Unfortunately, we’re to the point where we’re debating “offensive” vs. “defensive” weapons transfers to Ukraine. This is, without exception, always a stupid distinction; every weapon can be used in both offensive or defensive ways depending on context. Diplomats love the offensive vs. defensive terminology because the latter seem “responsible,” but it’s garbage all the way down. It’s true that operational offensives require a somewhat different mix of weapons than operational defensives, but this is an aggregate measure that has nothing whatsoever to do with the characteristics of a specific system. F-15s are “defensive” if they’re intercepting enemy bombers and “offensive” if they’re striking enemy airfields, and kind of both at the same time if they’re escorting bombers to strike airfields. Tanks are “offensive” if they’re exploiting gaps opened by infantry and “defensive” if they’re rapidly moving to offer direct fire support to strongpoints under attack. Walls seem “defensive” but they’re quite “offensive” if they enable an expeditionary force to maneuver away from its base.
In related news, the Czechs are already sending some tanks:
The Czech Republic has been sending old Soviet-era tanks into Ukraine, providing badly needed heavy weapons to outgunned Ukrainian troops that are battling a much better-equipped Russian invasion force.
The efforts, described by three Czech and Slovak officials, mark the first time a foreign country has provided tanks to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24. In a potentially even more important development, both the Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia, which shares a border with Ukraine, are considering opening their military industrial installations to repair and refit damaged Ukrainian military equipment.
And more on this later, but Tyler Rogoway is making sense:
While Ukraine needs familiar ground-based air defenses the most right now, in the meantime, the U.S. and NATO have to begin getting Ukrainian pilots into training on a western fighter type.
Regardless of the outlandish claims that some are putting forward, including the Ukrainian Air Force itself, this process will take many months or even, in some cases, years to complete. There is no getting around that reality. The same can be said for preparing Ukraine to actually operate and sustain the western fighters once they are in-country. But starting now will make a huge statement to Russia and waiting any longer will only needlessly delay the inevitable further. This is simply a luxury the U.S. and its NATO partners no longer have. They need to move decisively now.
In other news, some thoughts on what the future of cyber-competition with Russia might look like:
Over the past two decades, hackers operating at the behest of the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have opened up new cyber-frontiers by specializing in the theft of intellectual property (IP), including patents and trade secrets. Russia, despite becoming internationally renowned for harboring and cultivating gangs of cyber-criminals, has been far slower on the trigger with respect to IP theft. Now that sanctions have isolated Russia from the international technology ecosystem, could we see a change in the behavior of Russian hackers?