Putin's forces are pushing hard to take Debaltseve despite (another) ceasefire:
Pro-Russian rebels pounded encircled Ukrainian government forces on Monday and Kiev said it would not pull back heavy guns while a truce was being violated, leaving a European-brokered peace deal on the verge of collapse a day after it took effect.
Putin's hand puppets are offering to let Ukraine's defenders safely leave the city:
Pro-Russian rebels said on Monday they would open a safe corridor for Ukrainian troops out of the encircled town of Debaltseve in east Ukraine on condition they surrender the territory, an offer the Kiev military promptly rejected.
Ah, peace! A Putin peace, of course. Which means he gets to attack and his enemy just gets to adjust the pace of losing.
We should counter that offer with a pledge to help Ukraine keep the defenders of Debaltseve supplied even if isolated. In support of the ceasefire Putin signed, of course.
There is no airport there, so it couldn't be an airlift.
And the secessionists have shown they have the capability to shoot down civilian airliners filled with people, so hitting transport planes would not be tough to imagine.
But we do have an alternative. We could use GPS-guided parachute systems (I know I have a post on this, but can't find it):
Known as Joint Precision Air Drop System (JPADS), the program is pursuing cargo systems in weight classes, including the "Extra Light" (JPADS XL, 700 – 2,200 lbs / 0.3 – 1 ton) and "Light" (JPADS L 5,000 – 10,000 lbs / 2.2 – 4.5 ton) classes, slated for fielding within the near term (around 2008). All systems will be required to hit a pre-planned GPS ground target within 50 meters, cleared for high altitude drop from 24,500 feet mean sea level, and capable of being deployed from at least eight kilometers horizontal offset from the ground target. Using a portable mission-planning tool and wireless communications loadmasters will be able to update the mission plans uploaded to the rigged JPADS before the flight with last minute changes of drop-zone location, threats etc.
Before the war, there were just 25,000 civilians there. I don't know how many remain. I assume most have fled.
I've seen it mentioned that there are 8,000 Ukrainian defenders there. That seems rather high.
Still, this should be doable. If you assume 10,000 troops and civilians, and assume 100 tons of supplies per day would be needed to keep them alive and fighting (I went to my old How to Make War book for that), you'd need at least 100 of those smallest GPS-guided parachutes each day.
How we'd recycle those could be the real problem. Could we keep dropping them for months on end with just new ones? Could production gear up for that level of effort?
The article does say that the ability to drop a load of 27 tons in order to get armored vehicles into place was envisioned.
We might not even need to put our planes in action. We could provide the pallets and GPS system, plus help keep Ukraine's planes flying. I believe Ukraine has nearly 50 transport planes., including 20 Il-76, which can carry at least 42 tons of supplies each. The remainder are An-24 and An-26 for the most part which have much smaller payloads (5-6 tons, I think), but this seems more than sufficient to do the job.
The biggest issue would be evacuating casualties who can't be treated on the ground. Could helicopters with Red Cross markings do that job without Putin's forces shooting them down?
Russia illegally pushed ground supply trucks into Ukraine to support their people. So we have precedent provided by Putin.
Let's recall Barack Obama's words at the Berlin Victory Column on July 24, 2008, when he was a candidate for president, praising the Berlin Airlift:
The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.
And that’s when the airlift began – when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.
The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.
But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city’s mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. “There is only one possibility,” he said. “For us to stand together united until this battle is won…The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty…People of the world, look at Berlin!”
People of the world – look at Berlin!
Funny enough, President Obama mentioned Ukraine in that speech, remarking on the changes in the world since the Berlin Wall was pulled down and the West won the Cold War:
From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity.
Putin will rebuild the prison camps and close the doors of democracy wherever his power reaches.
So look at Debaltseve, where Ukrainian troops are under siege, ceasefire be damned. Putin wants those defenders dead. We should want them to live--and win. So Ukraine can finally get the chance to struggle for the opportunity and prosperity that freedom and sovereignty can provide.
President Obama wants a legacy? Maybe the Debaltseve Airlift could be what he is remembered for.
Even if no American Air Force planes are needed, could we help Ukraine's air force bolstered by contract planes supply the city's defenders by air?
UPDATE: The Russians continue to be just--well, lying bastards:
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Kiev to let its soldiers surrender to pro-Russian rebels, who spurned a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and fought their way on Tuesday into the town of Debaltseve, encircling thousands of government troops.
I don't know how else to describe them. One day, China will hit Russia hard. Perhaps like Japan signaled their rise to great power status by pounding on Russia in the Russo-Japanese War over a century ago, China will do the same.
Russia might ask us for help. I'll say, screw them.
There is no reason to trust the Russians on anything, any time.
Psychopaths with nukes, people. That's what they are under Putin.