Arm Ukraine?

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There is an ongoing debate about whether the United States should send arms to Ukraine. Supporters, which may soon include the president, openly admit that providing arms will do little to protect Ukraine against a determined Russia. Why, then, would we arm Ukraine, and against the wishes of our European allies? Advocates offer several reasons: to raise the cost for Russia in Ukraine; to send a message elsewhere along Russia's periphery, especially concerning the sovereignty of eastern NATO allies; and because many Americans want to do something to stand up to Putin, or, as Senator Lindsey Graham puts it, "I will feel better."

But our foreign policy actions should not be designed to make us feel better; they should advance U.S. national interests. While providing arms to Ukraine would raise the cost to Russia, it could escalate the conflict making a political solution more difficult to achieve. And Ukraine is not a NATO member, thus we are not under any formal obligation to protect them. Indeed, rhetorically linking them to NATO reinforces a large component of Putin's justification for meddling in Ukraine — fear of further NATO expansion.

These are just some of the reasons why a number of Cato scholars oppose sending arms to Ukraine. And we are not alone. Several outside experts, including Barry Posen, Rajan Menon, and Stephen Walt also view such a policy as unnecessary and counterproductive. Featured below are articles and interviews that provide context for the crisis, detail the perils of arming Ukraine, and outline alternative policy options.

"Don't Raise the Stakes in Ukraine," Emma Ashford, Cato at Liberty, February 3, 2015
"No, This Is Not another Cold War," Emma Ashford, Orange County Register, January 7, 2015
"The Goal of Sanctions Shouldn't Be to Wreck Russia's Economy," Emma Ashford, Real Clear Markets, December 17, 2014
"Ukrainian Crisis Must Not Become a Frozen Conflict," Emma Ashford, Al Jazeera America, November 15, 2014
"Think Again: NATO," Justin Logan, Foreign Policy, June 21, 2014
"Accepting Spheres of Influence in the 21st Century," Ted Galen Carpenter, Aspenia Online, May 7, 2014
"Is Estonia Worth a War?" Justin Logan, National Interest, April 14, 2014
"Are the Baltic States Next?" Ted Galen Carpenter, National Interest, March 24, 2014

"What Would Vladimir Putin Do If John McCain Gets His Way on Ukraine?" Marina Koren, National Journal, February 19, 2015
"Facing a Fragile Ceasefire," Rajan Menon and Kimberly Marten, Foreign Affairs, February 13, 2015
"3 Reasons the U.S. Should Not Arm Ukraine," Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, February 11, 2015
"Just Say No: America Should Avoid These Wars," Barry Posen, National Interest, February 10, 2015
"Why Arming Kiev Is a Really, Really Bad Idea," Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy, February 9, 2015
"Don't Arm Ukraine," John J. Mearsheimer, New York Times, February 8, 2015
"Want to Arm Kiev? Better have a Plan B," Rajan Menon, Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2015
"Don't Arm Ukraine," Daniel Larison, American Conservative, September 1, 2014
"Ukraine: Part of America's 'Vital Interests'?" Barry Posen, National Interest, May 12, 2014

The Situation in the Ukraine, Emma Ashford, Good Evening Wales, BBC Wales Radio, February 12, 2015
The Conflict in the Ukraine, Emma Ashford, BBC News 24, February 7, 2015
U.S. Options for Dealing with Russian Aggression, Justin Logan, News Nightly, EWTN, February 6, 2015
Sanctions Give Russia a Convenient Scapegoat, Emma Ashford, Cato Daily Podcast, December 22, 2014
The Latest in Ukraine, Doug Bandow, Think Tank w/ Garland Robinette, WWL, March 6, 2014