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Opinion
The Editors

Why Arming Ukraine Will Backfire

Arming Ukraine risks misleading the country into believing the U.S. will do what it takes to defeat Russia. And it risks encouraging Russia to expand the war.
Stuck between a rock, a hard place and nuclear-armed Russia.

Stuck between a rock, a hard place and nuclear-armed Russia.

Photographer: Manu Brabo/AFP/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin has restarted his war against Ukraine, and the U.S. and Europe are unsure how to respond. While Europe has apparently decided that no toughening of economic sanctions is called for, some in Washington are calling for equipping Ukraine with lethal weapons.

Yet arming Ukraine is likely to backfire: It risks misleading the country -- which is now pressing to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization -- into believing the U.S. will do what it takes to defeat Russia. It also risks encouraging Russia to expand the war, because it knows the U.S. and its NATO allies don’t have sufficient interests at stake to go all the way. The parallels often drawn with the war in Bosnia, where a U.S. arms and training program eventually turned the war and forced a peace, aren’t helpful: Serbia was a military minnow next to Putin’s nuclear-armed Russia.