Monday, May 22, 2023

Updating the Ukraine-Russia War: the F16s are coming

Over at Balloon Juice, national security expert Adam Silverman has written a piece about the war in Ukraine every single day since Russia started their unjust and illegal war.  
At Routine Proceedings, Dale Smith also writes a Ukraine Dispatch every single day. 
 Every weekend, Phillips O'Brien writes a Weekend Update on substack. 
These knowledgeable and experienced commentators are seeing a recent evolution in US thinking about this war -- that Ukraine is winning, that Russia is losing, and that the risk of Russia starting a nuclear war is getting smaller by the day. 
Today Silverman writes about how Russia was viewed when it invaded Ukraine 15 months ago, compared to how it is viewed today: 
My professional opinion is that the beltway consensus was that the Russian army was what we had assessed it to be: professional, properly resourced and equipped, and powerful. 
Another part of the beltway consensus was that despite Ukrainian resolve their was no way they would withstand having the bulk of that force thrown at them. 
These two beliefs, which we now know like much of the beltway’s deeply held convictions are just wrong, were exacerbated and enhanced by the fact that Russia won the information war around Ukraine back in 2014 and almost every policy discussion and almost all of the news reporting was being done within the informational shaping that Russia had successfully undertaken. 
This includes everything from views of Russia’s military to views of Ukraine and the Revolution of Dignity to taking Russia’s nuclear weapons and usage doctrine exactly as Russia wanted us to.
 Silverman then notes the change in tone as shown in these tweets yesterday:
Silverman continues: 
These are exactly the answers that should be given every time Putin, Lavrov, whomever makes a threat or declares a red line. However, until recently this has not been the case. 
While hope is not a strategy, it would be nice if they’ve finally recognized that the US, NATO, our non-NATO allies and partners have to work within and promote our own framing of Russia and its actions and not work within Russia’s. 
On his substack piece yesterday, Phillips O'Brien concludes that this is the week Ukraine has won the war -- he highlights the change in US policy as reflected in these tweets:
Ukraine is getting F-16s, and not only that, the administration is significantly firming up its position on Ukraine having the right to take back all of its territory....It is really hard to underrate what the president is doing here. He is not only making it clear that Ukraine will get F-16s, he is basically belittling Russian threats.
The Russians have been, as usual, making their nuclear threats about aid to Ukraine, and they raised their rhetoric up a notch yesterday when the F-16 announcement was made.
And here is the US President basically telling the Russians to go to hell—no other way to read this. 
It speaks of a few things. Most importantly, the administration must really believe the chance of Russia using nukes is non-existent. My guess is both good intelligence on the subject and some words with the Chinese (as I wondered about in the update yesterday).
So that alone would be enough to mark a major change. However, that was not all. 
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who had been reported to be the most escalation-averse member of the administration, at exactly the same time came out with a statement to CNN that the Ukrainians are more than able to attack Crimea with weapons the US has provided it.
O'Brien then flags the importance of this tweet: O'Brien continues: 
...these changes in rhetoric seem to be extremely important, and point even more explicitly to the answer that last week was the week Ukraine won the war. 
In short:
-Fears of Russian escalation are no longer having any real impact on US policy, and if anything, the administration is mocking the Russians.
-Without a fear of Russian escalation, this war can be fully won by Ukraine.
-Ukraine is being given a public green-light to do what it needs in Crimea.
-All parts of the Biden administration are singing from the same hymn sheet (finally).
In the New York Times, David French describes the value of the F-16 to Ukraine:
...the fundamental reality is that allowing Ukraine any F-16s is the right decision. It’s the decision one makes when transitioning from a long-term strategy of simply keeping Ukraine alive toward a strategy of driving Russia from occupied Ukraine and — critically — deterring renewed Russian aggression after this war.
Perhaps the best short argument in support of the Biden administration’s decision was summed up by the former Ukrainian defense minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk. He told me to “ask a NATO general how to win this war without aviation.” Providing Ukraine with advanced fighters not only makes its task easier; it’s a sign the Biden administration is ready to turn the page from helping Ukraine simply avoid defeat. Now we are starting to help Ukraine achieve victory — and maintain the peace we pray is soon to come.
And in response, expect to see Russia continue to posture and to make empty threats:


Anonymous said...

Could be that the threat of sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine could be a not so subtle message to Russia to negotiate with Ukraine and end this needless conflict. It will months, if not years, before the Ukraine Air Force will be operational with these aircraft.

Trailblazer said...

So far the air war over the Ukraine has been between aircraft of Russian origin.
The F16's have never been peer tested nor have the Russian aircraft!
That the war so far has been one of artillery forces and trench warfare says a lot about effectiveness of modern air warfare?
Fighter jets and cruise missiles are very expensive and their supply is not infinite.
Inexpensive small drones have become the weapon of the day along with, so far, an inexhaustible supply of cannon fodder that is the foot soldier!
We could learn more from WW1 tactics than from more modern wars such as Iraq to gauge where this is going.
During WWII seven million Ukrainians served in the Red Army!
The Red Army fought a war of attrition with Germany.
It would seem the same is happening today?
The big difference being that the Russian army does not have the will to kill it's neighbours? Tis an unpopular war.


Cathie from Canada said...

Its not at all clear to me how this is going to work out, is it?
My son listens to a podcast about World War 2 week-by-week -- when we study history, we see mostly the big events and the overall trends. so it has been interesting to realize how difficult it was for the people living during WW2 to see the "big picture" as battles were happening between various armies in France, Africa, Norway, the Philippines, China, Africa, Ukraine, etc etc. I feel sort of the same way now about Ukraine -- battles are taking place here and there, some cities are ruined while others still stand, NATO and Russia are exchanging verbal barbs, we don't know exactly where China will end up. I think the F16 escalation will prove to be a game-changer, at least I hope it will.

Anonymous said...

Understanding the complexities of historical events, like World War 2, helps us appreciate the challenges faced by people living in that era. Similarly, the ongoing situation in Ukraine leaves us uncertain about the bigger picture, with battles, geopolitical tensions, and potential game-changers like the F16 escalation.