Sending American troops to Ukraine is the beginning of more effective assistance to Ukraine, which will have an impact on that country’s defense capabilities in its confrontation with Russia.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (left) attends the "Fearless Guardian 2015" U.S.-Ukrainian joint military exercises which take place at the Yavoriv training ground, with U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt (second left) seen nearby, in Lviv region April 20, 2015. Photo: Reuters
For a very different take on this issue, read "The imitation game: Is American military aid to Ukraine effective?"
Ukraine has become a kind of a catalyst for the next radical transformation of the world. Thanks to the events in Ukraine, the world, for the first time since 1991, has been forced to think seriously about its future. The example of Ukraine, for the first time since the disappearance of the bipolar world, has clearly revealed the misconception about the impossibility of the emergence of new dividing lines within the seemingly homogeneous European world.
Considering the current situation in Ukraine, we cannot forget about how all of this began. Not with Donbas, but with the “polite little green men” in the Crimean peninsula, and the annexation that followed on March 18, 2014, something that simply did not fit into the framework of the political logic of the postwar world.
And the “former tractor and combine operators” that fought near Debaltseve, allegedly with heavy weapons purchased on the local arms market, were merely the logical continuation of “the Crimean adventure,” where Russian military vacationers had, for some reason, decided to exchange the warm sea and local sanatoria for the right to engage in a struggle for the so-called “Russian World” on an opponent’s territory.
However, before this happened, there were the tourist-demonstrators, whose presence on the territory of Ukraine was organized through the nominal Ukrainian-Russian border, thundering their way into the buildings of local authorities, thus aggravating the situation in the eastern and southern regions of the country (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Odessa).
The West did not know how to react to such blatant and cynical moves by an international partner that just yesterday was seemingly sane and predictable. However, this defiant Russian behavior could not go unanswered by the Western world. The question arose: How best to react?
The West chose to use economic and financial instruments of influence – sanctions. In parallel, diplomatic efforts to reach a settlement of the conflict continued. Gradually several formats were created in which they made attempts to work out acceptable compromises, the main purpose of which was to achieve a cease-fire and withdrawal of heavy weapons from the demarcation line. The result of these efforts was the signing in September 2014 and February 2015 of documents that came to be called the Minsk Agreement and the Minsk 2 Agreement, respectively.
However, a hybrid war continued being waged against the rules of conventional warfare, despite the Minsk Agreements, which were violated and keep being violated up to this day. However, the victim in this war, being left alone to grapple with the aggressor, should be able to resist the maximum number of components of this hybrid war, primarily in the military sphere.
The most difficult issue in the organization of international assistance to Ukraine was exactly this question related to the military sphere. Since NATO, the EU and major European countries refused to supply Ukraine with weapons and military equipment (there was never any talk about the participation of foreign troops in the conflict) – there was only the United States left.
It was in the United States where major political battles started being fought over the possibility of providing for the needs of the Ukrainian Army. The most ardent supporters of military assistance to Ukraine were U.S. congressmen from both political parties.
In February of this year, two senators – the Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Dick Durbin – headed a conference on the Ukrainian question, designed to contribute to the strengthening of political, military, economic, and cultural relations between the U.S. and Ukraine. These two senators, together with 15 other colleagues, issued a demand that U.S. President Barack Obama and NATO extend military assistance to Ukraine, in order to protect its sovereign borders.
Unlike the American lawmakers, the administration of the U.S. President was of a different opinion. In an address to the U.S. Congress during his State of the Union Speech in 2015, President Obama, referring to the leadership of the United States in the modern world, said: “We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we do not let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now. And around the globe, it is making a difference.”
It seems that the words of the American president are an attempt to visualize how the United States intends to operate in the foreseeable future in the field of international relations in general, and in international security, in particular. Washington is not going to fully refuse from participating in the resolution of international conflicts. Simply, the Obama administration, given the changes that have occurred in the world and in the United States, is trying to put into practice, as much as possible, two distinct approaches to foreign policy – isolationism and a missionary purpose.
Having seemingly the opposite goals, both of these approaches, according to the Americans, can serve as the basis for a new world order, based on the principles of democracy, free trade and international law.
The first practical step in the implementation of such an approach, with regard to Ukraine, can be considered the joint exercises entitled Fearless Guardian, which began in the western part of Ukraine. The main task of these exercises is to prepare Ukrainian troops for combat activity in the current conditions.
It seems that the sending of American military instructors to Ukraine became a kind of a compromise between Congress and the administration of President Barack Obama.
The importance of this step lies in the fact that this was done by the United States alone, as the country least dependent on Russia (in contrast to Washington’s European partners). Thus, this move, in a way, creates a kind of an international precedent, allowing other countries of the world to take part in the creation of new international security architecture.
Therefore, in addition to the United States, participating in this training program will be Ukrainian partners from Canada, Great Britain, Poland and other NATO countries, as well as Australia. Moreover, by all appearances, this is just the beginning of the process of the world community providing real and effective assistance to Ukraine.
In providing this form of assistance, the United States offered the citizens of Ukraine not an already caught fish, but a fishing rod, with which, after they learn how to use it, they can provide themselves with everything necessary. This will require time and corresponding efforts. Nevertheless, this is precisely the way foundations of any serious endeavor are laid.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.