ACURA ViewPoint: James W. Carden: Isolating Russia, By Land and By Sea

This weekend saw the conclusion of NATO’s Sea Breeze 2021 naval exercise in the Black Sea. According to information released by the Brussels-based alliance, the 13 day exercise included roughly 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft and 18 special operations and dive teams from 32 countries.

The drill commenced only days after the British navy’s HMS Defender was fired upon by Russian aircraft as it made its way through the waters off the coast of Crimea in an ostensible show of support for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.

Meantime, Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian and American ground forces will convene in western Ukraine for another military exercise. According to Reuters, the drill, “Three Swords-2021,” will involve “more 1,200 servicemen and more than 200 combat vehicles and will last from 17 to 30 July at Yavoriv training ground in Lviv region.”

The center of the action, Yavoriv, is where the US and Ukraine operate a joint military base called the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine base. It might be worth asking: How many Americans know that we have a military base in Ukraine? How many know that American taxpayer dollars account for 90 percent of foreign military aid to Ukraine?

The Ukrainian president  – no doubt at the urging of Washington, DC’s well-connected and well-funded Ukraine Lobby – recently announced that Ukraine would become a member of NATO because the alliance reiterated the language of the 2008 Bucharest summit (“NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO…”) in its June communique.

Taken together, these seem unnecessary and provocative actions intended to raise the already high level of tension between Russia and the West. These actions are also morally questionable since they raise Ukraine’s (utterly unrealistic) hopes of joining NATO when, in reality, the alliance will not and can not bring them on. As ACURA’s Anatol Lieven recently pointed out in a piece for the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft, “It has been abundantly clear since 2014 that the United States, NATO and Britain will never in fact fight to defend Ukraine. To suggest otherwise is to engage in public deceit   – and to create the possibility that Ukrainian hotheads may believe this empty suggestion, the way the Georgians did in 2008 when they attacked Russian positions in South Ossetia in the mistaken belief that the U.S. would fight to save them from Russia’s retaliation.” If there is to be a peaceful denouement to the Ukrainian crisis, the US should be putting its weight behind the efforts of France and Germany to resolve the outstanding issues via the Minsk process rather than wasting taxpayer dollars in a futile, and potentially dangerous, show of military might 4,500 miles from American shores.

James W. Carden serves as an adviser to ACURA.

The views expressed here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Committee.

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