Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Limits of Smart

Yes, big-ticket Western weapons for Ukraine aren't smart. But not because it might provoke Russia. They're pre-provoked and perfectly willing to lie, anyway.

While I agree with this article's point that arming Ukraine with big weapons is a mistake, his worry about the effect on Russia is wrong:

Why [is sending Western weapons to Ukraine a mistake]? Most important, they would make real the myth that Russia is responding to NATO aggression in Ukraine. Nothing is more likely to raise support in Russia for going to war in Ukraine -- at the moment, it's just 13 percent -- than footage of U.S. weapons killing Russians on the border.

As he does note, that is a mistake because it would take too long to integrate Western weapons systems to replace their old Soviet-designed stuff any time in the next several decades (Egypt is still switching over nearly forty years after "flipping" from the USSR to us).

But while it may not be smart to go down that path, the idea that making Ukraine a harder target for Russian aggression would provoke Russia to expand their aggression is plain dumb. Don't make eye contact with Putin and the crazy man will go away on his own? Really?

We need to make Ukraine a bleeding ulcer for Putin if he persists in taking and holding Ukrainian territory. If Ukrainians have the stones to resist, we should help them.

How much restraint in arming our enemies did the Soviets exercise during the Vietnam War? Hmm?

And we armed resistance to the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan. We should be more afraid of Russia now?

As I've written repeatedly, selling big items to Ukraine is pointless. They have lots of heavy weapons if it can be maintained. It can even be modernized. Our new NATO allies in the east with their history of Soviet-designed weapons can help. And since Ukraine has a history of using these types of weapons, there won't be a problem in getting them into combat with troops who know how to use them.

Our aid is best kept to financing that help and providing niche gear for infantry and communications.

And intelligence, advice, and training.

I'd also help with anti-ship missiles and naval mines so Ukraine can threaten Russia's shiny base at conquered Sevastopol.

Would our longer range (300 kilometer) ATACMS work in that role? Could be.

Heck, I still think that France should complete the sale of the Mistral's to Russia but send Exocets to Ukraine (and anybody else in the former Soviet Union with a coast) with instructions on where to aim the missiles for the most lethal effect on the hull of those French-built amphibious warfare ships.

But the notion that sending aid to Ukraine will allow the Russians to use footage of American weapons killing Russians would not only require the Russians to admit they are in Ukraine (and perhaps admit that body bags are coming home), but would require you to believe Russia isn't already complaining about the NATO threat and believe Russia isn't capable of fabricating Western aid, as they did in their Georgia invasion.

Or is that Russian fabrication of footage of a Ukrainian fighter shooting down that Malaysian airliner over secessionist territory some odd exception that proves the rule?

Russia already has American equipment taken in the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 to haul out for tame reporters.

This is what Putin does.

And the idea that since Ukraine isn't perfect they don't deserve our help ignores the fact that Russia is worse, Ukraine at least aspires to join the West, and regardless of Ukraine's conduct the Russian invasion violates international law and Russian promises, and should be resisted on that ground alone.

Stop worrying about angering the Russians and whether the Ukrainians are perfect. Focus on stopping Putin.