Is sending arms to Ukraine a good idea? Foreign Policy’s Steven Walt disagrees with several key U.S. thought-leaders– experts who have the attention of the Obama Administration – who think we should. Walt argues that Russia’s actions are better explained by deep insecurities rather than insatiable expansionism. Careful accommodation, he argues, would be more effective than deterrence.
Comment: Putin is likely acting to prevent further strategic loss, rather than seeking to protect strategic gains. Russia’s increasing economic crisis, fear of NATO expansion, and declining power are persistent and growing problems. Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman argues in Thinking, Fast and Slow, that people tend to take risks to avoid likely further losses, but will act conservatively to preserve gains. If Putin sees himself as needing to reverse a losing strategic situation, he may be likely to continue risk-seeking behavior.
On a separate note, Ukraine reportedly cannot even supply its troops in the fight with food and ammunition. Until Ukraine shows it can do so reliably, sending arms may do little practical good. If Ukraine continues operating as a kleptocacy, sending arms and more money may even create significant perverse incentives. See Sarah Chayes’ new book, Thieves of State.
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Christopher D. Kolenda is President and CEO of Kolenda Strategic Leadership which helps NonProfits maximize their impact and leadership. He commanded Paratroopers in combat and served as Senior Advisor to the Department of Defense Senior Leadership and to three Commanders of International Forces (ISAF) over four tours in Afghanistan. See his two books on applied leadership: Leadership: The Warrior’s Art and The Counterinsurgency Challenge. Follow me @KSLCEO