Saturday 22 October 2022

Europe and the United States Go Thelma and Louise Over the Ukraine

 Sorry to burden you with film references, but this iconic scene from Thelma and Louise seems to capture the current zeitgeist infecting Europe and the United States:

I will leave it to you to decide if Europe is Thelma or Louise. In either case, this is a suicide pact that the United States and Europe are jointly executing without taking time to think about the ultimate consequences of their current actions.

Both the United States and Europe have expressed openly their goal of getting rid of Vladimir Putin. Putin, in their juvenile world, is the source of all suffering and all evil. Quite a powerful guy according to Western mythology. Yet–irony alert–it is the leaders in the West that are being toppled. Joe Biden’s party is facing a massive rebuke in the upcoming November election. Italy gave the Prime Minister reins to an outspoken Conservative–a clear rejection of the traditional political hacks that had been in charge in Italy. And the United Kingdom is in the grips of a record setting meltdown of its political order. For the first time since Parliament came into being (we’re talking three hundred years), the Prime Minister was forced to resign after 40 days in office. While the Tories are trying to paint lipstick on this pig of a situation and call it Marilyn Monroe, it is a total clown show. The UK will continue to give lip service to backing Ukraine, but the economic reality will dictate either cutting back support in order to maintain the readiness of the British military or gutting the British military in favor of arming Ukraine. The UK cannot do both.

Notwithstanding the economic turmoil roiling Europe, the political leaders continue to pay lip service to backing Ukraine while their ability to actually send financial and military support fades. Germany is a prime example and is arguing over whether to send tanks. Neocon Anne Appelbaum (wife of former Polish Defense Minister Sidorski) provided a firsthand report of Germany’s schizophrenia on this issue:

Last February, three days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz stood up in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, and made a remarkable speech. Scholz, a Social Democrat without much of a track record on military issues, told his country—conditioned since the 1990s to believe that it no longer needed a real army—that he would add 100 billion euros to the defense budget this year. Germany, he said, needed “airplanes that fly, ships that can set out to sea and soldiers who are optimally equipped for their missions.”.

And this is where we are now: Ever since the speech, Germans have been arguing over what helping Ukraine really means, which weapons can be sent and which cannot, which might provoke some kind of extreme reaction from Russia and which might help win the war. Even as more and more German weapons have flowed to Ukraine, the argument about them remains far more contentious in Germany than anywhere else. . . .

Germany has tanks that it could offer to Ukraine, but it doesn’t. The German government has prevented other European countries that own German-made tanks from sending theirs as well. Yet Germany has sent many other heavy weapons, including some that look like tanks (the anti-aircraft Flakpanzer Gepard has gun barrels and the heavy metal treads that most people associate with tanks, and is already in Ukraine).

What Anne fails to understand is that mixing NATO tanks with Soviet era tanks is a non-starter. Replacement parts are not interchangeable. Mechanics trained to repair a NATO tank are not automatically qualified to fix a Soviet tank. Guess what? Vehicles break down and need to be fixed. Tanks are likely to be damaged in battle and will require repairs. Oh, did I mention the need to train the soldiers how to operate those tanks? Knowing how to drive, aim and fire shells from the tank of a NATO ally is not a transferable skill to a Soviet tank.

In fact, a German manufactured tank is different from a French manufactured tank. The same logistics and maintenance issues arise that make it difficult, if not impossible, to move from a NATO-style tank to a Soviet tank and vice versa.

The same issues arise with other weapon systems. Just because Germany has sent four of its proprietary air defense weapons to Ukraine does not mean that equipment (i.e., IRIS-T) can be easily integrated into Ukraine’s air defense weapons, i.e. the S-300 and the BUK, which are Soviet era weapons. They have different software and electronics. Oh yeah, the same maintenance and repair challenges we discussed with using tanks from different countries and manufacturers.

Like Thelma and Lousie, the United States and Europe are gunning their engines and tossing equipment willy-nilly into Ukraine. I guess they hope something sticks.

It remains to be seen if the NATO countries experience the same hard landing that met Thelma and Louise at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

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