On December 23rd, Russian media reported that Washington has decided to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine. This was announced by US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who said that the aim of arms supplies will be to “help Ukraine build its military long-term, defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and deter further aggression.” ABC News also cited State Department Sources that Trump intends to send Javelin anti-tank missile systems, in particular around 210 missiles and 35 launchers totaling at a cost of $47 million.
Thus, the idea that we have been discussing for a long time has finally become a reality. The Ukrainian military has high hopes for these weapons deliveries, almost assuming that the Javelin systems will be a panacea. Let us not forget, however, that the UAF has already accumulated some experience of operating American military equipment.
There is some opposition to this to be found in Ukraine, however, which understands the overwhelming costs of this step. For example, one of the most serious and non-partisan Ukrainian journals wrote: “The sending of lethal weapons to Ukraine also creates the alarming possibility that American weapons will kill Russian soldiers, which could provoke dragging the two nuclear powers into a direct confrontation.”
I have long believed that it is highly probable that the conflict between the US and Russia could escalate up to the point of a local armed conflict in Ukraine (or possibly also in some Eastern European EU countries). The State Department’s decision increases the likelihood of this alarming forecast.
Moscow has repeatedly warned against plans to afford military assistance to Kiev insofar as such inevitably leads to an escalation of the conflict in Donbass. On December 23rd, immediately after the news came out of Washington, Russia’s Federation Council and State Duma issued responsive statements. However, they are no longer in a position to correct the situation, as all that remains is conjuring an optimal response to these actions of the new US administration.
Russia is being overtaken by growing disillusionment with Donald Trump’s politics. Trump ran in elections with the promise that he would restore partnership with Russia but, contrary to most contradictions, he has largely remained an imperialist as opposed to a nationalist or isolationist. Indeed, left-wing American media have been actively discussing the nature of the “deep state” that has imposed its will on President Trump. Perhaps if Trump had a free hand, he would abandon Ukraine as a non-core asset for the sake of strategic partnership with Russia on other issues of global security that are more important for the US. But presidents come and go, and American foreign policy retains striking continuity.
The professional bureaucracies of the State Department and intelligence agencies have consistently worked on bringing Ukraine closer into the US’ orbit and political consensus, while Trump has not done anything fundamental to resolve the situation in and around Ukraine. In his place, a consistent anti-Russian majority in Congress and a professional bureaucracy have been doing their job of preventing cooperation with Russia at all costs. If Trump had not become president, Clinton, in tune with the establishment, would have long ago already unleashed a supply of lethal weapons.
The US State Department’s decision changes not only the military and technological picture on the battlefield in Donbass, but also the military and political situation at large. The supply of American weapons contradicts the spirit and letters of the Minsk Agreements, Point #1 of which provides for a complete ceasefire. Moreover, supplying arms to a warring country, especially one already violating ceasefire agreements (which has been repeatedly recorded by the OSCE SMM, only for the latter to blame all the sides) will only contribute to the conflict’s escalation. Of course, the Americans have covered this with a propaganda barrage alleging that Russia is unilaterally violating Minsk and that Ukraine is an innocent victim of Russian aggression.
American arms supplies will de facto bury Minsk. Strategically, Minsk is already doomed, but American arms deliveries to Ukraine will only accelerate this process.
How can Russia respond? While there have been talks about supplying arms “through the vent” of South Ossetia (as evidenced by recent statements from the entourage of DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko), I believer that Russia has the right to directly supply weapons to the DPR and LPR in response to American deliveries.
In the very least, Russia or its ally South Ossetia could begin delivering weapons to the armies of the DPR and LPR in order to balance out the military potential of the warring sides. But this is only one possible response and is not even the most painful for the Ukrainians. From Russia, we can expect not only big unpleasantries for the Ukrainian regime, but ultimately a new Syria for the US, i.e., a humiliating defeat of the American Empire by military superpower #2.
Originally published on fort-russ.com