The United States, after months of war, is finally standing up a command specifically designed to assist Ukraine.
This formalizes the ad hoc efforts President Joe Biden’s administration and America’s allies have conducted since the Russian invasion began. Through a stroke of luck, American recalcitrance and Washington’s typically glacial reaction time did not condemn the West to a stunning geopolitical catastrophe.
Unlike Ukraine, Taiwan’s prospects under military pressure are highly problematic. The US must stand up an equivalent command for Taiwan, one that expedites arms transfers and facilitates joint training and planning between Taiwan and American Indo-Pacific allies.
The planning done before a conflict will be essential to Taiwan’s survival and America’s strategic interests.
More luck than good judgment
Good fortune shone on the Western coalition in late February. In the late autumn, American and British intelligence confirmed that Russia’s latest force buildup around Ukraine was a prelude to a full-scale invasion, not a “bite at the Ukrainian apple” as the Eastern Europeans liked to say, or a bit of political-military grandstanding meant to coerce a recalcitrant Ukrainian government back to the Minsk II accords.
As Europe dithered and avoided engagement, the US and the UK, almost alone, accelerated arms sales, providing Ukraine with a wealth of portable anti-tank and anti-air weapons, and feeding Ukrainian planners intelligence on the impending Russian invasion.
When the war began on February 24, Ukraine’s military was reasonably well prepared. Ukraine shifted its air defenses, launched its aircraft, and avoided significant damage during the initial Russian barrage. Even then, luck was involved: If Ukrainian positions had collapsed around Chernihiv in the face of Russian numerical superiority, Kiev would have been pressed far harder.
Similarly, Ukrainian forces held near Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih. They repulsed a Russian attack on Voznesensk, solidifying its position in the south.
By early April, the contours of the current war were in place: Ukrainian forces pushed Russia back from around Kiev and settled into a long-term attritional struggle in the Donbas and throughout the south. Ukrainian planning leveraged the country’s geography, social resilience, and population to delay and then overturn the Russian advance.
These conditions gave the West five months, from April to August, to transfer high-end weapons systems to Ukraine, ranging from long-range rocket artillery and modern guided barrel artillery to tanks, armored vehicles, air defenses, and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs, or combat drones).
It also allowed the West to stand up various training initiatives for Ukrainian soldiers, and to interface at an increasingly robust level with Ukrainian planners, staff systems, and military intelligence. Almost all this work occurred after February 24, and indeed, after early April.
The first month of the war gave the West the breathing space it needed to put all the long-term support systems in place required for an extended confrontation. Perhaps this time could have been used more efficiently, but the formalization of support mechanisms through this new American-led command is a success.
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Seth Cropsey is founder and president of Yorktown Institute. He served as a US naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the navy, and is the author of the books Mayday and Seablindness.