James S Robbins
Can the United States supply Ukraine with advanced weapons yet remain neutral in its war with Russia? Of course – this has been done before.
During the London Blitz in World War II, Britain stood alone against the Nazi attack. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who channeled Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his recent speech to the British Parliament, may have recalled Churchill’s February 1941 message to President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job.” “
The United States was officially neutral at the time in the war but was actively helping the British. Soon after the conflict broke out in 1939, Roosevelt instituted a “cash and carry” policy of arms sales, and in response to Churchill’s call for the means of war, Washington passed the Lend-Lease Act. Britain got what it needed to turn the tide.
Biden denies Ukraine’s vital weapons
However, President Joe Biden is not Franklin Roosevelt. When Poland offered Soviet-era MiG fighters to surround Ukraine, the Biden administration blocked the transfer. This not only deprived Ukraine of vital weapons, but also strained the NATO alliance during a crisis that calls for unity.
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True, the United States and other free-world countries are supplying Ukraine with other types of military aid, such as portable anti-tank and anti-air weapons. On Wednesday, Biden authorized an additional $800 million in aid, and Congress approved more than $13 billion in military and development aid. Intelligence sharing continues. Humanitarian and medical aid from around the world is also coming to the region. It’s all for the good.
But why not give Ukrainians the tools they need to win? The usual one-word answer is “escalation”. The assumption is that there is an undeclared limit of support which, once exceeded, will result in an escalatory spiral, perhaps to the level of nuclear conflict. Biden invoked the escalation model when he said sending Polish MiGs would start “World War III”.
By this logic, Washington can give Kyiv a little but not much. Our policy appears to be to let Ukraine lose the war, just more slowly.
Soviet supplies to North Vietnam
During the Vietnam War, when the Soviet Union supplied supplies to America’s enemies, the Soviet Union was not concerned about escalation. The Kremlin supplied all kinds of supplies, including advanced weapons and aircraft, to North Vietnam. Moscow sent its most sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to the defense of Hanoi, and even supplied crews that shot down American planes. (Ironically, many of these soldiers were from Ukraine.)
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And when the war broke out, Washington and Moscow were actively negotiating important nuclear arms control agreements. The strategic level diplomacy was completely different from what was happening on the ground in Southeast Asia.
Current American policymakers are oblivious to historical examples of American support – direct or covert – for Allied governments fighting adversarial states. The Kosciuszko Squadron of American World War I veterans played a key role in securing Polish independence against the Bolsheviks in 1919–20. Pilots of the American Volunteer Group, aka The Flying Tigers, fly American-made aircraft against Japanese forces over China.
And if the Biden administration is concerned about MiGs flying into Ukraine from Poland, just pull them over the border like the United States did in 1940 to get around the Neutrality Acts restrictions when moving planes to Canada. Was.
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The Kremlin has threatened to freeze arms shipments, which could explain the escalating Russian attacks on Ukrainian airspace. This is hardly surprising; A regime that targets helpless women and children would certainly try to bombard military supplies.
Unless the attack took place outside Ukraine, this per se would not increase. Russian attacks, sabotage or other proactive measures within NATO countries would be an alarming escalation by Vladimir Putin, who would demand a proportionate response.
Warn Russia about aid shipments
John Quattrocchi, a former staff member of the National Security Council, also suggested a public and advance warning to Moscow intended to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Kyiv by flying unarmed and unprotected cargo planes to Moscow.
If Putin wants an open war with NATO, Ukraine will be less than his concerns. Remember that resistance works both ways. Yes, Russia is a nuclear power. But the United States is also a nuclear power, with a more capable, more lethal force than the Kremlin command.
Policymakers should focus less on what Putin can do if we offend him and instead do more about telling him what to do if the Russian dictator continues his crimes against peace. The price will have to be paid.
Meanwhile, the international community must give Ukrainians everything they need to inflict heavy losses on Putin’s army to bring open war to Europe. And if the Kremlin objected, double the amount.
James S. Robbins, a member of the USA Today Contributing Board and author of “This Time We Win: Revisiting the Tet Offensive”, is ad interim academic dean at the World Politics Institute in Washington DC, and served as a special assistant to the George W. Bush administration. in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Follow him on Twitter: @James_Robbins