Renewed heavy fighting combined with a breakdown of ceasefire talks have dispelled any hope of a quick, diplomatic end to the conflict raging in Eastern Ukraine. To date, Western support for the besieged nation has been limited to rhetoric, economic sanctions, and provision of non-military aid. While these measures are helpful, they have not dissuaded Putin from sending additional troops and arms to support Russian separatist forces.
Since the breakdown of the latest ceasefire, Russia has provided separatist forces with a variety of heavy weapons, including T-72 and T-80 tanks, multiple rocket launch systems, APCs, and an estimated 1,000 additional Russian troops. At the time of this writing, these heavy weapons are pounding Ukrainian positions in the Donetsk and Volnovakha regions.
Even with plans to conscript an additional 50,000 troops for their army, Ukraine will not be able to match Russia in a prolonged fight. And while diplomacy is ultimately the best approach to end this conflict, there will be little incentive for Russia to negotiate a settlement so long as Ukraine continues to be massively outgunned.
With Secretary of State John Kerry set to visit Kiev this week, there is some hope the U.S. may move past rhetoric and start providing military support for the Ukraine. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey now support sending “defensive weapons,” including anti-tank rockets and anti-artillery radar. Their position was mirrored by a report released earlier today by the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Given its reliance on Russian energy, it is unlikely Europe will step forward with military aid. But that does not mean the United States will be without allies if it chooses to take a more aggressive posture. Canada has backed up its tough talk with tangible support to the Ukrainian government, including an additional $200 million in loans earlier this month. There are deep historic ties to the eastern European nation, as Canada is home to the largest expatriate Ukrainian community in the world (over 1.2 million strong).
Earlier in January, Canada opted not to add Ukraine to the list of countries to which automatic weapons can be sold, after expanding the list to include Kuwait and Israel. Canada has historically been cautious of getting too far ahead of America when it comes to foreign policy. If the Obama administration decides to provide arms to Ukraine, that could change the equation for Canada and other non-European allies.
(Featured image courtesy of cbsnews.com)