Experts Warn of War Risk With Russia

February 4, 2015

Not everybody in Washington is a lunatic, crazy for war against Russia. There is, in fact, a growing chorus against the US supplying weapons to the regime in Kiev, for reasons that should be obvious to any sane person: it will intensify the conflict on the ground in southeast Ukraine and likely increase the risk of a direct confrontation with a nuclear-armed power.

AFP ran a column on February 2nd warning that arming Ukraine would be a dangerous move, quoting a number of Western think- tankers to that effect. Nick de Larrinaga, Europe editor for IHS Jane's Defence Weekly in London said:
"The conflict is being portrayed by the Kremlin as standing up to the West, claiming Kiev is a pawn of NATO...Supplying lethal assistance would be fulfilling that prophecy, and could even harden Russia's position."

Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution—who last week hosted an appearance there by Victoria Nuland—warned,
"There is a real risk now that we will end up in a war with Russia...As far as Putin's concerned we're already in one, an economic and financial war, and if we start sending in weapons then we've taken that up a notch."

Balazs Jarabik, of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that weapons aren't the problem, as Ukraine is the world's fourth largest producer of weapons. "Their problems lie in things like leadership, management, logistics," he said, pointing out that Western weapons would require Western trainers and technicians. "If US forces showed up in Ukraine, even if just for training, it would justify everything the Russian conspiracy theorists have been saying all along," said Jarabik.

Pat Buchanan, in a column posted on, also warns that sending US arms to Ukraine risks a broader confrontation.
"Rather than becoming a co-belligerent in this [ukrainian] civil war that is not our war, why not have the United States assume the role of the honest broker who brings it to an end."

Buchanan notes that all Cold War presidents, from Truman to GHW Bush, recognized that what went on east of the Elbe was Russia's business, not the West's. "That Cold War caution and prudence may be at an end," he writes in a column today headed "U.S.-Russia Clash in Ukraine?"

"What would Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon or Reagan think of an American president willing to risk military conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia over two provinces in southeastern Ukraine that Moscow had ruled from the time of Catherine the Great?"

Were the U.S. to start arming Kiev, Putin would have three options, says Buchanan:

"He could back down, abandon the rebels, and be seen as a bully who, despite his bluster, does not stand up for Russians everywhere. More in character, he could take U.S. intervention as a challenge and send in armor and artillery to enable the rebels to consolidate their gains, then warn Kiev that, rather than see the rebels routed, Moscow will intervene militarily. Or Putin could order in the Russian army before U.S. weapons arrive, capture Mariupol, establish a land bridge to Crimea, and then tell Kiev he is ready to negotiate. What would we do then? Send U.S. advisers to fight alongside the Ukrainians, as the war escalates and the casualties mount? Send U.S. warships into the Black Sea?"