Putin doesn’t waste a lot of time on Twitter. He reads more basic and obvious signals. Like what are his enemies prepared to put on the table.
And when the answer is nothing, he knows that the words are just empty words.
Usually when foreign militaries ask the United States for equipment, it’s the kind of high-tech weaponry for which America is known: fighter jets, advanced radars, and missile systems. But for Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, the list was more basic: boots, uniforms, body armor, and spare tires. And yet, for more than two months, these simple requests have gone unfulfilled.
The list of requested materiel provides a window into a hollow and outmatched Ukrainian military. And the document shows why Kiev is losing the fight against the upstart civilian militias U.S. and Western leaders say are supported and paid by Russian intelligence officers and special operations forces.
Ukraine’s military lacks the logistical equipment, functioning vehicles and trained soldiers to support expeditions for long periods of time away from their military bases. As a result, Ukraine’s military has taken to raising funds online and relying on locals to provide everything from spare parts to hot meals.
Standing beside Ukraine’s prime minister, Biden said, “We will stand with you. It’s been inspiring to watch you and your fellow countrymen.”
The Obama administration, to its credit, has sent meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) and has committed to enhance military training that the U.S. provided before the crisis. In addition, the Obama administration has approved $18 million in military assistance, but has placed strict limitations on that funding. Defense Department spokesperson Eileen Lainez said that the U.S. Embassy in Kiev has, for now, “purchased and delivered fuel pumps, concertina wire, vehicle batteries, spare tires, binoculars, and communications gear to the Ukrainian Border Guards.”
So why did it take months to deliver spare tires?
“This request went in right after the Russians seized Crimea before the destabilization campaign in the east started,” he said. “We could have put all that equipment on planes and sent it to Ukraine and have it delivered in a couple of weeks.”
As it turns out, the Obama administration decided against even flying the MREs into Ukraine and instead has transported them by trucks.
This feels a lot like a delaying tactic.
Obama Inc. didn’t want to be seen as openly rejecting requests for aid, but it also wanted to slow the delivery of that aid so as not to provoke Putin and so as not to encourage Ukraine to seriously push back against Russia.
I’ve said that before. Obama doesn’t want the situation to escalate.
It’s a repetition of a WW2 pattern. And since he can’t control Russia, but can control Ukraine, that means keeping a tight leash on supplies and making it clear that Ukraine can’t expect much real help from the US.
All told, Karber interviewed more than 200 soldiers. In the last 10 days, he said, some of those troops whom he met have been killed in action in skirmishes in the east with highly trained Russian irregular units. “It’s now been two and a half months and those kids are being killed and they still don’t have those assets their government requested, that the kids were begging for.”
And they won’t. At least not until it’s too late. But they will have all the Twitter hashtags they can use.
This is why Putin has again escalated his conflict with the US. The more Obama plays a double game of bluff, the more his bluff gets called. In foreign policy, if you’re a world power, you either do something or shut up. Talking while doing nothing shows weakness and cowardice and invites a conflict.