In a piece in The Wall Street Journal published on March 4, 2022 by Tunku Varadarajan, the historian Robert Service is quoted with regard to what he considers the two key blunders that caused the Ukraine War.
“The first came on Nov. 10, when the U.S. and Ukraine signed a Charter on Strategic Partnership, which asserted America’s support for Kyiv’s right to pursue membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The pact made it likelier than ever that Ukraine would eventually join NATO—an intolerable prospect for Vladimir Putin. “It was the last straw,” Mr. Service says. Preparations immediately began for Russia’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine.”
And the article goes on to say: “Mr. Service characterizes these moves as “shambolic mismanagement” by the West, which offered Ukraine encouragement on the NATO question but gave no apparent thought to how such a tectonic move away from Moscow would go down with Mr. Putin. “Nothing was done to prepare the Ukrainians for the kind of negative response that they would get.”
But it is actually must worse that this.
Ukraine was not going to get membership in NATO and even joining the EU was a clear reach.
There is no way that Ukraine was going to see the basing of NATO forces, nor in the face of the U.S. military collapse in Afghanistan, it is still not clear what kind of U.S. military will emerge from the deserts and mountains from years of fighting fighting Jihadists.
The Russians are a nuclear armed brutal power.
That is a league all of its own.
The delusional globalization thinking that conflicts are resolved by trade and supporting the “global commons” still is very strong in the West.
Whether geopolitical thinking on energy can trump the climate change focus is an open question.
If you can not prepare your own country for conflict with a nuclear power, tell me how you are going to back one that is not even in your alliance structure, and, even more decisively, what are really going to do for your alliance structure with regard to nuclear weapons use, not some abstract deterrence puts them into never never land stance or tell us that Russia is so “19th century” or that they are a “regional power” or that Putin is delusional.
The Ukraine dynamic affecting the war started with the September visit to the White House with the Ukrainian president.
And let me highlight this event — Biden is pulling the plug on the NATO operation in Afghanistan UNILATERALLY while he is embracing Ukraine who is desperately hoping that the same Administration that was defeated by the Taliban is going to take on a nuclear power!
If we look back to September 1, 2021, this is what the Biden Administration said with regard to Ukraine:
In the 21st century, nations cannot be allowed to redraw borders by force.Russia violated this ground rule in Ukraine.Sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances. The United States stands with Ukraine and will continue to work to hold Russia accountable for its aggression. America’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering.
Standing up to Russian Aggression: Russia’s aggression, including the war in eastern Ukraine and its seizure of Crimea, has claimed more than 14,000 Ukrainian lives, destabilized Europe and the Black Sea region, and threatened the global rules-based order.
The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea and reaffirms its full support for international efforts, including in the Normandy Format, aimed at negotiating a diplomatic resolution to the Russian-led conflict in eastern Ukraine on the basis of international law, including the UN Charter.
The United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to use the Crimea Platform to focus international attention and action on the humanitarian and security costs of Russia’s occupation of Crimea with the aim of peacefully restoring Ukraine’s control over this territory in accordance with international law. Together, we call on Russia to recommit to the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and engage genuinely in conflict resolution efforts to end the war.
Deepening Strategic Defense Cooperation: The United States and Ukraine have finalized a Strategic Defense Framework that creates a foundation for the enhancement of U.S.-Ukraine strategic defense and security cooperation and the advancement of shared priorities, including implementing defense and defense industry reforms, deepening cooperation in areas such as Black Sea security, cyber defense, and intelligence sharing, and countering Russian aggression.
Supporting Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic Aspirations: As the United States and Allies reaffirmed in the June 2021 NATO Summit Communique, the United States supports Ukraine’s right to decide its own future foreign policy course free from outside interference, including with respect to Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO. We also remain committed to assisting Ukraine with ongoing reforms.
Providing Ukraine with Security Assistance: The United States is announcing a new $60 million security assistance package, including additional Javelin anti-armor systems and other defensive lethal and non-lethal capabilities, to enable Ukraine to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression. The United States has committed $2.5 billion in support of Ukraine’s forces since 2014, including more than $400 million this year alone.
Cooperating on R&D: The United States and Ukraine have finalized a Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Agreement that provides a framework for pursuing bilateral armaments and military-technical cooperation.
Enacting Defense and Security Sector Reforms: The United States welcomes Ukraine’s continued progress on defense and defense industry reforms, including the adoption of a new defense industry strategy. We intend to continue our robust training and exercise program in keeping with Ukraine’s status as a NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner.
Ukraine plans to continue taking steps to enhance democratic civilian control of the military, reform the security services, and modernize its defense acquisition process to advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The United States supports Ukraine’s plan to reform the Security Service of Ukraine by streamlining and clearly defining its authorities and strengthening regulations that protect human rights and provide for effective public oversight.
If we move forward to November 10, 2021, this is what the Biden Administration said with regard to Ukraine:
The United States and Ukraine share a vital national interest in a strong, independent, and democratic Ukraine. Bolstering Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against threats to its territorial integrity and deepening Ukraine’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions are concurrent priorities.
The United States recognizes Ukraine’s unique contribution to nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament and reaffirms its commitments under the “Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (the Budapest Memorandum) of December 5, 1994.
Guided by the April 3, 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration of the NATO North Atlantic Council and as reaffirmed in the June 14, 2021 Brussels Summit Communique of the NATO North Atlantic Council, the United States supports Ukraine’s right to decide its own future foreign policy course free from outside interference, including with respect to Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO.
The United States and Ukraine intend to continue a range of substantive measures to prevent external direct and hybrid aggression against Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for such aggression and violations of international law, including the seizure and attempted annexation of Crimea and the Russia-led armed conflict in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, as well as its continuing malign behavior.
The United States intends to support Ukraine’s efforts to counter armed aggression, economic and energy disruptions, and malicious cyber activity by Russia, including by maintaining sanctions against or related to Russia and applying other relevant measures until restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and reaffirms its full support for international efforts, including in the Normandy Format, aimed at negotiating a diplomatic resolution to the Russia-led armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine on the basis of respect for international law, including the UN Charter.
The United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to use the Crimea Platform to coordinate international efforts to address the humanitarian and security costs of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, consistent with the Platform’s Joint Declaration.
The United States and Ukraine endorse the 2021 Strategic Defense Framework as the foundation of enhanced Ukraine-U.S. defense and security cooperation and intend to work to advance shared priorities, including implementing defense and defense industry reforms, deepening cooperation in areas such as Black Sea security, cyber defense, and intelligence sharing, and countering Russia’s aggression.
The United States and Ukraine are key partners in the broader Black Sea region and will seek to deepen cooperation with Black Sea Allies and partners to ensure freedom of navigation and effectively counter external threats and challenges in all domains.
The United States remains committed to assisting Ukraine with ongoing defense and security reforms and to continuing its robust training and exercises. The United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to maximize its status as a NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner to promote interoperability.
Ukraine intends to continue to enhance democratic civilian control of the military, reform its security service, and modernize its defense acquisition processes to advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
The United States and Ukraine underline the importance of close cooperation within international institutions, including the United Nations, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, and intend to multiply efforts in finding new approaches and developing joint actions in preventing individual states from trying to destroy the rule-based international order and forcefully to revise internationally recognized state borders.
The United States and Ukraine intend to support accountability for those responsible for abuses of human rights in the territories of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia, and to support the release of political prisoners and hostages held in these territories. The United States intends to continue to support impartial criminal investigations conducted by war crimes units under the Office of the General Prosecutor.
The United States intends to continue assisting Ukraine in providing humanitarian support to people affected or displaced by the Russia-led armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as the government of Ukraine increases its provision of life-saving assistance in the form of food, shelter, safe drinking water, and protection for the most vulnerable, including the elderly.
The United States remains committed to enhancing Ukraine’s ability to secure and police its borders, and to pursuing greater information sharing and law enforcement cooperation to counter international criminal and terrorist activity, including the trafficking of people, weapons, and narcotics.
The United States and Ukraine pledge to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and secure advanced technologies by adhering to international nonproliferation standards, strengthening, and effectively implementing export control regimes, and partnering to manage emerging technology risks.
The United States and Ukraine are committed to further developing their partnership in cyber security, countering hybrid threats, combating the spread of disinformation while upholding freedom of expression, and strengthening Ukraine’s cyber security infrastructure.
Ok we don’t have to be rocket scientists to compare what the Russians we saying in July with these statements to see that their might be a predictable collision course here.
There is a major question of whether the United States and NATO really are practitioners of the art of peer warfare, notably nuclear armed powers willing to use their weapons as part of their arsenal of promoting a new authoritarian led global order.
A pandemic led American and a military defeated by the Taliban is a work in progress to restore credibility.
And even more important is what is the strategy of the liberal democracies to support states that are not going to be part of an allied structure, but whose independence is crucial to their fate and future?
This is a major question and my answer for some time has been to focus on who to create hedgehog states with significant enough military and defense capability to be desirable prizes for the autocrats.
But this requires modern air defense and counter-air capabilities, not just javelins to hand out to civilians in a crisis.
In a 2019 presentation to the International Fighter Conference, a senior Ukrainian military officer laid out what he thought they needed to become a credible hedgehog state:
Commander of the Air Command “South” of the Ukrainian Air Force, Lt. General Vasyl Chernenko presented a briefing entitled, Peculiarities of Employment Fighter Aviation and Development of its Future Capabilities According to Ukrainian Air Force Experience of Participation in Joint Forces Operation at the East of Ukraine.”
Ukraine of course has experienced war first hand in the 21st century with the Russian seizure of Crimea, and with continued engagement in the rest of Ukraine with the goal of shaping Ukraine’s future.
Russia used what analysts referred to as hybrid war as the means both to seize Crimea and to engage in destabilization efforts within the rest of Ukraine.
But what can be forgotten is the nature of the Russian military incursion which was much more similar to the means used by insurgency forces, which, of course, from a military point of view would require Ukraine to have the kind of counter-insurgency capabilities honed by the West over the past two decades in the Middle East.
Put bluntly, Ukraine does not have such capabilities, which poses the question of whether and how the West might provide such capabilities?
Notably, the West would not do counter-insurgency in the Middle East without airpower, and the question is how Ukraine might obtain or develop such capabilities?
According to the presentation, the Ukrainian Air Force is in the process of transition with increased but still very limited pilot training and enhanced readiness for their legacy fighter fleet of MiG-29s and Su-27s.
The speaker highlighted what he labelled “the sabotage-terrorist nature of the enemy’s actions,” which he argued required the use of fighter aircraft as part of the strike and defense force needed by Ukraine.
And these fighters would need to confront the Russian air defense system moved forward into the areas of interest as well.
He argued that Ukraine was focused on the upgrades of its current fighter force either by indigenous developments or by working with partner nations.
Obviously, the partner nation bit is the challenging part, as the West needs to sort out how to provide military aid to Ukraine but in such a way that it reinforces the defense capabilities of Ukraine without justifying the undoubted claims Russia would make that such efforts are designed to threaten Russian territory.