How to Fix Russia-Ukraine Problem

Russian, US and NATO bases in Europe, MIGFlug

On the surface Russia, the EU and the US are arguing over whether Ukraine should ever be permitted to join NATO. The issue behind that is Russia doesn’t want NATO bases on its borders. Look at the above map. How many NATO bases do you see on Russia’s borders?

Zero. OK, how many Russian bases do you see on or near Europe’s borders, including non-aligned states? Include Belarus in your count.

At least 8 and you could count the two in east Georgia giving 10.

The US should respond to Russia’s request by saying we wish to address the underlying issue of border proximity of bases and deployments, on both sides, and offer a generous spacing.

We give up nothing. Russia would have to remove or reduce several bases.

Submarine deployments should be included as well, so that neither country patrols the other’s coast with nuclear missiles affording no attack warning.

This would require reinstatement of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) which Trump withdrew from. While Russian non-compliance would need to be addressed in the renegotiation, if China doesn’t want to cooperate, they can be excluded.

Russian gas supply to Europe, CNN

Would this work? Nothing lost by offering, and it gains a talking advantage. Yesterday Bret Stephens offered an opinion on what likely Russia really wants here.

  • Invading Ukraine provokes US/EU to kick Russia out of international banking system.
  • Russia cuts off gas to Europe mid-winter (see map of gas supply above)
  • US/EU capitulate and/or EU backs out of NATO alliance, NATO is limited or destroyed

Stephens proposes an emergency airlift of military supplies to Ukraine to support a possible guerilla war. With that I disagree.

First to analyze Stephens’ scenario. Is that credible? It is already expected by the EU and US, so I don’t think it would destroy NATO. Putin may hope it does, but Russia cutting off gas to Europe is not a response to kicking them out of the banking system. It is already known they depend on the banking system to support gas, so kicking them out amounts to refusing to accept gas from Russia. From nbcnews Russia is so reliant on SWIFT to export oil and gas that in 2019 its then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said blocking it would be “a declaration of war.”

That’s interesting. Does that mean they would attack NATO? If they did, then the response would overflow into Ukraine. What about the freezing Europeans? Reuters reports plans are being laid to do without Russian gas: “We are working very hard to identify and manage those risks with a range of contingency options and we are doing all that in very close consultations with Europe,” [an] official said. A source familiar with the discussions mentioned there is above-average inventory of natural gas in Asia and that Norway is a major producer of liquefied natural gas. The Netherlands, Italy and Qatar also have supplies, as well as the United States.

That’s interesting. Putin’s decision to invade might depend on a severe cold snap which he thinks Europe cannot withstand. So, watch the weather to predict the invasion.

Could Russia successfully invade Ukraine if all reasonable resistance was put forward? No. They would utterly fail. Let’s look at what happened in 2014 (from Wikipedia).

  • Ukraine launched a military counter-offensive against pro-Russian forces in April 2014
  • By late August 2014 this operation was able to vastly shrink the territory under the control of the pro-Russian forces, and came close to regaining control of the Russo-Ukrainian border
  • But from the middle of June the Ukrainian air force was taken out of the equation by Russian air defense systems, reference
  • So, when Russia decided to more openly reinforce ground forces, the tide turned against Ukraine

However, NATO and the US have stealth, ECM and various radar targeting weapons that can give any nation’s air defenses a run for their money. It is hard to get firm information on state-of-the-art weaponry as it is a closely guarded secret, and alleged deficiencies are used to justify funding. If we supply these vehicles, weapons and technology to Ukraine, while simultaneously supplying them with air defense against any Russian air incursion (which they can legitimately shoot down), then it is Ukrainian pilots at risk not ours, and I’m pretty sure they are willing to take the risk. They can probably even pay for it. Eventually.

This is what we should do. Not fuel a guerilla war. Without air superiority, Russia will get nowhere fast in Ukraine. The number of troops will have no effect except on the death toll of Russian soldiers, which will increase domestic political resistance.

Invading another country with a motivated military, which Ukraine now has, if they are fully equipped, to which there is no real obstacle, is tremendously hard. A Russian invasion of Ukraine can absolutely be made to fail.

Once on the run, I believe momentum would allow Ukraine to re-take Crimea. This might prompt an outsized reaction from Russia. However, a compromise along the lines of joint custody could be offered.

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