In its responses to Vladimir Putin’s flagrant aggression against Ukraine, the Obama administration has been playing catch-up — and without much sense of urgency or resolve. Small wonder, then, that the Russian government and its allies in Ukraine have shown little hesitancy in reaching for what they want.
What they wanted first was Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed just a few weeks ago. What they apparently want next is eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian forces have occupied government buildings in several cities, demanded union with Russia and ignored the Ukrainian government’s Monday deadline for them to leave. After it passed, they took over more buildings.
They were not cowed by President Oleksandr Turchynov’s announcement that he was sending military units to carry out a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” to see that Putin does not “repeat the Crimean scenario in Ukraine’s east.” Maybe the rebels expect forceful help from Russia, which has deployed some 40,000 troops close to the border, along with tanks and aircraft, that could cross over on short notice.
A Kremlin spokesman said, “The president of Russia is watching events in these regions and is deeply worried.” For “deeply worried,” read “smacking his lips.”
In that context, it was small consolation to hear an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry say that the United States is “looking at” possibly sending arms to Ukraine. It would have been more heartening to hear that the weapons and equipment were already there or at least on their way.
Likewise with the European Union plan to convene an emergency meeting to consider additional sanctions — next week. As for Joe Biden’s plan to visit Kiev on April 22, what chores does the vice president have that couldn’t wait for him to fly over now to show solidarity with the Ukrainians?