WASHINGTON – The Ukraine story of brave pro-democracy forces resisting Russian aggression has turned into a horrible mess that nobody wants to talk about anymore.
Incompetence in Kiev
What is amazing in all this is the naiveté mixed with gross incompetence displayed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He is leading a virtually bankrupt country that relies on Russian natural gas for its survival. At the same time his government is trying to resist a Russia-funded and inspired proxy war in the East.
As we know, Russia claims that it has the duty to “protect” the ethnic Russians in Ukraine who are threatened by the extremists and rabid nationalists now ruling in Kiev. This “justification” is clearly a joke; but it does not matter. The Russians will not budge.
Well, given this semi-overt Russian aggression, will someone help Ukraine, in any tangible way? Will the West arm a poorly equipped Ukrainian army, in order to allow it to resist? The answer is a clear and resounding “No”.
The West will not help
Sure enough, the US and Europe have made all the right noises. They have publicly and repeatedly condemned Russia’s behavior. They have enacted economic sanctions, and so on. But they will not –repeat, will not– give any meaningful military help to Ukraine.
Whether this is a wise course of action or not, at this point it does not matter. There will be no changes. Do not expect President Obama, with a little more than a year left in office, to start a war by proxy with Russia in Eastern Ukraine. No way.
That said, what should Ukraine do? I said it long ago, and I shall say it again: “Cut your losses. Accept defeat. Accept the loss of Crimea and of the Eastern Provinces de facto controlled by Russia through its ethnic Russian militias”.
Of course this would be terrible. No head of state would want to preside over loss of territory and humiliation. Nobody gladly surrenders to naked aggression.
But the point is that, by rejecting to acknowledge its desperate situation, Poroshenko is simply prolonging the painful agony of his country. As sad as this may be, Ukraine will get no help. Period.
Let me say it again. The country will get no real military help from the US or Europe, while it is essentially bankrupt. Even without a messy war that absorbs precious resources, It would take years of dedicated efforts to revamp Ukraine’s semi-devastated economy.
Therefore, unless you are totally insane, it is simply impossible to believe that the Kiev government has the resources and the ability to promote meaningful economic growth in the rest of the country, while spending inordinate sums of money fighting an insurgency bankrolled by Moscow in the East.
The best that any Ukrainian leader could do would be to acknowledge the facts. 1) Russia will not let go of the Ukrainian territories it has conquered. 2) The West will do essentially nothing about it. 3) And, crucial detail, the West will not arm the Ukrainian armed forces. 4) At the same time, Ukraine is broke, while it needs to buy natural gas from Russia –its enemy.
Only a lunatic could believe that by prolonging this hopeless fight, by not accepting defeat, President Poroshenko is really serving the long term Ukrainian national interest.