US Considering Arming Ukraine, But Is A Longer-Term Strategy Needed

At a joint press conference today, President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel maintained a united front on the issue of Ukraine, but Obama indicated he might at some point be open to offering defensive weapons to forces battling the Russians.

“The possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined,” Obama said, indicating a slight divergence from Merkel, who believes providing weapons would only lead to additional casualties.

However, James Kirchik adopts the opposite view, arguing in Foreign Policy that German Chancellor Angela Merkel must do more to help Ukraine — including supplying it with arms.

As she said today, Merkel asserted last spring her belief that the “conflict cannot be solved militarily,” preferring instead to enter into a cease-fire agreement last fall.

At the root of Merkel’s thinking, according to Kirchik, is her nation’s wartime history.

“Seventy years after World War II, German political discussion of Russia continues to be plagued by a misplaced sense of guilt toward Moscow. This sympathy for Russia is so wide and so deep that the epithet Russland-Versteher, or ‘Russia understander,’ entered the political lexicon last year. Many German political leaders have difficulty separating the historic atrocities committed by the Wehrmacht and SS against Soviet troops and citizens with the atrocities being visited upon Ukrainians by Russians this very day,” he writes.

The question of arming Ukraine, says the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, is merely a short-term consideration that will not secure the Baltic nation’s future.

Noting that the U.S. cannot deliver weapons fast enough and that “short of sending the 82nd Airborne division into Donetsk, it’s hard to see how even the most high-tech U.S. aid can prevent the establishment of Novorossiya,” Applebaum says a comprehensive strategy is required.

“What the West needs now is not merely a military policy but a comprehensive, long-term strategy designed to reinforce Ukrainian statehood and integrate Ukraine into Europe over many years. We could begin training not only the Ukrainian military but also the security services, which were devastated by the previous Ukrainian president. We could push far more forcefully for economic reform and support it with real financial commitments. We could treat this as a very long-term project, as Merkel suggested on Saturday, build a Berlin Wall around Donetsk in the form of a demilitarized zone and treat the rest of Ukraine like West Germany,” she maintains.

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