Russian invasion of the Ukraine and the S400

turkey purchases Russian S400 missiles

The apparently starting invasion of the Ukraine by Russia is in the news. There are a lot of reasons why it’s happening but I’m going to argue today that Turkey’s purchase of the S400 anti-aircraft system is perhaps the main catalyst.

Now, that being said, it’s a complicated situation to say the least. That fact is Turkey, a member of NATO, purchased the Russian anti-aircraft system and installed it. It’s been tracking advanced US planes ever since. I wrote about this purchase back in 2017.

The Role of Air Power in Containing Aggressive War

Air Power is integral as a deterrent to offensive war. If you do not control the skies, it is incredibly difficult to make any sort of invasion. If Vladimir Putin isn’t at least moderately convinced the S400 and the newer s500 can suppress the United States Air Force, he is unlikely to invade the Ukraine.

Basically, a nation that controls the air can fly over the battlefield and destroy advancing invaders nearly at their leisure. This power serves as an enormous deterrent. The fact that Putin, just a few short years after the S400 went into to Turkey, is suddenly posturing so aggressive is not a coincidence, at least not in my opinion.

I’d be remiss if I tried to make this a simple issue. The United States allowed Turkey to purchase and install advanced Russian anti-aircraft systems. This in turn gave the Russian military all the data they needed to suppress the US Air Force in future conflicts. Thus, the invasion of the Ukraine. It’s hardly this simple and I’m not going to make that case. Therefore, I’m going to mention several of the other factors although I remain convinced the S400 sale is integral to current events.

Failed Wars

American Adventurism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria soured the public on the role of the United States as a police force in the world. The people of the United States are of an America First mindset these days. We don’t want to get dragged into another endless conflict.

Soft Power

All power isn’t military power. There is something called Soft Power. This is a complicated thing, and I wrote a blog about it some time ago. It largely involves a group of allies around the world who support your agenda. It comes from economic ties, shared education, and a number of other factors.

It’s quite clear the United States no longer pursues the policy of Soft Power with the vigor it once did. Russia and particular China are making allies around the world through various policies including the transfer of energy.

Europe depends on Russian energy. Russia is emboldened to do as they like.

The Big Stick

The United States possesses a large stick with which to intimidate nations into doing as we desire. This stick is based largely on economics, sanctions. If a nation behaves in a way we dislike, we impose sanctions.

The problem with the big stick is analogous to a threat in chess. The threat is more effective than the actual implementation. The United States has used the stick far too frequently and drained its power significantly.

Sanctions? So what? We don’t care. We’ve got other trading partners. You’re all about America First now and your sanctions are impotent. We’ve seen them in action and are ready.

Now, this isn’t completely true. Our economic power in the world is still tremendous and our stick is still heavy. Just less so and that’s a factor.

Conclusion

It’s complicated. That’s my conclusion. Anyone who tells you there are simple causes; it’s Biden’s fault, it’s Trump’s fault, it’s Obama’s fault, it’s Bush’s fault, or it’s anyone’s fault is simply deflecting blame for political gain. They want to manipulate you into a vote or an ideology.

There are a lot factors involved but if the Russians weren’t convinced they can suppress the US Air Force, we wouldn’t be where we’re at. That’s my conclusion. Turkey purchased and installed the s400 and this is the reward we reap.

Tom Liberman

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