One advantage of Ukrainian soldiers having the Javelin is that it would allow them to fire from 1.5 miles, which would allow some distance between themselves and the target. Reuben Johnson of Jane’s Defence told the BBC that Ukrainian troops are being overwhelmed because they lack the proper anti-tank hardware to fight the rebels:

The Russian equipment in eastern Ukraine is some of the best they have. About 70 percent of Ukrainian anti-tank missiles are old or even expired. But almost all the Russian armor is reactive - that means boxes of explosives cover the tank, so when a missile hits a box it blows up the missile without harming the tank.


The call for providing Ukraine lethal weapons has had support from both sides of the aisle since the war started in 2014. Former President Barack Obama resisted sending Ukraine lethal aid due to fears it would provoke Russia to further stir up even more trouble.

But the reality is that the conflict is getting worse, even though no weapons have been sent.


Trump is still accused of being in a weird bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he is so unpredictable that it is difficult to gauge, exactly, how his outlook will change over time. Between his envoy to the U.N. Nikki Haley saying sanctions will continue, and his assurance to Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko of the same, Trump seems to be sending indirect signals that his White House’s stance on Putin is becoming tougher—even if it is not a direct condemnation of the Kremlin.

Russia, on the other hand, has been sending its hardware to rebels to battle government forces since the conflict started. A rebel commander told The Telegraph in 2015 that Russian tanks were crucial in winning key battles that year. And U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of the European Command, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last year that he supports sending Ukraine Javelins, but added that “I believe that we should provide the weaponry that we believe they need to defend their sovereignty, and that they are capable of using.”


If the concern is that Ukraine has not proven themselves to be a modern military, the next bet is to develop a “Train and Equip” program for Ukraine like the one the U.S. Army organized for the Georgian military in the early 2000s. The training provided Georgian troops with advanced weapons, surveillance and border patrol training.

The caveat for that relationship was that soldiers were often deployed to Iraq after their training, which is pretty much the opposite of what the stated intent was of the program. But, given that Ukraine has an active war in its own back yard, the program could be adjusted to simply train to protect their country instead of having to train under the guise of fighting global terror.


Of course, there are some disadvantages of following through with arming Kyiv. It pretty much comes down to whether the White House believes providing Ukraine lethal weapons would push the Kremlin to escalate the conflict even further. Harvard international relations professor Stephen M. Walt argued as much in Foreign Policy, saying that providing lethal weapons to Kyiv would only add to Russia’s insecurity:

“... arming Ukraine will only make things worse. It certainly will not enable Ukraine to defeat the far stronger Russian army; it will simply intensify the conflict and add to the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

Nor is arming Ukraine likely to convince Putin to cave in and give Washington what it wants. Ukraine is historically linked to Russia, they are right next door to each other, Russian intelligence has long-standing links inside Ukraine’s own security institutions, and Russia is far stronger militarily. Even massive arms shipments from the United States won’t tip the balance in Kiev’s favor, and Moscow can always escalate if the fighting turns against the rebels, as it did last summer.

Most importantly, Ukraine’s fate is much more important to Moscow than it is to us, which means that Putin and Russia will be willing to pay a bigger price to achieve their aims than we will.


The argument is legitimate, but the only issue is that Washington and most of the NATO alliance has been trying to appease Putin for more than a decade to no avail. Whether it is the Baltic States, Romania, Poland, or any other post-communist state that is now a NATO member, they are in the alliance because they fear Russia and choose Brussels over Moscow. Putin’s insecurity is very real, however the west cannot burden itself with a man who refuses to realize that most of his neighbors do not want to be chained to his “sphere of influence.”

Moreover, one of Putin’s primary geopolitical tools is to create problems in conflict zones in former soviet states that want to leave his political orbit and freeze them. This is the case for South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Transnistria in Moldova and currently Donbass in Ukraine. If the conflict in eastern Ukraine ends up like Georgia and Moldova, Putin will permanently host instability near NATO’s borders.


And if Ukraine is beaten into a permanent state of near-collapse, then the world will need to start worrying about Putin’s next play. Maybe the Baltics.