Eastern Europe: Addressing a rare joint session of the U.S. Congress, Ukraine's leader warns, like Churchill before him, of a growing and resurgent menace that has committed crimes in his country and threatens the West.
On Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gave a 40-minute speech to a rare joint session of Congress alerting lawmakers to the plight of his country under Russia's creeping "Anschluss."
Poroshenko once again pled for meaningful aid, including an affiliation with NATO, and warned that a new Iron Curtain may soon descend as Vladimir Putin tries to reassemble the Soviet Union whose demise he has publicly mourned.
"The war that these men are fighting today is not only Ukraine's war," he said. "It is Europe's, and it is America's war too. It is the war for the free world."
But once again Ukraine's request has fallen far short of being met.
In March, Ukraine asked for arms and ammunition, intelligence support, aviation fuel and night vision goggles. The Pentagon agreed only to provide the Ukrainians with supplies of U.S. military rations known as Meals Ready To Eat, or MREs.
This time Ukraine did not get much more than that — just some peripheral gear such as night-vision goggles and helmets. But once again it received no lethal aid that Poroshenko's country desperately needs, such as requested anti-tank weaponry.
In a bit of perhaps unintended sarcasm during an emotional speech to Congress, Poroshenko said that "blankets, night-vision goggles are also important" but that "one cannot win the war with blankets."
It's not surprising that Ukraine's pleas to President Obama have fallen on deaf ears. This is, after all, a president who betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense shortly after taking office, and who vacillated on the Russian invasion of Georgia as a U.S. senator. He's not about to draw any red lines in Ukraine.
He is the same man who, just seven months after his swearing-in, went to Donetsk with then-Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar to tour a conventional weapons site.
Obama pushed for the destruction of large amounts of conventional weaponry for the Ukrainian military — including for eliminating 400,000 small arms, 1,000 anti-aircraft missiles and more than 15,000 tons of ammunition — based on vague assurances the Cold War was over and the U.S. would provide a security guarantee.
"We need to eliminate these stockpiles for the safety of the Ukrainian people and people around the world by keeping them out of conflicts around the world," Obama said at the time. So much for that promise.
As Poroshenko told Congress, "This Ukrainian Army — imagine, these young boys, underequipped and often underappreciated by the world — are the only thing that stands between the reality of the peaceful co-existence and the full relapse into the nightmare of the previous century; into the new Cold War."
"The imperialistic mindset is still there," Poroshenko said, noting a "nostalgia for the Soviet Union." The presence of Russian-speaking minorities in other countries might, as in Ukraine, be used as a pretext for intervention or outright invasion.
"Who is the next?" Poroshenko asked. Who indeed.
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