Arming Ukraine – It’s Time For Action

KIEV, Ukraine -- More than 20 years after the Ukraine Independence Act that created the country I love, its future hangs in the balance once again.

Alexander Temerko, the author of this article, is a Ukrainian-born British businessman and a deputy chairman of Newcastle-based OGN Group. He was previously vice-chairman of Russian oil giant Yukos.

Hostilities have resumed in Eastern Ukraine and the number of casualties are multiplying.

Following three-way talks in Berlin on Monday, the leaders of Germany, France and Ukraine all reiterated the need to implement the Minsk cease-fire agreement hammered out this year in tense late-night talks involving Russia.

“We have only one single rule today and this is the full respect and implementation of the Minsk agreement,” said French President Francois Hollande.

He is not alone in this view.

Many in the west still cling to the hope of a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.

Yet to imagine at this stage that Russia suddenly intends to abide by the Minsk II agreement is naïve, wishful thinking.

As someone who has seen the modus operandi of Vladimir Putin and his clique up close, I believe the time has come for western powers to arm Ukraine.

Power is the only language Russia understands; anything else is a weakness to be exploited for as long as it prevails.

Underneath the Russian bluster, as so often proves to be the case, is fear.

Everyone can see that Russia cannot win a war with US military muscle backing the other side.

A united and genuine show of resolve by the US and the EU to do whatever it takes to protect Ukraine, military action included, would stop the Kremlin in its tracks.

We hear a lot of voices arguing against arming Ukraine.

A rapid escalation of the violence would be the only result, they say.

Civilians would suffer and Ukraine’s economy would be damaged further if the war continues.

An east-west arms race could once again become reality – a frightening concept.

There is truth to all these arguments but we have to be clear about one thing: this war is only continuing because Putin has gone unchallenged.

We have been here before.

Putin’s aggression in Ukraine is part and parcel of his strategy to sow instability and weaken Russia’s neighbours, then impose his will on them.

He has tried this in the Baltics, in Georgia and in Armenia.

His gamble is that he can create a satellite state in Ukraine because the west would judge the costs of opposing him too high.

We must prove him wrong.

The US has already assumed the lead in taking a tougher stand against Russia.

With a presidential election looming large in 2016, Barack Obama will not want to be remembered as the president who allowed Putin to have it all his own way.

European leaders have been more inclined to appease Putin but it is clear this approach is not working.

For the first time since the Cold War, Europe is in a position where it must face down its fear of Russia and develop a unified strategy to confront the threats of Putin’s regime.

Arming Ukraine is a fundamental part of the solution but there is also an economic element.

The west must start combating the widespread corruption that swirls around Putin and his cronies.

This is a much more important part of the solution to the Ukrainian conflict than is commonly understood.

The US and EU sanctions on Putin’s inner circle and his military and political advisers have bitten harder than many in the west realise.

Restricting the vast cash flows around Putin will weaken at least one of the heavy levers of influence he wields.

In short, the time for appeasement is over.

The west faces a test.

It must prove that it is truly ready to defend the principles of self-determination, democracy and the rule of law.

Failure to do so sets a potentially disastrous precedent.

Source: ft