary of State and National Security Advisor) finally has warned Putin that restitution, partition, and invasion are all unacceptable, although the US has made it clear that it will not send troops. 3.  Notwithstanding wishful thinking, the Ukrainian rising will not spread to Moscow.

The problem for Ukraine’s winning opposition is to rapidly restore public order, organize an effective government, and secure cash from the West.  Organizing political parties and the electoral process for 25 May elections is a formidable task.

Even if all this succeeds, the Kiev government and western Ukraine will have to work out a modus vivendi with Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  This will mean some kind of continuing relationship with Russia.