AFP reports: Washington is once again mulling military support to Ukraine after fierce offensives by Kremlin-backed rebels, but experts fear it will only justify Russian conspiracy theories and drive East and West closer to full-blown war.
The recent rebel attacks across key parts of the frontline in eastern Ukraine may have been timed precisely out of fear the United States could soon get involved.
“One reason the rebels have intensified their offensive now is to make gains before potential US arms arrive,” said Andrew Wilson, author of “Ukraine Crisis: What it means for the West.”
“The US faces a moral dilemma: if it does not act now, the conflict could worsen. But there are big risks to getting involved.”
The White House is once again under pressure to up its involvement in the 10-month-old Ukraine conflict as ceasefire talks collapse and casualties soar.
The UN says 278 people were killed in the 12 days to January 21 alone as Russian-backed rebels sought to capture key transport and communication hubs.
An independent report released Monday by eight former senior American officials said it was time for Washington to provide $3 billion (2.7 billion euros) in military assistance to Ukraine.
“The West needs to bolster deterrence in Ukraine by raising the risks and costs to Russia of any renewed major offensive,” the report said. [Continue reading..]
Simon Tisdall writes: Washington’s threat risks turning what is currently a largely contained, internal insurrection into an international proxy war, pitting the US and Nato against Russia. In prospect now is the killing or maiming of Russians by American anti-tank missiles, a scenario not seen since the cold war-era occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. The impact on wider European security could be deeply destabilising.
Tensions are already running high, not least with the increase in air and sea incidents involving the Russian military, such as last week’s provocative over-flight of the English channel. Nato’s decision to set up permanent military command centres in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and its creation of a 5,000-strong rapid response force are characterised by Putin as an attempt by the west to contain Russia.Last week, he ridiculed Ukraine’s army as Nato’s “foreign legion”.
Such an American escalation would probably deepen European divisions over Ukraine. Greece, heavily indebted, and Hungary, which has close economic links to Russia, take a very different line, for example, from that of the UK, which American reports suggest could follow any US lead in supplying weapons.
Uncertainty about Russian intentions has already caused a bad case of the jitters in Finland, Sweden and the Baltic republics. In the Czech Republic, the army chief of staff, General Petr Pavel, was quoted last week as predicting that an escalation in Ukraine would lead to the biggest military manoeuvres since 9/11, with troops being posted to the borders and to guard strategic plants. There are also wider European fears of mass refugee movements and manufactured unrest among expatriate ethnic Russian and Ukrainian minorities.
Judging by past performance, Putin is more likely to up the ante than back down if the US goes ahead.