As the first anniversary of the Maidan coup approaches, eastern Ukraine remains enveloped in tragedy. On January 13 twelve people were killed when a passenger bus was shelled near the Ukrainian town of Volnovakha. This was followed by a rocket attack on Mariupol that killed thirty on January 24. Human Rights Watch has condemned both sides for their use of unguided rockets in populated areas. According to HRW’s latest report, at least 341 people were killed in the Donetsk region in January alone. All in all, the death toll in eastern Ukraine is now, according to the UN, fast approaching 5,400.
Meanwhile, reports that Kiev’s forces are close to capitulating in and around the town of Debaltseve continue to circulate. And into this volatile mix comes word that NATO Supreme Allied Commander Philip M. Breedlove now supports sending arms to Kiev. That The New York Times report carrying this news appeared just as the Super Bowl was getting underway seems to indicate that the administration, using NATO as its proxy, wanted to avoid too much public scrutiny of the proposed change in policy. And a change in policy it would be; the question is: why now?
After all, President Obama has been reticent to wade deeper into the Ukrainian morass. One answer may be that he is finally buckling under to the pressure generated by the Washington foreign policy establishment’s media blitz that has been calling for the United States to become a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
This well-coordinated campaign to convince the president to intervene began last week when a series of reports and op-ed pieces calling for the US to arm Kiev began to appear in major American and British newspapers. In the January 27 edition of Financial Times, former US Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder proclaimed that “now is the time to provide lethal military aid to Ukraine.” This was followed shortly, on the 29, by a joint op-ed in The Washington Post by former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and former US ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer which urged the administration to give “the Ukrainian military sufficient means to make further aggression so costly that Putin and the Russian army are deterred from escalating the fight.”
On Sunday, February 1, the conservative-leaning Wall Street Journal and the liberal-leaning Guardian each published op-eds urging the West to arm Kiev. And on Sunday night came the aforementioned report in The New York Times, which also made note of “an independent report” that was about to be issued “by eight former senior American officials” urging “the United States to send $3 billion in defensive arms and equipment to Ukraine, including anti-armor missiles, reconnaissance drones, armored Humvees and radars…”
And if the establishment’s media campaign to pressure the White House can be said to have a pièce de résistance, it is this report, titled Preserving Ukraine's Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression: What the United States and NATO Must Do.