Friday, January 15, 2016

This Was Really My Point

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in the winter of 2014, I've called for us to arm Ukraine to resist the Russians--but did not think we needed to supply big-ticket items since Ukraine had plenty of that to restore to service. Ukraine has done just that:

Ukraine did this by reviving a lot of its Cold War era military industries. For example Ukraine is refurbishing a lot of existing equipment. This includes the Cold War era armored vehicles Ukraine has lots of. Most of these were little used in the past but can still be effective fighting Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Even before the Russian aggression began in 2014 Ukraine had begun refurbing decades’ old T-64 tanks. In 2007 Ukraine began rebuilding hundreds of T-64s in storage. This cost about $600,000 per tank and the refurbished vehicles were able to deal with the more modern Russian tanks in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine also revived plans to build IFVs (heavy infantry fighting vehicles) based on the chassis of retired T-64s. This resulted in an IFV that had the T-64 turret removed and the chassis built up to create a 35 ton vehicle. All manner of Cold War era armored vehicles are being refurbished and put back into service.

So I don't blame the Obama administration and the West generally for not sending heavy stuff to Ukraine. Ukraine already has it and it is easier to put familiar weapons into service.

I'd like Western help to fill capabilities gaps and to make what Ukraine has more effective with the goal of building up Ukraine's ability to pose a threat to Russian control of the Donbas and Crimea.

(I'd really like Ukraine to build the capability of firing long-range missiles at Crimean bases, rockets to hit Russians manning the front lines at the neck of the peninsula, and mining Crimean harbors.)

Anything that sends more body bags back home to Mother Russia to increase the pain-to-glory ratio, I say.

UPDATE: Ukraine's president vows to reclaim the east and Crimea:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday he wanted EU and US help in securing Crimea's return from Russia and vowed to win back the separatist east this year.

Which might be a problem since much of the West would rather Ukraine just accept the losses.

In the short run, Ukraine can just increase the costs of Russia's occupation and not make it easier for Russia's conquered regions to thrive.

And Ukraine needs to increase their military and irregular capabilities to undermine pro-Russian elements in the east and have a military option to attack and inflict casualties on the Russians in the process.

As for Crimea, I doubt Ukraine could drive the Russians out at this point. But as I noted, Ukraine could create military capabilities to undermine the usefulness of Russia's Crimea bases and inflict losses on the Russians for holding it.

But if Russia's new citizens don't enjoy the benefits of what they thought Russian control would bring and if Ukraine can carry out their own low-level war against Russian control, perhaps the locals will get buyer's regret and move away from being pro-Russian.

This will be easier to do if Ukraine gets their corruption under control and joins the west to finally get their economy thriving and democracy entrenched as a contrast to authoritarian Russia.

UPDATE: So eager is much of the West for peace at any price (that Ukraine has to pay) that a notion like this isn't laughed off the pages:

It looks like the Kremlin is getting serious about resolving the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

President Vladimir Putin appears to have put his best advisers on the case, bolstering hopes that 2016 will be the year the stalled Minsk II agreements, negotiated by France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine to bring peace to war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, gain real traction.

By "resolving" the crisis, Putin means ending efforts--for now--to seize more Ukrainian territory.

So yeah, Putin wants to bank his gains (including Crimea, don't forget), end sanctions on Russia, and move on to winning in Syria.

Don't even pretend that Putin is some kind of selfless peacemaker. He's a thug ruler who wants what he's stolen ratified by his victim.