Friday, January 20

To my German friend . . .

My friend in Germany wrote to me wondering whether his country should agree to send tanks to Ukraine, believing that it would simply lead to even more deaths and he was scared that a result might also be Putin, on the verge of defeat, pressing the big red button. I had to respond in quite forceful terms!

Regarding Ukraine, without support Russia will simply take over the country. The Ukraine people will fight hard with whatever they have but they will eventually lose just by the fact that Russia can continue to send more and more troops in the old-fashioned style of war in which no-one cares about the lives lost as long as they win. So, in very simple terms, whoever has the most troops wins. And Russia would, after losing many thousands of more men, take over what was left.

If that is the outcome that some people prefer then don't give Ukraine any more assistance.

Personally, this seems wrong to me for two reasons: (1) It was wrong for Russia to invade in February (and, indeed, in 2014) in all interpretations of international law and in how their troops have behaved since in many instances of torture, rape and more crimes, and (2) because Ukraine people will still try to defend their homes and families until the bitter end there will be a huge loss of Russian and Ukrainian lives in such an ending.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that all of the European countries plus the whole of the British Commonwealth plus the Americas plus Japan at least should demonstrate their support for Ukraine and how bad they believe Russia's actions have been. They have mostly done this in words and a good number have backed up their words with actions to provide real military assistance of one sort or another.

The logic is simple. Russia's terrible actions must not be allowed to succeed or there will be little to prevent Russia or another country doing something similar again. There is a solid international majority that says this is wrong and has to stop. Unfortunately, the leaders of most international countries have been less strong in their actions and that has enabled Russia to make some progress and to feel confident that they can eventually win, albeit slowly.

The introduction of tanks and armoured vehicles as well as an increased availability of missiles and ammunition generally will make a massive difference to the next few months, according to every military intelligence assessment that I read. It allows Ukraine troops to advance. At present they cannot do so across open ground which is easy to cover with bombs and missiles which simply stop ground troops and prevent any advance. With armoured tanks and similar vehicles Ukraine would have a significant advantage and would be able to retake all the land taken by Russia at the beginning and also to advance to Crimea. Russia has plenty of men but very few vehicles left now as so many were destroyed. They are also running low on missiles and no-one is really sure how quickly Iran or North Korea can supply more, The drones are also running out or being more effectively taken down by new defence action supplied by the west.

Once Russia has been pushed back to the original borders then Ukraine will not seek to advance further so no-one is threatening any Russian in their own territory. This has to be the preferred outcome, followed by compulsory funding by Russia to assist rebuilding all the damaged cities, towns and villages they destroyed. No, of course, this is not what the Kremlin and whoever is in charge will be happy to see and no doubt there will be no agreement but there will be a de facto defeat of Russia in this action. By making it very clear at that point that Ukraine is then part of NATO, or an area that the international community at large will protect in future, Russia will have to recognise that any further attempt to enlarge its territory will result in war with more than just Ukraine. That is a war they will understand cannot be won and the Russian people will also be aware that they have been badly misled by their leaders. That may even lead to a change of leadership in Russia but, on that subject, I am not so sure at this time.

The only threat that remains is the nuclear one. This has been much debated recently. Some people believe that Putin would press the button. The majority, by far, of intelligence analysts say that this would not happen. No-one has threatened Russian territory so the main reason to fire at you or me or another country does not apply. It would have to be some crazy act, like a child lashing out at a parent in a bad mood, or someone banging a desk in anger or frustration. Putin is not crazy. He knows that any nuclear explosion would cause just as much damage for his troops as for Ukraine and the likelihood of wind blowing radiation dust back across Russia is very high. Indeed, that could result in more problems than the explosion itself. He also knows that this would be crossing a red line that the US and some other nations have defined. One nuclear missile fired into Ukraine would result in an almost instant massive increase in traditional weapons and, I believe, other nations' forces on the ground and, importantly, in the air over Ukraine.

There would be considerable devastation but a quick end to the war would occur with so many more countries actually involved. Without any actual attack on Russian land Putin would not risk any weapons being fired at another country. I do not believe another nation would fire a nuclear weapon in response and WW3 is not imminent.

There is also the real question as to the state of Russia's nuclear arsenal. Much of it is ancient now and many suspect that only a small proportion are serviceable but even those may not actually be able to be fired successfully. There is a large risk of some of these weapons actually exploding on Russian land and not reaching another nation or, possibly worse in terms of the next stage, one or two fail to be correctly guided and land on a NATO town. Putin is, as I said, not crazy. He knows this. The nuclear threat is a threat that can not be relied upon. 

So, in summary, this is not a matter where it makes sense to call for peace and be worried about huge escalation or Eilum or Astcote being obliterated. It is not 1960. There is a way to stop Russia and prevent any more loss of life. That is to stand up to the bully and show him that we can make Ukraine far stronger than he is. We have already shown that Ukraine is Russia's equal! Now we need to finish the job and force Russia back to where they started. If Putin has any sense he will quietly retire and let someone else take over and pretend to the Russian public that everything is good. "We punished some bad people in Ukraine and now the Special Military Operation is complete" is what Russian TV programmes and newspapers will announce. End of story.

So your government really must stop the stupid delay and get on with doing whatever it possibly can to support the rest of us. Tanks, vehicles, ammunition, technical workers, whatever you can give to this cause, please give it now. Staying quiet and hiding away, hoping that no-one drops a bomb will not help anyone. Indeed, it will simply encourage someone like North Korea or Iran to use theirs as their leaders are crazy and will see Europe as a bunch of weak nations scared to do anything to help another.

1. Promised support delivered quickly will save a huge number of lives by producing a quick end
2. Actual delivery shows Russia that we all mean what we say. 'Support' is something we do, not just something we say.
3. Neither Putin nor any current Kremlin leader will fire a nuclear missile at a NATO nation
4. They recognise the huge risk for themselves of any detonation in Ukraine
5. In any threatening situation there will be people who are scared. That is understandable. But there will also be people who are strong and brave and smart enough to protect those who are scared. Sometimes it is necessary to say that something is very wrong and to take action to prevent it. That action may entail risk of disaster but without action there is certainty of disaster.

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