There are good reasons for how, what and when we, contribute to Ukraine’s military needs.
And… none of those reasons have anything to do with domestic politics.
Every day, there is a headline from a major news source or multiple sources either praising or condemning the pace and choices we make regarding Ukraine’s military needs. Not one reason is political. For those with experience, we recognize just how complicated these moves are. These decisions are based on many factors; some diplomatic, some technical and a hundred other good reasons. All that matters is that we get these Ukrainian heroes what they need. So far, a global collective of ethical, law-abiding nations, are doing what was impossible, just 3 years ago. This last sentence, to be fair, does touch lightly on US domestic politics. Today, I’ll offer an overview of some of the most important issues.
Above all, the world’s support for Ukraine is without question, the right answer. It’s not just moral, but it plays a significant role in US and global security. Russia, like the Soviets before and Imperial Russia, before the Soviets, have for centuries had a paranoia about western conquerors. Hitler and Napoleon both, reinforced this paranoia with invasions of Mother Russia.
Just like the identity markers of freedom, toughness and a deep streak of independence in Americans, Russians have paranoia of the west as one of their primary identity markers. This has been even more pronounced in Russian/ Soviet leadership. All humans and groups of humans have multiple pieces of their identity, which subconsciously control most of their reactions daily. How this works, is part of understanding what narrative really is, rather than what most assume. This is a much longer discussion for another day. For today, just assume that paranoia of the west, is an operable and mostly subconscious determining factor in Russia’s behavior.
One of Russian or Soviet methods to protect themselves from an unreal threat of the west has been to expand their borders to where they felt safe. The methods and tactics they use to conquer while chasing expanded borders have been the same for centuries. They include massive loss of life in their military ranks and of Russian civilians. They have also always included, brutal war crimes on an enormous scale. This is also an identity marker for the Russian way of war. Ukraine is no different. While NATO has worked hard for decades to deter war, Russia has been playing hardball globally and especially within their own neighborhood. Ukraine is today’s most visible example.
Don’t worry, I’ll get back to tanks and planes in a few more lines. The points I’m making about identity markers is that, like leopards not changing their spots, people and nations don’t change either, except to evolve over a very, very long time. The point being, if we don’t stop Putin now, he will simply rest, rearm and re-invade. It’s who he is. The Russian people have little to no say in the matter. During WW II, the Soviet Union lost 24 million people. This is by far, the most on either side in the war. Massive loss of life is irrelevant to Russian leadership.
What all of this background means, is that unless there are any significant unforeseen changes, Russia won’t be giving up anytime soon. They will continue to throw away a generation’s worth of their young men while concurrently imposing massive military and civilian deaths in Ukraine and her allies. In order to keep up the fight, it will require some pacing by the west and to continue to build, sustain and strengthen the coalition of nations in support of Ukraine. It’s far more than just NATO.
NATO and other nations were in a fairly dangerous degree of chaos after the Trump administration. Trump continually and dishonesty attacked our NATO allies. He was hellbent on removing the US from NATO. He even bailed out on our Middle Eastern allies, the Kurds so that he could hand over their oil resources to Putin. His refusal to criticize anything Putin did was a highly visible enabling of Putin’s aggression against the US and our allies. This story is not about Trump. These details are only a piece of important background to give readers some context.
With this background established, here’s what this means to the US and other allies handing over aircraft, tanks and other critical pieces of military equipment:
1. The US and everyone but Ukraine, assumed Russia would win… quickly
2. When this didn’t happen, it became incumbent upon NATO and other allies to bolster Ukraine’s heroic defense. Ukraine is Europe’s backdoor.
3. Based on Russian identity, Putin would not stop at conquering Ukraine. Eastern Europe was next on his list.
4. In Trump’s destructive wake, NATO had an extra hard time reuniting and rebuilding trust with the US. This takes time and so far, the current administration is doing a fine job of rebuilding what Trump destroyed.
5. Once trust was on a solid foundation again, then came the hard job of bringing NATO up to speed to deal with the crisis. This also takes time, money, commitment, intelligence sharing and military strategizing.
6. It also requires nations to plan financially for their defense and this against the backdrop of elections in the US and abroad. These elections saw Putin, once again meddling to a degree that it threatened NATO and allied unity. Orban’ in Hungary, Meloni in Italy, Marine le Pen in France and so on, would work for Putin to keep Europe divided over how to support Ukraine.
7. With Putin’s influence in Europe, slowly waning (not nearly enough) there is still risk due to political parties acting like much of the US Republican party, trying to force their respective nations to NOT support Ukraine.
Okay, okay, this is where the tanks and planes come in.
1. US and allied nations employ what is called, integrated systems. In other words, for a fighter jet to be truly successful in its combat mission, it requires a very long list of supporting units and systems. Those are not fully available without our troops operating in the combat zone itself.
2. Training on some extremely complex systems and equipment takes a lot of time, especially when those we’re training, use mostly old Soviet military systems. Language and the equipment itself are barriers to rapid employment/ deployment of weapons.
3. We not only must train tank operators and pilots, but we must train all of the enabling systems that make combat missions work, intelligence included.
4. As with the tanks, just recently approved, Ukraine’s military must be proficient in new languages, different equipment and more sophisticated systems than their Russian mainstays.
5. Our Abrams tank is one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment in the entire US military establishment. Like other systems, loss or loss to capture by Russia, presents a whole different threat to future operations. It’s bad for everyone but Putin, should these tanks and support systems fall into his hands.
6. The same applies to fighter aircraft that not only have several requirements but also require other highly sensitive aircraft and their support systems to operate effectively.
7. The US and NATO assume serious risks in providing such equipment. We will though because it’s what we do… defend freedom.
These lists could go on, but I believe that we all get the point. All the while we are developing the training, deployment and logistics required for full support, diplomacy must, “keep the band together.” This is no easy choice after Trump, COVID, economic woes etc. Hats off to Secretary Blinken and his allied peers for achieving the remarkable unity that they have.
Finally, US headlines of irresponsible media, are playing all of these complications as political weapons against the opposition. WTH? The one thing that has always unified Americans since the end of the Civil War, was supporting freedom from aggression. Only in the Trump era have these true American values been challenged so dangerously.
I am grateful that in the past three years, that we’ve come full circle and again are showing the world that we will stand up for our values. One of those, is standing with our allies, against the fascism of Putin and the naked aggression of Xi, among others. Make no mistake about it, Xi, KJU in N. Korea and many other global thugs are paying attention. They are getting at least two strong messages from Putin’s genocidal war on Ukraine:
1. Putin and Russia are done as a superpower due to collective opposition from nations who abide by international laws, norms and policies
2. Their investment in Russian weapons systems, was a poor choice that may or may not support aggression by Xi and fellow thugs.
Everything we do to support Ukraine:
· Helps to rebuild our American identity
· Helps to rebuild a collection of nations willing to fight aggression
· Helps to rebuild faith in the global order of laws and norms
All three of these bullet points are essential to US national security. It’s time to stop making, “doing the right thing” a political football. Tanks, planes, missiles etc. are an investment in our own security. If anyone beliefs that this investment isn’t worth it, they aren’t paying attention. Supporting Ukraine’s destruction of the once formidable, Russian military machine is a “pennies on the dollar” investment. Or in other words, supporting the right thing, is a bargain. Can’t we all get onboard with that without political sniping? Standing for freedom is the American way, based on our most important identity markers. It’s not left, right or otherwise. It’s just being true to ourselves.