Victory is essential for the West – by Greg Sheridan for The Australian – 28.01.23
Nothing is more provocative than weakness. On that basis, the world, perhaps even its own citizens, will have to rethink the narrative of terminal Western decline.
The decision by US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to provide main battle tanks for Ukraine is a pivotal moment. The US is also sending Bradley Fighting Vehicles. It makes a Ukrainian victory more likely. That is crucially important not only for Ukraine, but for the West generally, and for every scrap of security and order provided by the US alliance system globally.
Every war is a tragedy; most wars are also a mistake. But wars do have results. Some nations prevail, some nations fail. Some are dismembered, never to recover. Some ideologies – such as Nazism in World War II – are defeated forever.
The Ukraine outcome will be fateful for the entire world.
The tanks themselves will not be decisive. Ukraine will get 31 US Abrams tanks, absolute behemoths which chew jet fuel at a prodigious rate and are extremely difficult to operate. Germany will start by giving 14 Leopard tanks, easier to operate and more powerful than anything the Russians are now using.
There are more than 2000 Leopard tanks across Europe. Britain has promised Challenger tanks. Berlin has authorised nations which have bought Leopards to donate them to Ukraine, which could realistically get 100 new tanks.
Much of Ukraine, especially in the east, is flat, open territory. Ukraine has long land borders with hostile powers Russia and Belarus. Tanks are relevant, whereas they are worthless to Australia and our maritime security challenges.
Canberra should donate our 60-odd Abrams tanks to Ukraine, saving us a heap of money and putting them to some use.
Russian forces have fired dozens of missiles at Ukraine in a blistering wave of strikes just a day after Germany and…
We have used our fighter jets in the Middle East and in patrols across Asia, and deployed our warships in the Persian Gulf and on freedom of navigation missions throughout the region. We have never even transported one of our tanks to a militarily contested area since the Vietnam War. We have not used them at all for more than 50 years. Donating them would save us billions of dollars we could spend on relevant military capabilities and enhance Ukraine’s fighting abilities.
And Ukraine’s success is of tremendous direct importance to Australia.
In Ukraine we have a free, sovereign and democratic nation willing to bear enormous costs for freedom. The Americans rightly grumble at freeloading allies who expect Americans to do their fighting. As Biden once said, the US can’t want Afghan freedom more than Afghans do.
In Ukraine, the US has an ally willing to do all its own fighting, all its own dying, rather than live as slaves. Russia’s Vladimir Putin does not believe Ukraine has the right to exist as an independent nation, even though Russia had given Ukraine security guarantees and as recently as a year ago Putin claimed he had no intention of invading.
If the West won’t supply material assistance and financial aid to an ally like Ukraine, it is no longer the West.
This article can be read in full by clicking on the links below but the concluding words are worth adding here:
More broadly, what is the outcome for the West?
If Ukraine survives as an independent nation, if Germany makes good on its pledge to permanently increase defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP, if the US and Europe hold together in standing by Ukraine, then the West is immensely strengthened.
The US has three important international adversaries: China, Russia and Iran.
The second most important of these, Russia, has been gravely damaged by its invasion attempt. Its military is degraded and three-quarters used up, its influence is vastly reduced, its energy dominance has declined, its hi-tech industries are in the process of being crippled.
Meanwhile, the West has demonstrated coherence and consequence. NATO’s strength is confirmed, and enhanced. Nothing is more truly provocative than weakness. The Russians were influenced to invade Ukraine by drawing the wrong lessons from the messy US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The world, perhaps even its own citizens, will have to rethink the narrative of terminal Western decline.
Nowhere will these lessons be more closely studied than in Beijing. Western success in Ukraine makes war in east Asia significantly less likely. Ukrainians are fighting, magnificently, for their own freedom and country. They are also fighting for the West.
Here is the full article in pdf:
Greg Sheridan is The Australian's foreign editor. His most recent book, Christians, the urgent case for Jesus in our world, became a best seller weeks after publication. It makes the case for the historical reliability of the New Testament and explores the lives of early Christians and contemporary Christians. He is one of the nation's most influential national security commentators, who is active across television and radio, and also writes extensively on culture and religion. He has written eight books, mostly on Asia and international relations.