President Biden’s mismanagement could inadvertently bungle the Ukrainian crisis into nuclear World War III.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So the U.S. has no obligation to defend Ukraine from impending invasion by Russia.
Nonetheless, President Biden is airlifting anti-tank missiles, ammunition, and other lethal military aid to Ukraine on an emergency basis.
President Biden has also approved suspending prohibition on NATO members from exporting U.S. supplied military equipment to other countries. Now Britain, Poland, the Baltic states and other NATO members are rushing military aid to Ukraine.
NATO arms flowing into Ukraine to beef-up their military is supposed to deter a Russian invasion, or so President Biden hopes. But surging Western military aid to Ukraine could have just the opposite effect, provoking Russian invasion.
Moscow may misinterpret military aid to Ukraine as confirming their fears the West intends to promote Ukraine from the Partnership for Peace (an interim step toward NATO membership) to full NATO membership.
The Kremlin has often declared it will oppose Ukrainian admittance to NATO using all means necessary—including nuclear weapons.
Ukraine is a vital strategic interest to Russia for a host of reasons, not least because Ukraine is a buffer providing strategic depth between Moscow and NATO. If Ukraine enters NATO, the U.S.-led alliance will be only 300 miles from Moscow, easy striking distance for a surprise attack by missiles, aircraft, and tank armies.
Russia has been a bloody battleground for centuries, invaded from the West by the Swedish Empire’s Gustavus Adolphus, France’s Napoleon, the Kaiser’s Germany in World War I, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany in World War II, the last costing Russia 20-30 million dead. Now the “bloodlands” of eastern and central Europe, conquered and controlled by Russia until 1989, are joining or want to join NATO, including Ukraine.
Of course, Russia has been an aggressor at least as often as it has been a victim. The Russian Empire and the Soviet Union are both red with the blood of conquered nations and oppression of their own peoples.
Consequently, Moscow’s worldview is one of endless paranoia. Threats are everywhere.
Ukraine is of no vital strategic interest to the West. The U.S. and its NATO allies have no intention of invading Russia.
But the West’s idealistic defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty is misinterpreted by a suspicious Kremlin that NATO expansion eastward will include Ukraine, and other former Soviet territories belonging to NATO’s Partnership for Peace, as part of a Western plot to destroy Russia. Russia may calculate it must invade Ukraine now, before Western military aid strengthens Ukraine, raising the cost of invasion.
Biden administration policies make Ukraine a potential powder keg that could ignite a nuclear World War III:
–If NATO military aid to Ukraine succeeds in raising too high the costs to Russia of invasion by conventional forces, then Russia may resort to using tactical nuclear weapons.
–NATO military aid to Ukraine cannot succeed in defeating Russia, but may strengthen Ukrainian forces enough so they avoid quick defeat, and make a fighting retreat into Poland, Romania and/or other neighboring NATO states. If Russia follows, it will be an invasion of NATO that can only be defeated by U.S. employment of tactical nuclear weapons.
–Biden administration strategy is to turn Ukraine into another Afghanistan for Russian forces, by feeding military aid into Ukraine from neighboring NATO states. Knowing this, Russia may defeat this strategy by isolating Ukraine from neighboring NATO states by invading them too. Pentagon calculations indicate Russia can defeat Ukraine and neighboring NATO states in days, unless NATO resorts to tactical nuclear weapons.
–If Russia plans to invade Ukraine and neighboring NATO states, knowing this could provoke NATO’s use of tactical nuclear weapons, Russia may make a preemptive nuclear strike on European NATO bunkers where tactical nuclear weapons are stored.
–A Russian preemptive strike on European NATO tactical nuclear weapons would result in confrontation with U.S. strategic nuclear forces and a possible homeland-to-homeland exchange. Knowing this, Russia may make a disarming preemptive strike against all tactical and strategic nuclear forces in the U.S. and European NATO.
–Since Russia and China are allies, and have for years practiced conventional and nuclear forces exercises together, if Russia invades Ukraine, Beijing may simultaneously annex Taiwan and the South China Sea. The two dictatorships could coordinate and expand their aggression to achieve a “final solution” to all issues between East and West.
–Russia and China hope to avoid nuclear apocalypse, using EMP and Cyber Warfare to blackout adversary electric grids and paralyze adversary military forces. The allure of swift, relatively bloodless, victory through electronic warfare makes aggression more likely.
President Biden should heed former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent warning that the U.S. needs “a multibillion-dollar program to build national EMP preparedness, to harden our electric grid, which will protect our military assets, infrastructure, businesses, and people.”
War can be avoided if President Biden promises NATO will not expand further eastward, which is sensible. Americans should not die for Ukraine or Kazakhstan.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of the books Blackout Warfare (2021) and The Power And The Light (2020