Obama Administration Advised Ukraine Not to Fight Russia When Putin Invaded in 2014

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin
Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin / AP
• August 21, 2015 10:02 am


The Obama administration advised the Ukrainian government not to fight Russian forces when Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea in 2014, the main reason for which was a desire not to anger the Russian president.

Bloomberg reported that, according to U.S. officials, the Obama White House believed pushback from Ukraine would move Putin to launch a larger military campaign against the country, similar to what Russia did in Georgia in 2008.

However, experts and officials now view this advice as that which gave way to Ukraine’s consistent hesitancy toward military conflict with Russia in fear of angering Putin, a policy that has been largely unsuccessful. Crimea overwhelmingly voted to secede from Ukraine in March 2014, pro-Russian rebels currently hold areas of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine and the rebels have indicated that they will continue to push westward and gain territory.

President Obama has held firm in his decision not to deliver lethal aid to Ukraine, which, according to a Republican lawmaker, is anchored in his desire not to engage militarily with Putin. Meanwhile, senior administration officials—reportedly including Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter—have encouraged Obama to send lethal aid to Ukraine.

A senior White House official refused to comment on the administration’s conversations with the Ukrainian government.

"We remain committed to maintaining pressure on Russia to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreements and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including Crimea," the anonymous official said.

Earlier this week, NATO expressed "serious concern" about the current violence in Ukraine and warned pro-Russian rebels against seizing more territory in the eastern part of the country.

As of late last month, nearly 1,000 combatants and civilians had been killed since the alleged peace agreement was brokered between Russia and Ukraine in February in Minsk. The conflict has resulted in at least 7,000 deaths since it began in April 2014.

Last month, Pentagon officials proposed equipping Ukraine with more powerful, longer-range radar to help the country fight back against the separatists, but the Obama White House has not yet approved the proposal.