03:41 GMT14 July 2020
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    Arming a government that refuses to negotiate but seeks instead total victory over its opponents is not a formula for peace. It is a formula for more war. The Ukrainian government will undoubtedly construe the supply of weapons as a token of US support for its determination to continue the war.

    Media reports from the United States speak of an intense discussion of a plan to supply arms to the Ukrainian government.

    This plan if implemented would mark a very dangerous escalation, which can only end badly.

    The Ukrainian government has resisted all attempts to negotiate with its opponents and will never do so unless it is put under pressure to do so. Other than through war, the only way that can happen is if the Western states, primarily the US, put sustained pressure on the Ukrainian government to compromise with its opponents by negotiating with them.

    Supplying arms to Ukraine does the opposite. Arming a government that refuses to negotiate but seeks instead total victory is not a formula for peace. It is a formula for war. The Ukrainian government will undoubtedly construe the supply of weapons as a token of US support for its determination to continue the war.

    The Ukrainian government would be right to do so. It is impossible to construe the language of US hardliners like Senators John McCain and Lyndsay Graham as expressing anything other than support for Ukrainian victory. US weapons supplies to Ukraine will signal to the Ukrainian government that it is these hardliners who are in charge in Washington and that Ukraine therefore has the US’s support to continue the war.

    Beyond this, the weapons themselves create their own dynamic. The mere presence of US weapons will mean the US is making public its military support for Ukraine. At that point US prestige is engaged with the US risking its prestige if Ukraine is defeated. If defeat looms the US will therefore be under pressure to escalate its support for Ukraine even more.

    If small numbers of weapons prove insufficient to turn the tide, demands will be made for more weapons to be sent to turn the tide. The weapons require trainers to train Ukrainians in their use and the more weapons are sent the more trainers there will be. As the war escalates the greater the risk that the lives of some of these trainers will be endangered. Though any suggestion of deploying US troops is being ruled out, it is very easy to see how in such a situation pressure down the line to do this to protect the trainers could grow. Once troops are present on the ground the pressure to use them in combat if things continue to go wrong will be there too.

    In the 1960s US critics of the war in Vietnam called this dynamic “mission creep”. In Vietnam it ended in disaster, as it did later in Afghanistan and Iraq and as it will do if it ever happens in Ukraine.

    The Ukrainian army is being defeated not because it lacks weapons. The Ukrainian army had an overwhelming advantage in weapons at the start of the war in spring 2014 when it had tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, aircraft and helicopters in abundance whilst its opponents had none of these things.

    The Ukrainian army could not win then and now that its opponents are far better armed it cannot win now. It cannot win because the overriding political factor that caused the conflict — the hostility to Maidan of the people of the Donbas — makes such a victory impossible.

    US weapons cannot change this overriding political factor. They cannot therefore deliver Ukraine victory. US weapons can only prolong and intensify the war, causing many more people to die whilst putting international security at risk.

    This is a bad and reckless idea and it is therefore unsurprising that all major European governments oppose it.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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