Sunday, January 11, 2015

Help Ukrainians Help Themselves

As I've been urging as an alternative to sending new major weapons to Ukraine, Ukraine is receiving existing weapons back into service after refurbishment:

A pair of MiG-29 'Fulcrum' and two Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker' fighters were handed back to the Ukrainian Air Force (Povitryani Sily/PS) during a ceremony at Ozerne Airbase attended by President Petro Poroshenko.

In addition to the aircraft, about 150 ground vehicles and other weapons systems were handed over to the military during the event.

It always seemed counter-productive to me to ship in new weapons to Ukraine--even though they'd be better on paper--when Ukraine has lots of existing weapons that Ukrainians are already familiar with and which are more than adequate to face Russian troops.

The key is repairing and modernizing them. Our new NATO allies with recent experience with these same systems could be invaluable in restoring Ukraine's military. The article doesn't say who refurbished the weapons but I would be surprised if NATO was uninvolved.

Adequate as long as the Ukrainian forces using them are well trained and led, of course.

UPDATE: Ukraine needs these weapons since despite the mythical ceasefire in the east, Russia's hand puppets have never stopped trying to capture the Donetsk airport--which Ukraine could lose:

Shelling hit a passenger bus in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT), killing at least 10 people, and fighting intensified around the international airport in the city of Donetsk as separatists tried to oust government forces.

I've long been uncomfortable that the rules of this continuing war allow Ukraine to defend while allowing Russia to attack. Which means the fall of the airport is only a matter of time.

Time to change the rules and have the Ukrainians counter-attack around the airport to drive the Russian proxies back.

UPDATE: Is this development really a shock when you consider that Ukraine has been limited to defending?

The Ukrainian military has lost part of Donetsk airport Wednesday after four days of intense artillery bombardment from advancing pro-Russian fighters, according to reports from the Ukrainian Independent Information Agency (UNIAN), citing Hromadske TV, a Ukrainian television channel. Ukrainian artillery support was able to slow the rebels' advance Tuesday, keeping them within 450 yards of the airport's newest terminal, but fresh bombardment overnight has allowed separatist fighters access to one-third of the terminal where intense fighting has continued.

The story reports that Ukraine's 80th Airmobile brigade is involved in the defense.

Ukraine is capable of going on offense and defeating the separatists. They did it before.

Yes, Russia may intervene again as they did back in the summer to halt that Ukrainian offensive. So what? Make Russia exert a bigger effort to win this war so they suffer the consequences of escalation. I really don't think Russia wants a bigger war.

If Ukraine won't change the rules, Ukraine might as well sue for peace rather than ask their troops to die for nothing. Eventually the troops will stop doing that anyway when they notice that the rules only allow them to alter the rate at which they lose the war.

UPDATE: A day later, does this mean Ukraine will act like they are at war, too:

Ukraine's parliament voted on Thursday to refresh its front-line forces and resume partial conscription after a top security official warned that Russian forces backing separatist rebels had sharply increased military activity in the east.

Because we are seeing what happens when just one side--Russia--acts like it is at war.

UPDATE: For now, Russia's ground power is limited despite being greater than their western neighbors' ground power:

Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, told Reuters an attack on another neighbor does not seem like an immediate threat because Moscow appears to have its hands full in Ukraine for now.

But that could change within a few years, when upgrades sought by President Vladimir Putin would give Russia the ability to carry out up to three such operations at the same time, without a mobilization that would give the West time to respond.

"Right now, without mobilizing, I don't think they have the capacity to do three major things at one time. They can do one thing, I think, in a big way without mobilizing. But in four to five years, I think that will change," Hodges said.

A bigger war is as much a risk for Russia--for now--as it is for Ukraine. I can't say who is more at risk. But I do know that at the narrow restricted fighting that Ukraine is engaged in with Russia, Moscow is winning.

UPDATE: Ukraine hasn't lost the airport and is pushing reinforcements in. Let's see if Ukraine counter-attacks, too.