The intertubes are all a-twitter (see what I did there?) with speculation that the United States is about to send lethal aid (AKA weapons) to Ukraine to help Kiev bring its recalcitrant rebels to heel. Kiev is excited, because it plainly does not have enough hair on its biscuit to do it by itself, and hopes this will be the thin edge of the wedge which will see American GI’s do its fighting for it. John McCain, interrupted in the middle of telling Congress about the day when the first car came to town (seen here in the very moment of realization that he has no pants on) yodeled that if Obama would not get on with the business of arming Ukraine – absolutely imperative to prevent Vladimir Putin from invading Europe, which lies somewhere to the west of Vietnam where he was once a prisoner of war – then he, John McCain, would come to the aid of his Ukrainian brothers. American lawmakers, whom he remembers fondly from watching “The Lone Ranger”, will ram through a bill insisting that Ukraine receive generous supplies of American weapons, which Obama will promptly veto, which is the whole aim of the exercise. Because McCain does not care so much about what happens to Ukraine – which is just a pawn anyway – as he does about trapping Obama in a position where he has to say “No”.
Vladimir Putin’s response, if he were asked, would likely be a more polite and less colloquial variation on “Not up in here“, although he was not asked and will not be, since of course Russia is the target in this exercise. Europe is getting distinctly nervous about the whole Ukraine situation, and while faithful Bullenbeisser Frau Merkel is still haranguing Putin at every opportunity, other EuroSkippers are beginning to mutter and kick peevishly at the sod. Very likely a vision of being responsible fiscally, morally and contractually for the smoldering, silent, ideological Schlachtfeld that Ukraine has become – and only the non-viable rump part of it at that – is dancing through their heads like the polar opposite of sugarplums.
However, a muscular arming of Ukraine is not very likely to happen – certainly not in the quantities, nor so openly as Kiev desires, because it is becoming increasingly panicky for legitimacy as it dawns on more former supporters that this whole thing really was not a very good idea. As we have discussed before many times, Ukraine was a net arms exporter before the war, and infantry weapons remain plentiful – Ukraine needs more rifles and ammunition like it needs more beach towels right now. More light weapons are unlikely to turn the tide. If the USA openly gives Ukraine – not a NATO member – more tanks and heavy artillery, it will need time to train the Ukrainian army in their operation and will merely invite a proportional response from Russia, which has up to now stayed out of it on a state level. There are not battalions of professional Russian soldiers in east Ukraine; that’s just something Poroshenko and his government say when they are losing another fight they started. Even Muzhenko, the chief of the Ukrainian Army, said in an interview with 5 channel that Ukraine was not fighting the Russian Army, only militants and volunteers. That jibed somewhat jarringly with his boss’s position, since he had said in a speech at Davos just a couple of weeks before that there were two battalions made up of thousands of Russian soldiers fighting in his country on the side of the rebels. Awkward.
Also, as some are starting to say now, the suggestion that the USA is thinking about arming Ukraine might be just a “trial balloon” to see if Europe supports it. And it emphatically does not.
But there’s another reason. And it has to do with incarcerated Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, and America’s view of itself as the indispensable nation, the guardian of the moral high ground.
When Bout was successfully extradited to the United States to face trial, press, analysts and government figures indulged in an orgy of high-fiving and self-congratulation (although the U.S. government had found it convenient to use Bout’s air transport services itself, both for its military and the private contractors who became ubiquitous during the Iraq war). Bout was a very bad man – he was evil. Not only was he an arms dealer, the famed “Merchant of Death” who sold weapons to corrupt leaders everywhere…he had actually and knowingly sold weapons to people who told him they planned to kill Americans.
And that was a common thread in the charges against him; that he had conspired to kill Americans. Knowingly.
Now the USA is poised – or so it threatens – to provide weapons to Ukrainians that it knows will be used to kill other Ukrainians, in a civil war in which the USA is backing the state. It cannot pretend it does not know that state has shelled cities still populated by civilian non-combatants for weeks, months without letup, firing indiscriminately into those cities without any idea at all where any “military targets” might be and apparently not caring at all who is killed, because the Ukrainian government has been clear that the easterners are less than human and are all terrorists. I need hardly point out such practice is directly and emphatically a violation of International Humanitarian Law.
“By providing larger and more-powerful arms than rebels would otherwise have had access to, Austin said, Bout “has actually initiated wars in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.”
That’d be United Nations arms trafficking investigator Kathi-Lynn Austin, who also highlighted previous American cooperation with Bout. Now, by providing more sophisticated arms than the Ukrainian side would otherwise have access to, the United States government is hoping to initiate a real war from the fizzling civil war that Kiev is pursuing with such single-minded incompetence.
“He unquestionably made some of the worst wars of the 20th century, early 21st century, much worse than they would have been,” said Douglas Farah, a national security consultant who co-wrote a book about Bout.”
I’m sure I don’t have to draw you a picture for you to see the equivalency there. Are the lives of Ukrainians worth less than the lives of Americans? Not only does the U.S. government demonstrably think so, maintenance of the preeminent place America currently enjoys in the global pecking order is worth more than the lives of Ukrainians, too.
Pay attention, Europe.