Biden Promised To Provide Ukraine with Lethal Weapons. Is There Reason To Be Happy about It?

Can we hope for an increase in American aid, and how will U.S. policy on Ukraine change?

If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the election, he has promised to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Biden made this promise in a statement on the 29th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, adding that as president, he would make it clear to the Kremlin that it must end its aggression toward, and occupation of, Ukraine.

First, of course, Biden could do this because American foreign policy is in the hands of the president of the United States. Among his many other powers, the president has authority with respect to general policy and determines the amount of aid provided to different countries. Indeed, he has the power either to veto any legislation, which Barack Obama often did during his presidency, or to develop and carry out the policy with respect to any foreign country.

Second, I think that, Biden’s rhetoric about Ukraine which contains familiar mantras, is rather superficial. He probably speaks in generalities because the Ukraine issue is not his highest priority. We have already heard pronouncements about Ukraine’s independence, Russian aggression and American support, among others, during the Obama administration as well as during Trump’s presidency.

Third, I think that Biden’s stance toward Ukraine would be similar to Trump’s. After all, Biden has not added anything new to this polemic. In fact, Trump has already decided to provide Ukraine with the lethal arms that we’ve been seeking, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles and sniper rifles, among others.

Biden will have the choice of either maintaining the status quo, or increasing the aid effort, but neither option will bring any significant change in U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, which has already been adopted and is being followed pursuant to American interests. No matter who wins the presidential election, there will not be any good surprises.

In this case, the Russians will not react to rhetoric, but only to real steps. They understand the difference between the statements made by a presidential candidate and the actual actions of the presidential winner. If Biden becomes president and increases financial aid to Ukraine, for example, from the current amount of $500 million to $1 billion or $1.5 billion, then the Russians will have a motive to react.

The author, Mykola Kapitonenko, is associate professor at the Institute of International Relations of Kyiv, National Taras Shevchenko University, and director of the Center of International Studies.

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