Arming Rebels

800px-AK-47_type_II_Part_DM-ST-89-01131Your neighbor Jim has a very nice lawn. You’re jealous of that lawn. You want that lawn. In fact, you want to annex Jim’s property and kick him out. So how do you get there? That’s simple! You sneak assault weapons and surface-to-air missiles over to Jim’s wife with the hopes that she’ll force him into exile or ruin. Now, Jim’s wife may not really be his wife. She could be a soldier impersonating his spouse for the purpose of destabilizing his home. We don’t know for sure, but suffice to say, you should never be generous with military-grade hardware.

U.S. intelligence officials are fairly sure that Russia has been passing arms to Ukrainian rebels during this catastrophe. Arming rebels is a classic Cold War move. Cuba, Afghanistan, and other nations are tainted with a stinky residue left behind by super powers. In each spot, the provider has assumed that feisty freedom fighters will wage war and seize the government without the direct involvement of an external military. If possible, a civil disturbance might be stirred by their own agents. It’s convenient. It’s nearly antiseptic. And if you’ve got a puppet regime in your drawer to fill the seat left behind by your target, then the game is as good as won. What can possibly go wrong?

In this case, collateral damage. Airliners can be blown out of the sky by errant SAMs. Fighter jets and ground troops can take fire from surprisingly well-equipped militants. (Hooded, of course.) This runaway circus happens to be next door to a super power that is very good at doing this sort of thing. However, things aren’t so rosy in Moscow if Russia is involved. Ukraine is an absolute mess. It may not be so easy to annex, and left in a worst state than before. More importantly, the country is canvassed by the intel assets of European states that still remember when NATO danced with big brown bears.

On the continent, strife has a way of spilling over borders. Following the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said, “This horrifying incident serves as the starkest reminder of how dire the situation in eastern Ukraine has become–and how it affects countries and families well beyond Ukraine’s borders.”

Regardless of arming rebels and accusations, the Ukrainian people will suffer for months to come, and this must surely compel world leaders to seek a backroom settlement. Make a deal, and make if soon. Things are getting out of hand in Ukraine, and someone wants their lawn.

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