The House of Representatives is tired of waiting for Barack Obama to finish his process of deep contemplation regarding whether to provide lethal aid to pro-Western fighters in Ukraine resisting the advance of Russian forces and pro-Moscow rebels. On Monday, a bill compelling the president to provide Ukraine with “military assistance to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity” passed the House with bipartisan support.
The language in the bill is clear about the precise nature of the threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and does not obscure the fact that it is the Russian Federation that is trying to destabilize and absorb portions of its neighbor’s territory. The House bill charges Russia with providing weapons, training, and logistical support to the rebel factions in eastern Ukraine. It asserts that Russian soldiers have infiltrated Ukrainian territory and is providing “direct combat support to the separatists groups.” Finally, the bill contends that the aggression against Ukraine and the occupation of its territory by Russian soldiers is an unprovoked violation of international norms and an effort to erode the foundations of international peace “established” and “defended at great cost by the United States and its allies in the aftermath of World War II.”
“[T]he House of Representatives strongly urges the President to fully and immediately exercise the authorities provided by Congress to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapon systems to enhance the ability of the people of Ukraine to defend their sovereign territory from the unprovoked and continuing aggression of the Russian Federation,” the bill concludes.
The president and his administration have made every effort to contend that they have not presided over the establishment of a new Cold War between the West and irredentist elements in Moscow, but the reality is plain for all observers to see. Russia is not only reasserting its prohibitive influence in its “near abroad,” but it is also seeking to revive its Soviet-era relationships with its former proxies all over the globe.
“Russia is rekindling its once-strong ties to Nicaragua, possibly including providing the Central American nation with jet fighters, stoking unease as far away as the Andes in South America,” McClatchy reported on Monday. “The rumored provision of the Russian jet fighters to Nicaragua has spawned fears of an arms race in Central America and once again made Nicaragua a bit player in the geopolitical to-and-fro between Washington and Moscow.”
Meanwhile in Europe, Russia has reengaged the nuclear sabre rattling of a bygone era. In August of 2014, officials in Denmark revealed that one of the nation’s frigates would be outfitted with radar that would contribute to NATO’ European missile defense shield. This week, the Russian envoy to Denmark said that Moscow would respond to this development by targeting Danish warships with nuclear-tipped missiles.
The move comes as the rhetoric from NATO commanders grows increasingly bellicose over the situation in Ukraine. “Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its continuing destabilization of Eastern Ukraine have put the European security system — and all the rules and agreements that underpin it — under severe strain,” NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said in early March.
The House of Representatives has elected to address the threat posed by the Russian Federation’s revanchism, but the White House continues to bury its head in the sand. Increasingly, it looks unlikely that Obama will be able to leave office without addressing the growing threat posed by Moscow.