With the North Korea and Iran pots both simultaneously coming to a boil, it’s naturally hard for national security specialists to take on any more complex and dangerous issues. Yet Syria and Yemen demand major attention as human rights catastrophes. Did we forget that U.S. troops are still somehow mired in Afghanistan – “the forever war”? Then, there is the seeming possibility of yet another Ebola outbreak in central Africa. Also never mind that the Taiwan issue could blow sky high at almost any moment and that volatile questions surrounding the South China Sea are very far from resolved.
Meanwhile, it is reported that the much-discussed Javelin anti-tank missiles have already been delivered to Ukraine per the Trump Administration’s policy reversal of the Obama Administration’s prohibition on lethal aid to Kiev. This was not missed in an early April survey of the Ukraine situation in the Russian military newspaper Voennoye Obozrenie. Hinting at the likelihood of near-term escalation, the article ran under the headline: “Kiev Has Not Left Moscow Any Choice” This article suggests that the 210 Javelins delivered to Ukraine “are capable of seriously altering the balance of forces in the Donbass theater of military operations.” The article notes Ukrainian special forces operations against Crimea going back a couple of years, but the focus of this piece is actually on the evolving maritime situation.
In particular, there is evidently significant worry concerning a Russian fishing boat “North” seized by Ukrainian forces on 25 March. Calling for a strong reaction, the author asks the reader to “imagine for a moment the scenario in which a Chinese fishing seiner was seized by the Navy of Vietnam … ” Rather disturbing, moreover, is also a reference to a “weekly (but sometimes more often) flight by an American strategic UAV MQ-4C that conducts a reconnaissance flight for many hours in the airspace close to the line of contact in the Donbass.”
Another Russian assessment that dates from March 2018 from the same military journal is similarly dark and bellicose. This second piece was published under the title: “The Quiet Americans in Ukraine”. This piece details the February 2018 visit of a senior American defense expert, who formerly led the prestigious Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) during 2001-2009 to Ukraine, where he was apparently to serve as a consultant-observer to the Ukrainian state weapons development corporation. According to this rendering, this individual has been charged with the creation of the “Ukrainian DARPA.” Not surprisingly, Moscow is rather perturbed by the increasing level of American security-oriented support for Kiev. This Russian analysis asserts: “It’s hardly a secret that Washington is extremely interested in reinforcing the military potential of contemporary Ukraine, which they see as the sworn enemy of the remainder of Russia and the main check on the process of the strengthening of the eastern Slavic historical enemy of the West.” The article suggests that Ukraine has become a “laboratory” for the testing of weapons and tactics against Russia. The analysis concludes that the visit of this high-level American defense expert, when taken together with the transfer of the Javelin anti-tank missiles, suggests “… the conclusion that the American stake in the further buildup of Ukrainian military power, confirms, in particular, the long-term confrontation with Russia …”
But let’s try not to be so depressing. Ukraine is after all far away, right? If this author can find any shred of hope at the end of this sad tale, it is only that the World Cup is about to go off in Russia, so Moscow has every reason to “play nice” in difficult circumstances, at least for a few months. Speaking of sports and the international situation, perhaps the Washington Capitals might finally deliver Lord Stanley’s Cup to the shores of the Potomac for the first time? With a roster packed full of Russian talent, a Capitals victory on the ice could perhaps provide some much-needed cheer for the gravely troubled U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International.