What were the consequences of temporarily withholding aid to Ukraine?

David Ignatius of the Washington Post instructs us to remember that “while Trump was playing politics on Ukraine, people who depended on U.S. military aid were getting killed and wounded.” Quite possibly, but Ignatius doesn’t present evidence that this is so. Instead, he cites casualties that occurred after Trump released the military aid:

On Oct. 5, a man and a woman died after a grenade exploded in their apartment in Kurakhove; on Oct. 24, a man was injured by shrapnel near Luhansk; on Nov. 1, a man was injured by shelling in Spartak.

There is zero reason to believe that any of these events would have been averted had Trump not held up aid for a few months. Indeed, even if Ignatius had pointed to deaths or injuries that occurred while aid was withheld, I doubt he could tie these occurrences to the absence of aid. (Actually, it’s possible that the release of aid would have led to more fighting and thus more deaths.)

An easier task would be to point to casualties that resulted as a result of President Obama’s unwillingness to provide lethal military aid to Ukraine. It’s quite likely that this longstanding policy resulted in loss of Ukrainian life.

I understand the distinction between denying aid to Ukraine for policy reasons (unwise) and withholding it in the hope of setting back a political rival (improper). Obama did the former, Trump did the latter.

Still, it’s intellectually dishonest for Ignatius to display outrage over a Ukrainian death and two injuries that occurred after Trump released aid, without acknowledging all of the deaths that occurred while Obama was denying aid outright.

In a similar vein, Ignatius proceeds to rip Trump for abandoning the Syrian Kurds and opening a power vacuum that Russia filled. He neglects to note that it was Obama who paved the way for Russian dominance in Syria.

Not only did Obama stand by while Russia filled the vacuum created by America’s unwillingness to implement a no-fly zone, he then farmed out to Russia responsibility for preventing Syria from using chemical weapons on its citizens. This was after Syria had ignored Obama’s “red line” on such usage (and before Syria launched additional chemical attacks).

It’s also worth remembering that a decade ago, Ignatius considered Bashar al-Assad to be America’s partner in bringing peace to the Middle East. We don’t need instruction in foreign policy from this guy.

Nor do we need Ignatius’s overly dramatic claims about the real world consequences of Trump’s misguided effort to link aid to Ukraine aid with an investigation of Joe Biden. Fortunately, impeachment aside, these consequences appear to have been negligible.

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