Anders Åslund: How the West is Betraying Ukraine and Itself

I feel enormous frustration, seeing how the West is letting Ukraine down. Tens of thousands of brave Ukrainians have been killed and millions have been forced to flee. Meanwhile, the West drip-feeds Ukraine with out-of-date arms, though a few hundred courageous foreign volunteers have fallen in Ukraine. 

To begin with, the West (the United States!) should not restrain Ukraine but encourage it to hit hard in the whole of Russia. How can Russia’s terrorist bombing of the whole of Ukraine be tolerated? The West must support Ukrainian bombing of any military target in Russia.

Shockingly, we read about how various countries, notably the United States, are keeping large volumes of functioning but somewhat old arms in storage and decommissioning, i.e., scrapping them rather than giving them to Ukraine. All surplus arms in the whole West should not be decommissioned but sent to Ukraine at no cost.

At each turn, Donald Trump has proven that he is a loyal supporter of Vladimir Putin. Trump called Putin a “genius” when he launched his war in Ukraine. Since the Mueller investigation was not allowed to look into Trump’s finances, we have no evidence that Trump is paid directly from the Kremlin, but he has received plenty of money from prominent Russians in his real estate business. The GOP had better prove that it is not a Putin party and vote through the $61 billion package of support for Ukraine.

When that has been done, the United States should deliver all its best, most relevant arms to Ukraine, from ATACMS to F16s, so that the Ukrainian military can bomb the Russian bases that are bombing Ukraine. The US tying Ukraine’s hands behind its backs must finally end.

The eminent retired generals Ben Hodges and Philip Breedlove have repeatedly emphasized that Ukraine’s seizure or cutting off of Crimea from Russia is the critical war goal. Before the Crimean war of 1853-56, Admiral Pavel Nakhimov stated “Who controls Sevastopol controls the Black Sea.” Indeed, after the Crimea War, the Black Sea was demilitarized until a Russian victory in 1878. Crimea must not be accepted as a Russian red line – there are no such lines – but as an evident Ukrainian right.

Recently, one Russian cruise missile passed over Polish territory and another landed far into Romania, and NATO said nothing. When Russia makes incursions into NATO countries, NATO must respond. 

All the talk about Western military expenditures is of little or no consequence. The United States spends more than $800 billion a year on its military, and Europe about $400 billion. These are big numbers. Incredibly, the United States accounts for 40 percent of all global military expenditures according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and it has military bases in more than 80 countries, so don’t say that the US does not have enough military resources. There is no better opportunity to use them than now. Generously, the Ukrainians only ask for arms, not for NATO soldiers, as yet. But the situation may change, as French President Emanuel Macron has warned.

In a recent book, “The Blindsided,” former Le Monde editor Sylvie Kauffmann showed how Germany and France have got everything wrong about Russia. Instead, we should listen to the Poles and Balts, who have persistently been right. If Ukraine would be defeated, Western countries will be the next victims. Recently, they have all stated that if Russia is not stopped in Ukraine, it will proceed, and as Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has emphasized it will utilize concurred Ukrainian assets. Russian hybrid war can hit anybody. Ukraine’s cause is ours! (I am writing as a Swede, American and European.)

Repeatedly but falsely, the West has claimed that it has woken up. Hopefully, this highly desired event has finally happened. Yet, the Biden White House expresses fear (which the White House should never do) of provoking three phenomena: nuclear war, World War III, and Putin.

Nothing could be more misconstrued. There is no reason to fear a nuclear war because that will kill Putin, so it won’t happen. World War III is only likely if the West fails to stand up to Putin. Putin appears to have opted for eternal war, which will not end until he is finished, so that must be the Western aim. Thus, the West should do everything it can to help Ukraine to defeat Russia in Ukraine as soon as possible.

We must not forget finances (I leave reinforced sanctions to a future article), but the West, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Japan, should adopt legislation to confiscate all Russian Central Bank assets in the West, $285 billion that has been “immobilized” since late February 2022 and use them for compensation to Ukraine for Russia’s war damage as soon as possible.

After all the international crimes Russia has committed in Ukraine, it cannot claim any protection under international law, and in November 2022 the UN General Assembly adopted a strong resolution calling on member countries to pursue Russian war reparations to Ukraine. Sadly, the West has been deplorably slow at acting on this important UN resolution.

The West needs to finally wake up and realize that Ukraine’s cause is ours!

Anders Åslund is the author of “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: the Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy.”

This article was first published in Kyiv Post.