Why American support for Ukraine's forces will not trigger WWIII

The Budapest Memorandum of 1994 was an agreement among America, the U.K., and Ukraine.  Ukraine gave its vast stocks of nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for military aid from America and the U.K. should Russia attack, which happened in 2014.  That was when Putin ordered the Russian army to take Crimea by military force.

Neither America nor the U.K. held up its end of the deal.  Obama ignored the agreement and ordered worthless sanctions that did nothing.  He was militarily bound and failed.

When Trump was elected, the violations remained in effect.  He increased sanctions but failed to send military aid to help Ukraine take back Crimea.  Throughout his four years, he failed to live up to what was required by the Budapest Memorandum.

Once again, Russia has invaded, and Biden is taking the same route Obama and Trump took: a failure to live up to what was guaranteed.

There has been a lot of talk and writing about WWIII if America sends troops into Ukraine.  It is eerily similar to what was said about Reagan when he stood up to the Soviets.  Anyone who remembers the way Reagan was portrayed by the biased media remembers the contention that nuclear war was in prospect if Reagan remained tough against Soviet policy.

There was no WWIII.  Reagan stood tough, and the Soviets backed down.  No nuclear weapons flying, but a lot of people were saved from tyranny — in time, from the brutality of those trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

If the United States militarily enters Ukraine, which is required by that 1994 agreement, there will be no WWIII and no nuclear missiles flying, just as there were no WWIII and nuclear missiles flying when Reagan stood his ground.

If skirmishes between American and Russian forces were all it took to spark WWIII, it would have happened when both were fighting each other in Syria not all that long ago.

On September 19, 2020, the BBC published "Syria war: US deploys reinforcements to Syria after Russia clashes," which included this selection: "Incidents between US and Russian forces that patrol that part of the country have escalated this year."

Those incidents were actual firefights between American and Russian military forces and had been escalating.  It was the same Putin then as now, yet no nuclear missiles and no WWIII, just like with Reagan.

Going to nuclear readiness is a bluff that failed.  Putin was trying to keep other nations from supplying Ukraine with aid of any kind.  Weapons from the West are getting into Ukraine.

If Putin is willing to launch, as some fear the way they feared Reagan's toughness, then how does sending U.S. military hardware to Ukraine make any difference to Putin, who could perceive the weapons as not at all different from the American military itself being in Ukraine?

On March 2 of this year, CNN published an article by Kylie Atwood and Zachary Cohen, "US delivered hundreds of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine this week, sources say," which states:

The US has delivered hundreds of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine for the first time over the last few days, including over 200 on Monday, according to a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter.

Soldier aims FIM-92 Stinger missile during exercise.
Credit: Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files via NARA and DVDS Public Domain Archive.

If Putin is crazy enough to launch nuclear missiles over American forces entering Ukraine, what does that say about his expected response to high-end military weaponry used to take out Russian planes and tanks?  He has not retaliated against a single country supplying Ukraine with a single military weapon of any kind.

If nuclear disaster needs to be avoided, why turn a blind eye to the nuclear power plants the Russians have already targeted with military strikes and taken by force?

Chernobyl was one of the first military attacks by Russian forces against a nuclear site.  The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, was second. One wonders if the conscripts firing at whatever they are ordered to have any idea what a nuclear symbol means or just how close they came to causing a meltdown at Zaporizhzhia.  Had that fire not been put out, it could have been another Chernobyl.

Modern nuclear power plants have a lot of safety features but are not exactly designed for war.  The continued reckless action may result in the breadbasket of Europe turning into fields of radiation.

Putin does not need to launch nuclear missiles to cause nuclear devastation.  His unchecked actions could do that on their own.  Without a strong show of force, Putin will not stop, and more nuclear power sites will be attacked.

Biden is incapable of showing any strength against anyone.  He proved that with Afghanistan.  Not that Afghanistan mattered to Putin.  He did not need an Afghanistan to smell weakness from Obama.  Putin was going to invade regardless, because Biden is every bit as weak.

What could be done to aid Ukraine easily and quickly would be to land what is needed most right at the Ukrainian border.  Air power, including helicopters, can be towed across by the Ukrainians.  That is how we helped arm England via Canada during WWII before getting directly involved.

Any nation could do that without directly getting involved with Russia.  As long as the Ukrainians are the only ones to fly them, it cannot be viewed as an aggressive act any more than missiles already being used on Russian forces.

What is the difference between a surface-to-air missile taking out a Russian plane and a plane doing the same thing?  What difference does a helicopter make when the columns are already being attacked?

Regardless of any direct military involvement, Putin will not launch nuclear missiles.  He enjoys being a brutal tyrant, and fear of a retaliatory strike would take away the people he terrorizes.  MAD, mutually assured destruction, worked to keep Stalin from launching, and there was no greater sadistic psychopath than Stalin.

Tyrants like to have populations to terrorize.  What good is ruling from a bunker if there is no one to rule?

America standing up to Putin militarily in Ukraine will not bring about nuclear war any more than it did when American and Russian forces were firing at each other in Syria.  Putin sees weakness in an American leadership cadre that is filled with people who have no idea how lead.

That is the only reason Putin is committing clear war crimes in Ukraine.  Biden will never respond as needed, and Europe is paralyzed.  Standing up to Putin should be viewed in a similar light as standing up to the Soviets the way Reagan did.  A strong show of force works with tyrants; weakness does not.

Bob Ryan is a pen name.

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