By Michelle Pineiro and Janet Weil
We at CODEPINK, a grassroots organization that supports peace and human rights, are opposed to the US sending further military aid to the Ukrainian government. As the situation in Ukraine currently stands, thousands of lives have been lost, mostly in eastern Ukraine, and hundreds of thousands of refugees are being created under the violent and deteriorating conditions. Sending US military equipment into this mix will only intensify this tragedy.
Experts with the Brookings Institution and the Atlantic Council released areport on February 2, 2015, calling for the US to provide Ukraine with “radars, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), electronic counter-measures for use against opposing UAVs, secure communications capabilities, armored Humvees and medical support equipment … and light anti-armor missiles.” But there’s a catch: “The Ukrainians are currently unable to operate such high-tech equipment. They would have to receive extensive training from American advisers,” reports German newspaper der Spiegel in “The War Next Door.”
In addition to all this equipment and the prospect of US trainers/advisers on the ground in Ukraine, the Brookings/Atlantic Council report calls for $1 billion [of US tax dollars] in military assistance as soon as possible and $1 billion more in 2016 and 2017, and persuading Poland and other countries to contribute supplies to the anti-Russian Ukrainian forces.
Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, and Republicans in Congress have used this perspective to justify funding one side of a de facto civil war in Ukraine. With no apparent benefit to US national security, it’s clear that those benefitting from the situation will be the weapons and drones manufacturers.
The magnitude of the fighting in eastern Ukraine and the potential for a proxy war between the US and Russia led French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to travel to Kiev in February with proposals for peace. Understanding the severity of the situation, they have remainedfiercely and publicly opposed to sending arms to Ukraine. Meanwhile, US General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, made exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims about Russian military presence that appear designed to inflame hostilities.
Sending weapons to the Kiev regime will encourage more fighting and thus more death and destruction. Furthermore, it will undoubtedly create a more difficult path to peaceful negotiations beyond the ceasefire hammered out in Minsk on February 14, but not yet fully implemented. Unfortunately, the US House of Representatives already passed a bill that would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to the new Ukrainian government. The Senate also is considering an aid package for Ukraine, but has not yet voted. Moreover, the Obama administration said on March 11 that it would provide another $75 million in “nonlethal aid” to Ukraine’s military, including surveillance drones and countermortar radar systems. President Obama also agreed to send 30 armored Humvees and 300 unarmored Humvees.
Alternatives to providing drones, missiles and other weapons to one side of a de facto civil war in Ukraine, and further eroding the US relationship with nuclear-armed Russia, should be actively pursued: diplomacy and humanitarian aid.
The US needs to try to undo the damage caused when representatives of the US government, including State Dept official Victoria Nuland, helped overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine last year. This meddling has led to the US’s alignment with the nationalist, neofascist Pravy Sektor party. The Pravy Sektor contributed largely to the Kiev government’s military assault on Ukrainian civilians, thus creating a humanitarian crisis -- and Pravy Sektor has refused to recognize the Valentine’s Day cease fire agreement.
Diplomacy and multilateral collaboration are necessary to achieve peace in Ukraine and avert a wider conflict in the region. If any US aid is to be given, it should be truly humanitarian aid to the many refugees and other traumatized civilians.
The United States is already involved in wars and military actions in too many countries. CODEPINK calls for a peaceful resolution of the issues between Ukraine and Russia without further US interference or support of one of the sides to the conflict.