by Lincoln Institute | March 17, 2022

By Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring

Weakness is provocative. That’s true in schoolyards, divorce proceedings, political confrontations, labor and trade negotiations, and in foreign policy, but while the consequences of weakness can be overcome or even tolerated in many of those arenas, perceived military weakness and indecisiveness can provoke war, cause untold humanitarian misery and produce an entire reset of the world order. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich early this week said that the Biden administration is “the most timid, cowardly and pathetic administration in modern American history.”

While that bleak assessment may well be accurate, it’s also not too late to do what’s right. In President Zelensky’s Ukraine, we have an ally with the will to fight that exceeds the average will to fight of the entire Russian military, even if President Zelensky’s will is matched by the obsessive Vladimir Putin. Napoleon once famously said, “in war the moral is to the physical as three is to one.” Ukraine has the moral advantage. Putin has the physical advantage. With adequate armaments, Ukraine can leverage its moral advantage. In Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, our allied host nations didn’t have the will to fight that the Ukrainians are showing, so analogies with how those conflicts turned out in the end are inappropriate.

In President Zelensky’s powerful address to the US Congress on Wednesday, he pleaded for the weaponry that would “close the sky” to Russian aircraft – high-altitude bombers, low-altitude attack aircraft, troop carriers, helicopters and cruise missiles. Below about 11,000 feet, the American Stinger missiles are relatively easy to fire and deadly effective. They were a major factor in the Mujahadin defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan forty years ago, so the Russian military is well-acquainted with them. They’re no longer being manufactured, and the United States should send every available Stinger missile in our possession or that of our allies to Ukraine immediately. There are approximately 17,000 stingers in the world today. President Biden initially sent just 200 to Ukraine. Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz sent 500. This week Biden promised another 800. We should send thousands more and implore our allies to do the same.

Much of the devastation being wrought in Ukraine is coming from Russian aircraft flying above the 10,000 to 12,000 foot ceiling of the Stingers. At higher altitudes, a long-range surface-to-air missile system, or SAM, is required. The Ukrainian military is trained on and familiar with one of the best SAM’s in the world, the Soviet and Russian-built S-300. Slovakia has offered to send some of theirs to Ukraine.  We should offer to replace them with Patriots, the superior US equivalent to the S-300.  They are inherently a defensive weapon system, so President Biden has little excuse not to offer Patriots directly.  We should expedite as many as possible to Ukraine, along with advisors who can teach the Ukrainians how to use them. We have over 1,000 Patriot launchers and over 10,000 Patriot missiles.

Much has been made about the refusal of the US to send fighter aircraft, whether aging MIGs owned by some of our allies or more modern American attack aircraft to establish an effective no-fly zone over Ukraine, or, as President Zelensky puts it, to “close the sky” to Russian aircraft.  Rather than wring our hands in frustration over Biden’s timidity, it’s plausible that Stingers, S-300’s and Patriots can close the skies as effectively as manned fighter aircraft. While we can bemoan Biden’s timidity about authorizing a no-fly zone, we may be able to get to the same objective another way. Timing is what’s crucial. We must move as fast as logistically possible.

Many comparisons between Ukrainian President Zelensky and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill have been drawn in the last few weeks, so it is appropriate to close this commentary with one of Churchill’s most eloquent pleas: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.” We did then, and we must now, but even faster. If we don’t, Moldova, Georgia, the Baltics and Taiwan may also fall, and the very thing Biden fears most, a third World War, will be upon us.