Should the U.S. Be Doing More for Ukraine?

Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the The New York Times who’s currently reporting on Ukraine, is one of a number to call on the U.S. to ramp up its foreign policy. Republicans have been especially critical of President Barack Obama’s sanctions approach on the issue, but Kristof is arguing against both, saying that while he does “disagree with those Republicans who argue that Putin is on a rampage because of Obama’s foreign policy weakness,” he still believes that “the White House can do more — with military transfers, financial aid, economic sanctions and moral support.”

He writes that a Western-inspired revolution has led to little support from the West, and that Europe’s hesitations based on business interests and the U.S.’s caution to lend military aid are both leaving Ukraine feeling a little abandoned. “A bear is charging them, and we offer spaghetti?” he writes.

The point is particularly salient in light of recent updates on military action in Ukraine, with Ukrainian armored tanks being sent to eastern regions in order to retake towns where pro-Russian military occupation has taken root. CNN reports that Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, claims these Ukrainian forces “preferred to switch sides and join the people,” while the Defense Ministry of Ukraine sai the tanks were taken by force.

While NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen continued to emphasize that “a political solution is the only way forward,” he did announce that as of April 16, the organization “agreed on a package of further military measures to reinforce our collective defense and demonstrate the strength of Allied solidarity,” meaning NATO “will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land.”

In a Wednesday interview with CBS, Obama said that Russia is “not interested in a military confrontation with us. We don’t need a war.” He went on to make it clear, though, that there would be “consequences” to continued Russian efforts to “destabilize” Ukraine. “What I’ve said consistently is that each time Russia takes these kinds of steps, that are designed to destabilize Ukraine and violate their sovereignty, that there are going to be consequences,” said Obama, per CBS. “Mr. Putin’s decisions aren’t just bad for Ukraine. Over the long term, they’re going to be bad for Russia.” For the moment, his actions have approval ratings in Russia at 80 percent, with a mere 18 percent of U.S. citizens displeased with his job performance, according to The Washington Post.

French President Francois Holland emphasized that greater sanctions are not desirable. “We can raise the level of sanctions if there isn’t a solution, but this isn’t what we want. What we want is to reach a de-escalation,” he said, according to U.S. News & World Report. But others, including the United States, are less optimistic about what positives might com of talks in Geneva between Russia, the EU, the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine.

“President Obama’s concerns about provoking Putin are understandable,” wrote Kristof on Wednesday. He ended his piece by writing: “These people don’t have much, but they have heart. We should do more to back them up.”

UPDATE: The Geneva conference yielded tentatively positive results, based on the announcement from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said that a deal was struck between Ukraine, the U.S., Russia, and the EU.

“We adopted a document, the Geneva statement of April 17, where we agreed on immediate initial steps to de-escalate tensions,” said Lavrov, according to Yahoo News. “All illegal armed groups must be disarmed, illegally seized buildings returned to their rightful owners,” he said, adding that Russia had “no desire” to put troops in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to comment Thursday, as well.

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