Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014

This proposed act is here. Its current co-sponsors are here. Among other provisions that sanction Russia, this Act commits America to reestablish the territorial integrity of Ukraine by providing advanced weapons to Ukraine’s government. This sets America against Russia, which supports Crimea as a Russian federal district. Russia also respects the eastern Ukraine Donbass republics whereas the U.S. does not.

The U.S. already has committed America to Ukraine in substantial ways.

A few days ago, President Poroshenko of Ukraine said

“We are prepared for a scenario of total war… We don’t want war, we want peace and we are fighting for European values. But Russia does not respect any agreement.”

The proposed legislation deepens the American commitment to Ukraine. It places America a significant step closer to direct confrontation with Russia. It places advanced weapons in the hands of a government that has attacked its own people and whose current leader is more than willing to conduct a “total war”. He sees the earlier fighting in Donbass as a prelude and warmup. He tells us that he has in mind a much deeper and more destructive application of force. The bill before Congress proposes to support him.

These are really serious issues to be considering. We can at least try to look at them with reason. We are talking about war and peace. These weapons will be used to kill people. That’s what this bill is about. That’s what it enables.

This bill is, one step removed, an American act of war against those parties or opponents whom Ukraine’s government may choose to attack with its newly-acquired advanced weaponry from America.

Few issues are more important to Americans than those of war and peace. One might expect the bill’s co-sponsors to address the issue of intensified military support of Ukraine and explain why they propose taking new steps on the road to war with Russia, be it Cold or Hot. They have not. The White House already began the journey down that road, but why proceed further? Why go from non-lethal aid to lethal aid? The co-sponsors fail to tell us.

When Senators Menendez and Corker introduced the bill, they made no arguments that had either substance or merit. Under international law as exemplified by the UN charter, problems relating to Ukraine’s sovereignty require action by that body. By acting unilaterally, the U.S. violates international law. However, the two senators alleged that “President Putin has upended the international order…” They alleged “Russian aggression”. If the two senators really are concerned about international law, they should support their allegations being aired in the UN. They should not support unilateral actions by the US in the domestic politics of Ukraine, such as by supplying advanced weapons, when these actions violate the UN charter.

Menendez has several times said that Ukraine “needs” American support of this kind. This statement also contained this rationale: “Ukraine needs our steadfast and determined support…” This argument has no merit or substance at all. All sorts of countries and states may be assumed to have “needs” of various kinds. How do those demands translate into commitments by the U.S. government? Need of a foreign country alone is never sufficient justification for Americans to commit themselves to a path of war. Justification for such measures requires that their sponsors connect them sensibly and directly to the security and defense of Americans. Our welfare doesn’t depend in any obvious way on serving the needs of Ukraine’s government. If the senators or co-sponsors think that it does, let them make that argument; but they have not yet made it.

Senator Corker uses other language. He says “…this bill if implemented would both demonstrate our solidarity with the Ukrainian people…” Again, we have to ask whether this is an argument with any substance. Why does it help Americans to show “solidarity” for Ukraine’s people by placing America on a path of direct confrontation and possibly war with Russia? Why show such solidarity when it means imposing sanctions on Russia that negatively impact her people and her trading partners? Why attempt to isolate a major power by economic sanctions, thereby exacerbating all sorts of political situations where Russian cooperation is helpful and damaging the world economy? What is gained by showing solidarity by weapons of war? What is gained by shutting down cooperation with Russia? What is gained by Americans by motivating Russia to ally herself more strongly with other major states and separate herself from Europe, a natural partner? If Russia is made to pay a stiff price without proper justification, might this not motivate Russia to be more aggressive in Ukraine since she already has paid the price?

It is easy for sponsors of such bills to speak of spreading freedom and democracy or defending them. This is a justification for possibly making war that is altogether too vague and too broad. This justification can never suffice for such legislation because a multitude of foreign situations fall into these categories or can be construed as falling into these categories. Specific interference by the U.S. needs specific justification, but when has that justification been accurate? Not in the case of Vietnam, not in Iraq, not in Serbia, not in Afghanistan, not in Korea, and not even in World War I. The U.S. interference that led to Pearl Harbor is another instance.

Is it the policy of the U.S. government to assure freedom and democracy in every land on earth and for all of its peoples? Have Americans appointed themselves the unilateral and universal crusaders and administrators? Because the answers to these two questions must be “no”, those who want to justify U.S. interference in Ukraine or Syria or anywhere else cannot use freedom and democracy as justification. They do not hold up. Being invited in doesn’t hold up. Stopping an aggression doesn’t hold up. A supposed foreign need doesn’t hold up. Upholding a mutual defense treaty doesn’t hold up, for these are really guarantees of the protection of a U.S. military umbrella.

Defense from an invasion of America is a justification for the use of American force to repel it. But no such justification is remotely possible in the cases of Ukraine, Syria and ISIS. The co-sponsors of the “Ukraine Freedom Act of 2014” do not have a leg to stand on. They have so far made no argument that justifies shipping military weapons to the Ukraine government.


2:03 pm on November 19, 2014