Western Hesitancy on Ukraine Looks Increasingly Stupid
About two months ago, I spotlighted the irrationality of much of the knee-jerk opposition to aiding Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. This has not changed — the widespread, reflexive “Ukraine skepticism,” as I called it then, has grown even more obviously foolish.
As I write this, news has just emerged that, in the Military Times’s words, “[t]he U.S. is poised to approve sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, finally agreeing to an urgent request from Ukrainian leaders.” As Russia has been endeavouring to torment Ukrainian civilians into submission through the systematic demolition of critical infrastructure, the need for this move has grown much more pressing and apparent. Perhaps if this potent military equipment had been sent earlier, copious quantities of death and destruction could have been averted.
So what was the reason for the United States’ reluctance, until now, to provide such a Patriot battery? The Military Times continues:
U.S. officials had balked at providing the weapons to Ukraine because they could be considered a escalation that would trigger a response from Moscow. The Patriot also requires significant training and there were concerns that U.S. troops would have been required to operate it.
Well, if the delivery has now been accepted as a possible course of action, then the second of those two issues, apparently, was never a prohibitive hurdle to begin with. Obviously, the powers that be have now decided that American personnel are not required to man the Patriot after all. If the concern was that Ukrainian servicemen would need extensive preparation to operate the technology, then surely the more reasonable approach would have been to start training them as early as possible. Maybe Washington would have been pleasantly surprised — after all, British and Danish officials in charge of preparing Ukrainian troops have previously remarked that the training was going excellently. Instead, the US government tarried, and is now providing the Patriot anyway — later than it could have done.
The worry that furnishing a Patriot to Ukraine could escalate the war seems, if anything, even more foolish. In recent days, at least two major affronts to Russia have surfaced with no palpable retaliation by the Kremlin.
First, there were the Ukrainian strikes on three military airfields in Russia, which were apparently carried out using Soviet-made long-range drones. Moscow laughably characterised the blows as “terrorism,” but its only retaliation appeared to consist of more of the same airstrikes against civilians that it had already been perpetrating. Later, a State Duma deputy opined that “Russia should be on alert for more Ukrainian strikes into Russian territory,” as summarised in the Daily Beast. Surely, Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory, designated by Russia as “terrorism” no less, represent a major escalation. So where is the fearsome Russian vengeance? Where is the nuclear war about which alarmists in the isolationist camp of American politics have been crying since day one of Western aid to Ukraine?
Second, the Times reported the following on 14 December:
The Royal Marines have taken part in covert operations in Ukraine, a senior general has admitted for the first time.
While it had earlier been acknowledged that the Marines had helped to evacuate the British embassy in Ukraine and later to protect its staff when the embassy returned to Kiev, the key new admission seems to be contained in this phrase from Lieutenant General Robert Magowan: “During both phases, the commandos supported other discreet operations.” Granted, the Times article also states:
A Royal Navy official said: “Royal Marines were deployed to Ukraine to support the UK’s diplomatic presence in the country. They served no combat function.”
However, the mere admission that Royal Marines had been involved in additional, unspecified “discreet operations” on Ukrainian soil during the war against Russia would surely have been considered shockingly inflammatory in the war’s early months. Again, where is Russia’s terrifying retaliation?
If the two moves we just covered did not bring about the end of the world, what did US officials fear would happen if they gave Ukraine a Patriot — or, for that matter, some MiG-29’s? The anti-Ukrainian posturing among many of America’s cheap demagogues may be aptly explained by an “addiction to unpopularity for the sake of unpopularity,” but what mind-virus had gotten into the big shots making the call on the Patriots?
Indeed, since the Ukrainians have shown their ability to strike within Russia using Soviet-era arms, one may even question the sense in the Biden administration’s policy of withholding missiles “That Can Strike Into Russia” from them. If the Ukrainians assess that they have to hit a target in Russia, they can do so without using whatever weaponry the United States has provided them.
The Ukraine aid alarmists in other countries have been no more sensible. As an April article in the Economist pithily stated about German reluctance to provide serious weaponry to the Ukrainians, “Opponents argue that supplying heavy weapons would make Germany a party to the war. Experts in international law say this claim is simply wrong.” That same article gives us this gem:
Russia has threatened to strike nato countries that give Ukraine heavy weapons — but that would probably draw all of nato into the war, and seems to have been a bluff.
There is no “seems” to it now. The threat was a bluff. In fact, most of the Russian intimidation campaign since the war began has been a bluff, not excluding the hysterical admonishments of nuclear war.
To this day, some Americans are still seriously worried about the prospect of a Russian nuclear strike, even though just about every relevant logical consideration says that no such attack is in the cards.
What reason is there, at this point, to be terrified of giving military support to Ukraine? That it might deplete the United States’ and other Western countries’ stocks of arms, putting their ability to defend themselves and counter China and North Korea at risk? But as David A. Super has demonstrated, by helping in the fight against Russia, Westerners are defending themselves — and the protection of Taiwan and South Korea would require different weapons than the ones Ukraine needs.
In the end, the long-standing hesitancy of some Western leaders to take decisive action against Russia looks very much like simple cowardice.
Originally published on Substack.