Sunday, August 31, 2014

Earn NATO Membership

Ukraine wants to join NATO now that they are in a desperate fight with Russia. But while they are at war, that isn't going to happen. No insurance company sells you insurance while your house is burning down.

So this is not happening any time soon:

Ukraine called on Friday for full membership in NATO, its strongest plea yet for Western military help, after accusing Russia of sending in armored columns that have driven back its forces on behalf of pro-Moscow rebels.

So Ukraine needs to bloody Russia and win their war before Ukraine can join. Prove they are not a charity case but a provider of security and they will be able to join NATO as a partner.

Mind you, I think NATO nations should move beyond sanctions and help supply--quietly (which makes it difficult for me to assume we aren't helping Kiev, and given shipments of tanks and helicopters to Ukraine I have reason to believe we are quietly helping)--weapons, equipment, and intelligence so Ukraine can defeat the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine and inflict so many casualties on Russia that they think twice about going after Kiev--or a NATO state--again; and help Ukraine develop the capability to retake Crimea.

The article has a good idea for Ukraine:

Kiev hopes to get its message across to Russians that their government is waging war without telling them. Ukrainian Defence Minister Valery Heletey said many Russian soldiers had been captured and killed: "Unfortunately, they have been buried simply under building rubble. We are trying to find their bodies to return them to their mothers for burial."

If Russia can identify Russian corpses, their identities should be published so that Russian parents find out that they are at war.

For all that opinion polls show Putin gaining from success, on the surface it has all been a near-bloodless success. Crimea was the ideal war for Putin.

But eastern Ukraine is a different matter. Putin is not confident enough of the depth of his support to openly fight (with perhaps 5,000 Russian troops in what I assume are 5 battalion-sized task forces able to operate independently--making it easy to scale up involvement incrementally close to the border) Ukraine.

Russians, it seems, aren't eager for their sons to die for New Russia:

“All this time our authorities have been lying through their teeth, just like they did about Afghanistan back in the ’80s; and about Chechnya in the ’90s,” he wrote. “Today, they are lying about Ukraine. And while it goes on, we have been burying those on both sides who, until recently, we held as co-workers, friends and family.”

The reasons Khodorkovsky, and according to reports from a growing number of those inside the Russian information bubble, believe their nation is lying to them are growing.

We need to make sure Russians know that their government is getting their troops killed for the glory of Putin to inflame Russian sentiment against the lies.

Showing that Russians are inside Ukraine is a start--though I heard the Russians insist these are screen shots from a video game!

And we need to make sure that Ukraine can endure a long fight and inflict casualties on Russian troops to inflame Russian sentiment against deaths. Even the ultra-nationalists who push Putin to be more aggressive might recoil at failure.

Heck, even though we worry about Russia rebuilding the Russian empire, how sure are we that Russia is done fragmenting? Defeat in war could stress Russian unity.

Once Russia is shoved back, we can talk about NATO membership. But first things first. Russian soldiers need to be sent back to their mothers in boxes.

We managed this in Afghanistan in the 1980s. And Russia wasn't shy about arming our enemies in Korea or Vietnam, remember.

UPDATE: The last thing we should do is assume that we should abandon Ukraine's lost territories because Putin has no more territorial ambitions.

UPDATE: This author doesn't put it as crudely as I put it, but this is the right idea:

Mr. Obama is correct that the only plausible course is to increase the pain on Moscow to the point that Mr. Putin’s domestic position is substantially weakened. That means imposing a degree of isolation that would turn the country into a pariah state and make clear to ordinary Russians that Mr. Putin’s schemes will bring nothing but economic misery and more secret funerals. Moscow must be made to understand that the cost of its warmongering will be far greater than any potential gains.

Maybe Russians don't want to die for Putin's glory. Maybe economic recession is too much for the most nationalistic. Maybe the oligarchs tire of seeing their fortunes at risk.

Maybe just parts of Russia decide they don't want part of Putin's wars.

But costs must be paid.

UPDATE: This description of one Russian unit fighting pretty much defines our concept of "task force:"

"The battle between Ukrainian paratroopers and a reinforced tank battalion of the Russian armed forces is continuing with the goal of controlling the Lugansk airfield," military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin wrote on his Facebook page.

The question is how many of these reinforced battalions are inside eastern Ukraine?

UPDATE: President Obama's words are right on this score:

"NATO must make concrete commitments to help Ukraine modernize and strengthen its security forces. We must do more to help other NATO partners, including Georgia and Moldova, strengthen their defenses as well," he said a speech to a packed concert hall in the Estonian capital.

"And we must reaffirm the principle that has always guided our alliance, for countries that meet our standards and that can make meaningful contributions to allied security, the door to NATO membership will remain open," he said after meeting the leaders of the three ex-Soviet Baltic states.

Yes. Ukraine must show it can defend itself from Russia--by at least limiting the damage and increasing the cost to Russia. NATO will not welcome a charity case into the alliance.

And we should help Ukraine limit their losses and increase the price Russia pays for whatever it gains--if we can't roll the Russians back right now.

Now we need the actions to back these nice words.

UPDATE: Russia may be vulnerable to body bags coming home:

"Attitudes to war will change when people will themselves feel it, through price hikes or through blood like the uncle of the paratrooper who lost his legs," Shenderovich told AFP.

So help Ukraine kill the invaders. And help Russians--who don't think they are at war--understand that their government has invaded Ukraine.