Dear Tecumseh Court
Why aren't we giving Ukraine the weapons they want?
Dear Tecumseh Court,
Why haven’t we given Ukraine aircraft and modern anti-missile weapons, tanks, or anti-ship equipment, as they’re asking? If we don’t want to enforce a no-fly zone, what weapons could we send so that Ukraine can enforce its own? Why aren’t we sending them?
H.E. Stanhope MOLYNEUX1
Dear Mr. MOLYNEUX,
I’ll assume by “we” you mean NATO. As the readers of the Cosmopolitan Globalist know, unfortunate fissures are unfolding among member states concerning the risks they’re willing to take. We’ve discussed the significance of NATO’s supply lines extensively, so I won’t cover old ground. Politics and proximity both affect the way NATO supports Ukrainian logistics.
We shouldn’t assume that public reports account for everything we’re dispatching. Much is becoming obvious about the military supplies we’ve so far sent to Ukraine, but there’s much we don’t yet know. Ukrainian air space remains contested. Ukrainian air defenses are degraded, but not completely destroyed. We don’t know what we don’t know.
Equipment isn’t useful if you don’t know what to do with it. (Remember the advice: Don’t take what you can’t use.) So we need to find out: What systems are Ukrainians trained to use? What can they operate? Are the people who know how to do it still alive? If not, who can we train, and how long will it take? This is probably why we’re hearing reports, for example, that Slovenia offered their S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Ukraine in exchange for NATO backfill (and presumably training, if we plan to send them a different system). Air defense systems aren’t point-and-click like NLAWs, SMAWs and Javelins. Would you know how to use an S-300 air defense system? I wouldn’t. Not many people do.
If Ukrainians have the manpower and technical competency, there’s no reason why NATO can’t or shouldn’t send air defense and anti-ship missiles. I’ve seen reports indicating that NATO is deliberating sending these systems.
But we can’t neglect NATO’s own security. A few days ago, Ukrainians happened upon a mysterious, abandoned Russian vehicle on the outskirts of Kyiv. It appears to have been a Krasukha-4 command module—an advanced electronic warfare system. This shouldn’t affect deliberations about sending anti-ship missiles. Nonetheless, while some weapons should go to Ukraine, others are best left in Poland.
I wouldn’t send the Ukrainians tanks. They don’t need them and don’t have time to train to use them. Don’t listen to what Zelensky (or anyone else) says they want. They’re doing their jobs by asking and doing it damned well. I don’t fault them for a second for making these public requests. They should ask for tanks, airplanes, air defenses, no-fly zones, nukes—ask for everything, and God bless you for asking. But we don’t need to say yes and we shouldn’t just because they asked. Don’t send the Ukrainians anything they don’t need or can’t use, or anything we can use more effectively away from the battlefield (like, perhaps, an electronic warfare system).
Other considerations are of greater significance than sending Ukraine new weapon systems. Their most important equipment is starting to run thin. Javelins and Stingers need to be rebuilt, reassembled, and resupplied, and the rare minerals required to build them don’t materialize out of thin air. The US Defense Department’s Stinger production line had been shut down. It’s only now being restarted. I’m more concerned about the basics: Getting the relevant industries on a wartime footing, and maintaining secure supply lines, fuel stores, and the maintenance cycle.
I facepalmed when I read that missile strikes had hit fuel depots in Lviv followed by words to this effect: “Clearly, Putin wanted to send Biden a message.” Maybe, but Putin also wanted to hit a fuel depot. In war, fuel depots matter more than whatever message journalists think they’re reading between the lines. Yes, I’d like the Ukrainians to have the Polish MiGs, too, but that’s not going to preserve Ukrainian gains or shift the tide. More of what’s already proven effective might.
Dear Tecumseh Court,
We know that the first casualty when war comes is truth. What do you look at to see how the war is really going, as opposed to the propaganda?
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