Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the situation in Ukraine. The panels were made up with a mix of current and former government officials, anti-Putin activists, and belligerent academics. The message of the day was not hard to predict nor decipher when spoken – military confrontation with Russia by making Ukraine a formal proxy war between the US and Russia.
To justify the aggression many senators – including Corker, Menendez, and Johnson – claimed the US had made a defense treaty with Ukraine and was obligated to intervene military and “stop playing footsie with Russia.” The agreement they referenced – the Budapest Memorandum – says no such thing and the aforementioned senators appeared rather upset when Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said authoritatively that the Budapest Agreement was not a defense treaty but a political agreement.
Nuland claimed she was involved in the Budapest negotiations and therefore had considerable knowledge of what it included and did not include. Senator Corker responded by saying that her statement claiming it was not a defense treaty sent a bad “signal” to US allies that may be relying on similar political agreements. Senator Menendez pushed back further claiming that if the Budapest Memorandum was simply a political agreement it could be “reinterpreted.”
Multiple members of the panels referenced a report they had worked on commissioned by the Atlantic Council and Brookings Institution that proved controversial due to it concluding that $3 billion of US weapons should not be sent into Ukraine. Sending in US arms not only risks escalation but could lead to instability in Kiev if – as often occurs – the weapons fall into unintended hands such as neo-fascist militias which are a power in their own right in Ukraine.
Another focus for those testifying before the senate committee was an information war with Russia. Two former US ambassadors – Kornblum and Herbst – noted that there needed to be US propaganda to “offset Russian propaganda” and that the US has been losing the “narrative.” They and other panelists promoted the view that Russia was undermining US power throughout the world, even positing a Vietnam-style domino theory with Ukraine being a key piece to prevent from falling.
It is a good time to be a cold war relic in DC.