Washington’s delusion that it can lead allies from behind and let them do the actual work and take the most risk is unrealistic and unbefitting of a global superpower.
The United States has informally raised with Türkiye the unlikely possibility of sending its Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems to Ukraine to help it fight Russian forces, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
Over the past month, US officials have floated the suggestion with their Turkish counterparts but no specific or formal request was made. According to Reuters, Turkish sources said it also came up briefly during Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's visit to Türkiye earlier this month.
This informal request is part of the trend in which the global superpower, the United States of America, is asking others to do its bidding in Ukraine. First, Washington tried to convince Poland to transfer its MiG-23 fighter jets to Ukraine. When Poland did not want to take full responsibility and instead declared its readiness to deploy them to a US base to be later transferred to Ukraine, all discussions around the MiG fighter jets ended abruptly with a clear American rejection.
Following these attempts, the US tried to convince NATO states that possess Russian air defence systems to transfer their systems to Ukraine. Greece, which houses short-range TOR M-1 and OSA-AK Russian-made air defence systems, immediately rejected this idea.
It appears that the Biden administration doesn’t know the meaning of being a global power. The US has to be the nation that leads and galvanises others behind it, not the other way around. The mentality that the US can lead allies from behind and let them do the actual work and take the most risk is not realistic. Instead of making requests of others, the US has to focus on its lack of leadership, which enabled the situation in Ukraine in the first place and continues to hinder real and meaningful support to Ukraine.
How can the US, which spends $811 billion of the total $1,174 billion NATO defence expenditures—that’s nearly 70 percent—expect Poland and Türkiye, each with around $13 billion in defence spending, and Greece with around $5 billion in defence spending, to make the meaningful and risky moves?
As the main supply hub for Ukraine, Poland, which also delivered its weapon systems to Ukraine, is doing more than enough. Türkiye, which has provided Ukraine with the Bayraktar TB2 UAVs has done enough. On the other side, the US will provide essentially the same kind of weapons aid to Ukraine as the small Baltic States—not worthy of a global power.
US hiding cowardice
For the sake of argument, let’s assume Türkiye had decided to transfer the S-400 air defence systems to Ukraine. In military terms, the idea of transferring the S-400 air defence systems to Ukraine would make no sense, as the Ukrainian army doesn’t know how to operate the S-400 air defence systems. The only people who know are a limited number of personnel in the Turkish army who have been trained in these systems. In other words, this move would also require Türkiye to deploy its soldiers to Ukraine. Turkish soldiers would target Russian fighter jets. The question arises: while Turkish soldiers protect Ukrainian air space, who or what would protect Turkish soldiers in Syria from the inevitably enraged Russian air force?
To illustrate the absurdity of this idea further, deploying US-made air defence systems to Ukraine together with a private military company with employees that know how to operate these systems would be operationally easier, safer and less complicated. If there is a real readiness in the US to protect the skies over Ukraine, why rely on Russian gear when American air defence systems can do the job? As a bonus, deploying American air defence systems instead of the S-400 of Türkiye would allow Türkiye to continue its mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine.
The US wanted Poland to deploy fighter jets to Ukraine but did not deploy fighter jets itself. The US wanted NATO allies with Russian air defence systems to deploy their systems to Ukraine but doesn’t discuss deploying their own. Why?
Several more hypothetical questions can be raised, but they will have the same answer: The Biden administration hesitates in taking an active leading role. Instead, it is trying to give the impression that it is making efforts to counter Russia by proposing unrealistic ideas. By bringing other NATO states into the orbit of global focus, the US wants to hide its cowardice.
If this trend continues, just like Poland, Greece, and Türkiye, other NATO states will be baffled with unrealistic American demands and requests to aid Ukraine. NATO states have to talk the US back into its historic leadership role.
Instead of wasting valuable time during which Ukrainian soldiers are dying on the battlefield against the Russian soldiers, the US has to show leadership and take matters into its own hands. The strategy to confront Russia can not and should not be limited to the discussion of unviable proposals to protect the skies of Ukraine. The US has to be pragmatic, employ realpolitik and work on a global strategy to stop Russia.
Furthermore, the US has to lead an initiative to provide the international foundation for the establishment of a safe zone in war zones. Even though the Ukraine conflict is relatively new, over 10 million Ukrainians have left their homes, and over 3.3 million have fled the country.
The urgency for a safe zone in western Ukraine to host and protect Ukrainian internally displaced persons and prevent them from leaving the country is significant. The safe zone would require the deployment of military forces with the necessary capability in the west of Ukraine and would function as a buffer to prevent further migration waves to the west. Such a safe zone would enable a safe environment for Ukrainian civilians and hinder Russian attempts to cleanse Ukraine from an unwanted population.
Before anyone rejects this idea stating that a safe zone would trigger World War III—a safe zone is different from a no-fly zone. This option is viable and can be implemented. Türkiye has done it alone in Syria, and it can be done in Ukraine.
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