Pitfalls and dilemmas of arming Ukraine

A picture showing a launch of a modern portable anti-tank missile
British Army soldiers firing a Javelin missile during a demonstration of the army’s weapon systems on Salisbury Plain on Oct. 21, 2015 (source: dpa)
  • Washington’s decision to let Ukraine have advanced U.S. anti-tank weapons has more political than military import
  • Moscow is likely to respond by ratcheting up the military conflict in Ukraine and its pressure on the Baltic states
  • The Kremlin is in a position never to allow having its proxy forces in the Donbas region routed

The long-standing issue of whether the West should supply lethal weapons to Ukraine gained a new twist on March 1, 2018, when, following lengthy internal deliberations and much pressure from the Pentagon, the State Department of the United States authorized the sale to Ukraine of 210 modern anti-tank missiles, the Javelin. It was a symbolically important step, signaling that the U.S. stood ready to increase its commitment to Ukraine’s cause.

Given dire warnings from various Russian sources against such a step, one would have expected a quick flare-up. On March 4, though, the Salisbury poisoning temporarily overshadowed the standoff over Ukraine. That does not mean the matter of the Javelins has been forgotten or forgiven. But the context has changed, in an alarming way.

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