OpinionEditorial
Editorial

A U.S.-Russia proxy war in Ukraine would be an unwelcome echo of the Cold War

OpinionEditorialsUkraineRussiaRebellionsGame PlayingLifestyle and Leisure
U.S. policy options: Help Ukraine, yes; arm Ukraine, no

International outrage over the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine on July 17 does not appear to have affected either the actions of pro-Russia forces in that country or the material support Russia is offering the rebels. On Wednesday, the separatists apparently shot down two Ukrainian warplanes flying near the border with Russia. On Thursday, the U.S. accused Russia of firing artillery from its territory into Ukraine.

If Russia continues to abet the Ukrainian armed resistance, it must pay a price, as even European nations previously reluctant to impose significant sanctions are beginning to realize. This week the Europeans moved toward expanding sanctions directed at Russian officials and organizations linked to the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, and they are considering following the lead of the U.S. and imposing sanctions against sectors of the Russian economy, including defense and energy.

But some American politicians and policymakers would go beyond economic and diplomatic efforts and provide the Ukrainian government with military support. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has implored the Obama administration "to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves." That would be a mistake.

It's not clear that the Obama administration is seriously considering McCain's advice. The U.S. has provided food, body armor and uniforms to Ukraine and has promised to deliver medical supplies and night-vision goggles as well. This week the Washington Times quoted a Pentagon spokesman as saying that the U.S. also planned "to support the Ukrainian military through subject-matter expert teams and long-term advisors."

If by "advisors" the administration means computer experts and payroll managers, that's one thing. But deploying "advisors" who are military strategists or uniformed soldiers would be reckless and provocative. So would providing Ukraine with lethal weapons.

A proxy war between the United States and Russia would be dangerous even if it didn't lead to a direct military confrontation between the two nuclear powers. It also would undermine President Obama's insistence that the U.S., while it supports Ukraine's sovereignty and independence, doesn't regard it as part of a Cold War chess game with Russia.

Finally, although it obviously continues to encounter resistance, Ukraine is gradually gaining military control of rebel-held areas on its own. Russia could help end the fighting if it stopped its interference and incitement. As long as it refuses to do so, the U.S. and its allies should keep up the pressure — but stay off the battlefield.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
OpinionEditorialsUkraineRussiaRebellionsGame PlayingLifestyle and Leisure
  • Ukraine prime minister: 'Russia is on the dark side'
    Ukraine prime minister: 'Russia is on the dark side'

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk had harsh words for Russia and President Vladimir‎ Putin on Monday, saying the country is "on the dark side," blaming it again for the downing  of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and demanding that it close its Western border to halt separatist...

  • How Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky changed L.A. County
    How Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky changed L.A. County

    Gloria Molina came to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1991 after a federal court threw out the previous year's election and ordered a new one for a new district, drawn with boundaries that gave Latinos something closer to a proportionate share of representation. It was a landmark...

  • Bailed-out GM needs to rev up emissions effort
    Bailed-out GM needs to rev up emissions effort

    Half a century ago Ralph Nader published “Unsafe at Any Speed,” which warned of the hazards built into the Chevrolet Corvair. Today, General Motors' safety record is still being justly vilified, most recently for an ignition defect blamed for at least 33 deaths. And a new report...

  • How to keep future cold wars cold: Mind the missiles

    At a time when we are reflecting on the lessons from the Cold War amid growing concern about the current U.S.-Russia relationship, we should be looking ahead to anticipate how changes in technology and geopolitics create new challenges to peace and stability among the world's major powers.

  • Routing people away from the Hollywood sign is the wrong path
    Routing people away from the Hollywood sign is the wrong path

    It's a holiday weekend, you're entertaining relatives from Topeka, Kan., and since no sightseeing trip would be complete without a viewing of the Hollywood sign, you look up directions. But if you're using Google, MapQuest or most GPS systems, you'll be routed to the Griffith Park...

  • GOP could reopen citizenship paths created by Hoover and Reagan
    GOP could reopen citizenship paths created by Hoover and Reagan

    The United States has always had a “path to citizenship.” One of my ancestors simply went to a judge in St. Louis in 1850, proved he had been here for two years since getting off the boat and renounced his allegiance to the Queen of Prussia.

  • Some perspective on what we have to be thankful for
    Some perspective on what we have to be thankful for

    Of the original 102 Pilgrims who arrived in North America aboard the Mayflower in the fall of 1620, only about half survived to celebrate the first Thanksgiving, in November 1621. The rest perished through starvation and lack of shelter. The survivors gave thanks to God for a plentiful harvest....

  • The real-life Bill Cosby show: Follow the sanctimony
    The real-life Bill Cosby show: Follow the sanctimony

    The phrase “follow the money” was popularized in the Watergate docudrama “All the President's Men.”

Comments
Loading