In an effort to help Ukrainian forces even the odds on the battlefield, the Trump administration has approved a plan to send Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. The move follows months of debate within the Defense Department and White House on whether or not to sell lethal arms to Kiev. The Javelin ATGMs will be included in a package of arms that will be provided to Ukraine for the first time. Up until now US assistance has been confined to training and support equipment.
The Javelin is a highly effective missile that has been proven in combat. It is known to be effective against most tanks and armored vehicles in the Russian arsenal. For the duration of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian-provided –and in many cases crewed– armor has often tipped the scales in the direction of the separatists. Kiev had requested Javelin shipments from the Obama administration since the beginning of the conflict, though the previous administration refused for fear of escalating the conflict. The current administration’s decision to provide the Javelins now is going to give Ukraine a weapon that will help even the odds against Russian armor on the battlefield.
Predictably, Russia has not reacted positively to the US move. Not long after the US State Department announced the intentions to provide lethal arms to Ukraine, Moscow warned the move will cause new bloodshed in the fighting, and possible escalation. “The United States has crossed a line by announcing its intention to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Saturday. “U.S. weapons are capable of leading to new casualties in our neighboring country, and we cannot remain indifferent to that.”
US-Russian relations have grown chillier in recent months. The Trump administration is obviously adopting a tougher stance towards Russia and the Javelins are a clear sign of this. As 2017 is coming to an end, events in Ukraine, and US-Russia relations are again taking priority in the minds of policymakers and analysts in Moscow, Washington DC, and Europe.
Iran and the White House are obviously on separate pages regarding the interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that was reached in Geneva. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif contends that the concessions agreed to by his side have been misunderstood by the US. During an interview on CNN, Zarif was adamant that his country is not dismantling any portion of its nuclear program. “We are not dismantling any centrifuges, we’re not dismantling any equipment, we’re simply not producing, not enriching over 5%.”
The US and Iran each regard the language of the agreement differently. This comes as no surprise. What is questionable, though, is the level of expectation that the White House had in mind for the interim agreement. Did the Obama administration expect Iran to begin dismantling its nuclear program at some point in the near future? It’s apparent that is not going be happening. Zarif, using diplospeak, just told the White House to go take a flying f**k.
Clearly, Tehran wants to strike a long term deal with the West and they want the terms to be as favorable to Iran as possible. Favorable in this instance means the removal of the economic sanctions that have strangled Iran’s economy, without having to agree to restrictions being placed on the nation’s nuclear program. From the Iranian perspective, a best-case scenario would be the lifting of sanctions coupled with the eventual acquisition of a nuclear device. On the other side of the equation, this result is a worst-case scenario for the United States and the other Western powers.
Iran’s leaders understand that time is on their side. The longer the negotiation process is drawn out without resolution, the closer Iran gets to a workable nuclear weapon. US Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that if an agreement cannot be reached, the military option remains on the table. His words are little more than tough talk. Kerry’s hawkish warning has not been backed up by decisive action by the Obama administration. After the US inactions in Egypt and Syria, Iranian leaders probably believe that they have little to fear from American cruise missiles and warplanes. The sad part is that they might be correct.
Israeli missiles and warplanes, on the other hand…….