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The Ultimate Poker Game
Recently I had a long talk with an old Navy Korean era vet, who also happens to be my brother-in-law. He has a keen sense of this country’s place in the world family, and he is convinced, as am I, that there is an evil oozing out from abroad that is causing us to run a gigantic risk to the world’s political and socioeconomic future. In simplest terms, the Russians have unilaterally decided that they want to reunite the old Soviet Union, and they are “all in” in pursuing this quest against its latest target, Ukraine. They are betting the farm on this conquest, and have already exhausted more than twenty percent of their available resources, in both men and equipment. Russia has committed close to eighty percent of its available armed forces in the process, a fact that we believe leaves them badly exposed, should they choose to open another “special operation” against a country like Finland or Sweden. They have threatened such action if either of these countries pushes their governing bodies to accelerate plans to join NATO.
My bro-in-law has posed a most interesting and delicate question, regarding our level of commitment to Ukraine. Simply stated, he’d like to know why we keep sitting on the sidelines, while Russia is pounding the Ukrainian landscape into rubble, killing off the cream of their fighting forces, and murdering thousand of civilians in the process. Every fiber of his being tells him that this is the moment of truth:. On one hand, we can continue to feed materiel to our friends, while at the same time appeasing the Russians every time they issue the slightly veiled threat of the use of nuclear weapons. Or, along with continuing to squeeze the Russian economy with enhanced sanctions, we can commit our military forces selectively to combat, in such ways that the Russians will have to back away and sue for peace.
To me, this is the question of the century to date, and we need to examine the options with extreme care. The dilemma is much like Chamberlain’s in 1939: we give Putin what he wants in Ukraine and claim that we have bought “peace in our time,” Or we can realize that history is repeating itself in agonizing detail, and acknowledge that there is no appeasing this megalomaniacal dictator. He will never have enough, as long as he can wave a nuke at the world. The companion question is this: Are we to believe that Putin will actually risk world incineration for the sake of his legacy, or will we (or the Russian people) find a way to put an end to his fantasies?
The poker stakes couldn’t be higher. Once Putin has his coveted port on the Black Sea, he will have achieved naval dominance of Eastern Europe. Uniting all of Eastern Ukraine with the Russian Federation, is the interim goal which Putin is pursuing with all the firepower he can muster. But his stated aim is to re-acquire the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and in time, Finland. That would amount to just about all the former Soviet Union, and make it the most influential player in the European poker game. So we stand by our conviction that appeasement has never worked, and with this regime, it never will. Therefore, why should Putin ever use a nuke, when it would bring total destruction to the very empire he is seeking to re-acquire? The one remaining variable is Putin’s mental health. Is he sane, or as many believe, batshit crazy? Close observers have noted that he has an uncontrollable tremor in one hand, which is one of the markers for Parkinson’s Disease. This illness could also bring on bouts of irrational behavior. We could hope that suicide is among those options, but can only stick pins in his doll-head at the moment. So his bluffing behavior, countered by the real threat of having to deal with a maniac, make the intervention call very close in that regard.
In defending their homeland, the Ukrainians have been the most valiant fighters in the world, and they have fought the Bear to a near standstill. Yet the crushing weight of numbers will be the deciding factor, if massive intervention is not forthcoming soon. Russian combat tactics are anything but delicate. They prefer to bomb a city into dust before marching in to “recivilizes” it. Their methods, in their crudeness and brutality, leaves them wide open for both retaliation and counterattack. We are providing artillery of the caliber that will match Ivan’s, and missiles that have already decimated his tank corps. Still they keep coming, as long as they have the oil revenue to buy more armaments. One notes that Germany has just decided to cut off Russian oil supplies, a major move, but that leaves the flow of natural gas unabated. Still, this is a crippling move, and in time will have a major effect on the Russians’ ability to finance the war. On this score, the edge goes to Ukraine.
What to do about Russia’s air superiority? They can make combat strikes almost at will around the country, because Ukraine doesn’t have enough of an Air Force to defeat them. Nonetheless, Ukraine’s missile and rocket air defenses have taken a huge toll on the enemy’s air assets. Ukraine badly needs those fighter aircraft that Poland has promised to sell them. We are splitting hairs in declining to support this move. Our position is that flying aircraft from Poland to Ukraine would constitute a violation of the NATO limitations, and the Russians would declare war on us because of it. But let’s be honest: we’re already fighting a “proxy” war by providing combat materiel through Poland, and all we’ve gotten is gruff warnings about it. Please tell me what is the difference between driving a tank from Poland and flying an aircraft from Poland. We could be oh so clever and sell those aircraft to another proxy nation, and have mercenaries fly them into Ukraine. Come on, guys, this is a war of the utmost importance, and we’re involved all the way, to a large extent.
Why not go all in, like the opponent? It’s either that or watch Europe being slowly absorbed into the greater dictatorship.
And while we’re on the subject of mercenaries, here’s another story from a long-ago war that has dramatic implications for this one. In the Vietnam War there was a “shadow” airline called Air America. Funded by the CIA and manned by volunteers (aka mercenaries) they flew hundreds of aircraft on thousands of clandestine missions into off-limits territory, in support of the Montagnards and other resistance groups fighting the North Vietnamese. They flew fighters, cargo haulers and manpower sirlifters into the teeth of the dragon. They were paid handsomely for their risky enterprise, and they lost many aircraft and men along the way. You never hear of these CIA losses, because it was a clandestine operation, and our government officially disavowed any knowledge of them.
So the obvious analogy is that we could be doing the very same thing today in Ukraine. The CIA is still alive and spooky, and my money says they could recruit any number of “volunteers” to fight for freedom. We already have a double handful of American volunteers with the Ukrainian armed forces. And isn’t turnaround still known as fair play? The Russians have welcomed a thousand “volunteers” with the Syrian army to fight their own proxy war. Given a moderate amount of air superiority, a squadron of AC-130 gunships ranging up and down the Russian supply routes could effectively end their resupply efforts, and in a very short time. They could simultaneously hit artillery and combat formations of tanks, and literally turn this war into a rout. If you’re unfamiliar with the AC-130, let me tell you that it is the most awesome air-go-ground combat aircraft in the world. It is armed with side-firing 105MM and 75MM cannon, plus a GAU-9 gatling gun and 20MM cannon. It needs air cover, even though it has superb electronic countermeasures equipment. It has been a mainstay offensive weapons system since the Vietnam War.
This, my friends, is my opinion on where our support of our Ukrainian allies ought to be directed. There has been no subtlety displayed by the enemy, and he only respects overwhelming force. I maintain that finesse and pointless negotiations will not bring this war to an end, until Russia is flat on its back. The reverse strategy will only bring slow suffocation to Eastern Europe.
For starters, that is.
George Thatcher, 2022
George is an American Bad Ass. He grew up in Jersey, flew B-52s in Vietnam, taught English, Spanish and other languages to children around the world, makes his own salsa, has been known to enjoy a beer or two and has called Lubbock home for a few years, just to entertain the locals. Welcome to Raiderland, Major. We are going to feature some of his writings going forward. Some new, some old. Some rhyme, some don’t. When it comes to George, there’s no box. So… enjoy our friend and enjoy his writings! – Hyatt