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Q&A with Tecumseh Court
The author of WAR 101 answers your questions. This week: The Ukraine Lend-Lease Act. The FD 2030 controversy. How does an insurgency get started? And more about logistics, logistics, and logistics.
Tecumseh Court is the author of WAR 101—our blockbuster three-part introduction to “Warfighting,” the how-to manual for the US Marines. The three essays explored the war in Ukraine from a US combat veteran’s perspective.
In response to our readers’ obvious desire to learn more about the fundamentals of war, we’ve inaugurated a regular Q&A with Tecumseh Court, in which Tecumseh Court answers readers’ questions about war, in general, and war in Ukraine, in particular.
If you’d like to send a question to Tecumseh Court, please do so via the editors. Unless you request otherwise, we’ll assign to you a pseudonym chosen from the 1922 London telephone directory and edit your letters in our House Style.
Dear Tecumseh Court,
Could the US Senate passing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 change military aid to Ukraine? Will this help with supplies?
Mrs. Cora ABRAHAM
Dear Mrs. ABRAHAM,
By the time you read this, it’s likely a new strategic main effort will be unfolding in eastern Ukraine on a massive scale.
The media paid scant attention to the US Senate’s unanimous passage of this bill on April 6, during a late-night working session. But you’re dead right to think it’s important.
Let’s look at the details of the bill. You might imagine it was introduced in response to massive pressure from the American public, after Russia invaded Ukraine, because that’s normally what causes American legislators to get their tails in gear. But that’s not what happened.
More than 90 percent of the bills introduced in the US Senate or House die in committee. Less than four percent are ever signed into law.1 So it’s noteworthy that lead sponsors Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and co-sponsors Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) introduced the Ukraine Lend-Lease Act on January 19, 2022.
According to the press release they issued in January, they introduced the bill as part of a “broad campaign to deter Russia.” Maybe. More likely, as veteran legislators they knew that if war came, the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act would make it tricky to send sensitive military equipment to Ukraine. Also, turning a bill into a law takes time.
Legislative achievements like this drive the agenda long after their inception because they unite policy and purse strings. That’s hard to accomplish and even harder to undo.
The version of the bill that unanimously passed the Senate on April 6 has a small but significant change: It was expanded to include any Eastern European country “impacted by the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine.” This means, obviously, that the Senate is thinking ahead to the problem of supplying non-NATO allies who may be invaded next, particularly Moldova, Sweden, and Finland.
If the House passes the bill and President Biden signs it into law, the Act would grant the President authority to create a direct military logistics relationship between the United States and Ukraine/Eastern Europe, one that isn’t subordinate to NATO.
So yes, it will help very much. That’s a big deal.
The media’s been spinning itself up with questions about what the Biden Administration is or isn’t doing. Academics like John Mearsheimer and Charles Kupchan may well collapse from the excitement of rushing from one television hit to the next to explain their pet ideas about Realpolitik. Meanwhile, in the background and quietly, four Senators did their jobs to perfection. They planted a legislative claymore, waited for supporting Ukraine to become popular, then wrangled their colleagues into a unanimous vote.
If passed, the law would mean that Ukraine and non-NATO countries in Eastern Europe have the same priority for American supplies as NATO countries. From the logistics perspective—as my readers know, the critical perspective—the law would remove the legal barriers between NATO and non-NATO countries in, or near, the Ukrainian theater of war. It sets policy for the next two fiscal years, so it will continue into the next Congress. It’s written in a way that makes it easy to renew, so it’s more likely to survive, no matter which party controls the House or Senate.
Take a moment to thank the staffers and legislative worker bees who wrote this bill in January, back when no one cared. Respect to the four Senators who introduced it and went to Ukraine before Ukraine was nightly news.
And hats off to Senator Cornyn, who did his job by readying this missile even when his party was in the minority. Professionals talk logistics, Senator, and with this bill, you’ve proven yourself a professional.
Well done, Sir.
Dear Tecumseh Court,
Have you seen this article in National Review regarding the war fighting strategy of the US Marines if a conflict over Taiwan ensues? What is the new technology-based strategy the Marines apparently intend to employ, and it is prudent?
Enoch L. FRIZELL
Dear Mr. FRIZELL,
Three years ago, upon assuming his current job, Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger directed a series of reforms collectively described as Force Design (FD) 2030.
FD 2030 is controversial among Marines, particularly among retired generals, because it calls for reducing traditional military capabilities so that the Marines can invest in new technologies. Former Marine and retired US Senator Jim Webb wrote recently that these concerns are sufficiently robust that 22 retired Marine generals sent a “nonpublic letter of concern” about these plans to General Berger.
Are the critics prescient sages? Or grumpy elders? Modernizing is prudent. The big problem I see is the planned reduction in manpower. Training Marines takes time and resources. As in all matters of logistics, more is usually better. The technology changes are long overdue. I hope the Corps will be able to adjust to ensure the improvements don’t come at a disproportionate cost.
Dear Tecumseh Court,
I’m curious how an insurgency “gets started.” It doesn't seem like random Ukrainian civilians sabotaged Russian tanks or took sniper shots when their villages were overrun. I guess that’s because they didn’t have guns or tactical know-how? But what about all the Molotov cocktails? Do a small number of military trainers advise normal citizens how to snipe and boobytrap and blow up equipment without getting killed? How does all this work?
Mr. Biff DITT
Dear Mr. DITT,
In Ukraine’s case, it’s a combination of advice, preparation, and ad hoc adaptation. After 2014, several units of the US Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets (who literally wrote the book on starting insurgencies—it’s so popular they’ve turned it into a pocket guide), rotated through Ukraine and neighboring countries as trainers and advisors. The Ukrainian military then took the lead on training their own citizens.
Fortunately, the Molotov cocktails prepared in western Ukraine are collecting dust. Unfortunately, in eastern Ukraine, the tactical knowledge they’ve acquired through training—and eight years of war—is about to face the ultimate test.
Dear Tecumseh Court,
Wikipedia’s page on MiG-29s suggests the Polish-owned aircraft that were so widely discussed are an early variant (lacking in several significant upgrades, including heads-up displays) that might disadvantage their pilots in combat. The Ukrainian units were upgraded in-country at a factory which, according to a news blip I saw a couple of weeks, the Russians may have destroyed. Is it possible the deal didn’t go through, at least in part, because Ukraine judged it not really to their advantage, but didn’t want the optics of saying, “No, thanks” publicly?
Miss Bessie C. LONG
Dear Miss Long,
It’s certainly possible. There are always more reasons for these things than the public justification suggests.
Logistics aren’t easy. Remember what I wrote about tanks a few weeks ago? If the Ukrainians are looking for resources to accomplish a combined arms counterattack against an all-out Russian assault on the east, then, yes, tanks would be useful. They’d still be much lower on my wish list than Javelin stockpiles, combat pickup trucks, and a raid package of Switchblade drones and ATVs. But if the Ukrainians have the manpower and training, send ‘em on.
TC’s odds and ends
Zelensky, reacting to the train station attack: “They lack the strength and courage to fight with us on the battlefield, so they’re cynically destroying the civilian population. This is an evil without limits. And if it is not punished, it will never stop.”
TC: Yes, it was evil. However, this train station was also a significant transportation node for resupplying the eastern front. It was a major logistical infrastructure casualty as well as a humanitarian tragedy.
The Wall Street Journal: “Ukrainian officials said Moscow’s aims likely go far beyond seizing the Donbas region, and that Mr. Putin seeks to destroy the best Ukrainian units in the battle of Donbas to then try again to seize the rest of the country, including Kyiv.”
TC: This is undoubtedly Putin’s ambition. But right now, Russia has no idea what the “best Ukrainian units” are. Ukrainian civilians, as they form and disband spontaneously—and supplement training with experience—may prove to be the “best Ukrainian units.”
Tecumseh Court will be back next week with more As to yours Qs.