Saturday, February 21, 2015

The U.S. Should Arm Ukraine — But Not Because This War Is Winnable

By Casey Michel, TNR

As you read reports about the United States potentially increasing arms deliveries to Ukraine, keep this in mind: This war is already more than the Kremlin bargained for. And if average Russians see it get any worse, President Vladimir Putin will likely find his sudden surge in post-Crimea popularity evaporating. So the West's impulse to shorten this war through escalation—or by at least by helping yank the Ukrainian military into the 21st century—is almost certainly the right one. As the number of dead Russian soldiers begins climbing, outraged Russian citizens could well be the ones to end Putin's incursion.

Anyone following non-Kremlin media realizes full well that Moscow doesn’t want to acknowledge Russian troops’ deaths. The Kremlin doesn’t want you, or Kiev, or the Russians back home to know that its soldiers leading and aiding pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine are dying by the dozens, casualties in generic insignias and unmarked graves.

The lengths to which the Kremlin has gone to obscure those casualties are typical of its broader modus operandi, both historically and tactically. The Kremlin attempted this play in Afghanistan in the 1980s, eliding the fact that Soviet forces saw myriad casualties during invasion, and in the First Chechen War, combining abject denials of Russian presence from above with concerted muffling from below. The redirection—the silencing—also fits with Moscow’s current information policy. The Kremlin tells its populace, its media, and its lawmakers: Don’t dig. Toe the official line. Smother the truth, depriving these dead soldiers of dignity. Because, claims the Kremlin, these men are not in fact obeying orders. Rather (goes the lie) these are “volunteers," coursing with Russian messianism, eager to put their lives on the line against the fascism brewing next door. No one has ordered their presence in eastern Ukraine. They’ve arrived under their own volition, for god and country.

(More here.)

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