Nothing threatens Putin’s regime more than Ukraine
During a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House earlier this month, President Biden “firmly committed” to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and “Euro-Atlantic aspiration.” The U.S. reaffirmed Ukraine’s right to decide its own foreign policy without foreign interference. Donbass; and seized Ukrainian vessels and sailors in the Kerch straight.
Nothing threatens Mr. Putin’s regime security more than Ukraine. Mr. Putin does not want Ukraine to be a beacon of hope and inspiration for his own domestic opponents who are denied basic civil liberties, including freedom of expression and assembly. Mr. Putin wants Ukraine to be so politically dismembered and territorially fractured that NATO and EU membership are forever out of the question.
Seeking to exploit Ukraine’s geostrategic vulnerabilities resulting from Russia’s pernicious and multifarious attacks, China blocked delivery of COVID-19 vaccines until Ukraine withdrew its signature from a joint UN Human Rights Council statement calling on China to admit independent observers to Xinjiang to investigate the persecution of Muslim Uighurs. Asserting its influence as Ukraine’s leading trade partner, China negotiated agreements with Ukraine to build critical infrastructure, including roads and airports.
China’s aspiration for global influence extends well beyond competing with the U.S. as a Pacific power. Using its “One Belt, One Road” as cover for debt-trap diplomacy, China has set its sights on attacking the independence of nation-states from South Asia throughout the Third World. Ukraine is in China’s crosshairs.
EU members, particularly Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania, which share a 1300 mile border with Ukraine, are increasingly at risk from the two nations the Biden administration rightly assesses constitute the greatest threats to U.S. national security.
Time is running out for the Biden administration to take three steps or risk further erosion of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
First, the U.S. should turbo-boost its trade with Ukraine. During a recent visit to the U.S., Ukraine Minister of Finance Serhii Marchenko rightly emphasized the importance of making Ukraine’s economy more competitive and resilient by increasing foreign investment.
Growing commercial ties with the U.S. would be the engine for reforming Ukraine’s state-owned enterprises, central bank, infrastructure, and judicial system.
Mr. Marchenko expertly accomplished the precursor work, which resulted in $3 billion in support from the U.S. Export-Import Bank. He held productive discussions with the International Monetary Fund, which lauded Ukraine’s progress in carrying out reforms and the U.S. Departments of Treasury and State.
U.S. lawmakers have repeatedly expressed concern about Ukraine’s endemic corruption, but Mr. Marchenko makes the correct argument about expanding economic ties, especially in renewable energy, to drive better business practices.
Second, Ukraine is preparing to apply for EU membership in 2024 to join the EU in the 2030s. This extended timeline allows too many years for Russian and Chinese incursions, which would only complicate and possibly derail Ukraine’s EU membership. The U.S. should work with our European partners to negotiate with Ukraine on speeding up the process.
Third, laying siege to Ukraine since the Euromaidan protests began in 2013 and imposing a “frozen conflict,” which impacts the calculus of invoking Article 5, Putin accomplished his strategic goal of blocking Ukraine’s NATO membership. Judging by President Biden’s tepid response to Zelensky’s entreaties, a NATO membership Action Plan appears out of the question for the foreseeable future, as long as the war in Donbass continues.
The U.S., therefore, needs to double down on its military, intelligence, and strategic support for Ukraine far beyond the recent $60 million security assistance package, including Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles. The U.S. should host senior Ukrainian defense and intelligence officials to discuss expanding these critically important relationships.
NATO should increase its training programs’ scope, intensity, and frequency to modernize Ukraine’s military and enhance its capability.
Having emphatically stated Ukraine’s success is central to the global struggle between democracy and autocracy, the Biden administration must pursue an aggressive Ukraine policy or risk losing Ukraine to our adversaries.
• Daniel N. Hoffman is a retired clandestine services officer and former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He has been a Fox News contributor since May 2018. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.
(c) Washington Times