The Right To Shoot Back Doctrine

The Ukraine War has reached a crucial moment. Russia is trying to advance in the East while threatening an attack through its client state, Belarus. The Ukrainians have battled the Russians into giving up some territory, but their civilians are taking a beating. Ukraine needs more and better weapons to maintain momentum.

There can be only one winner in this war. It would seem a no-brainer for the U.S. and its allies to go all in to ensure a Ukrainian victory. If Ukraine drives the invaders out of their country, Russia no longer threatens our NATO allies, and we will avoid direct involvement in a European war. If Russia doesn’t lose, given time, it will rebuild its military to resume aggression towards Ukraine and its neighbors. 

Recently, Ukrainians arrived in the U.S. to train on the Patriot air-defense system. The question is, why can’t we give Ukraine the tools to win in a timely fashion? Instead of shipping needed tanks today, we’re witnessing Germany refusing to O.K. the transfer of German-made Tiger tanks unless the U.S. contributes some of its Abrams tanks. 

The Russians pummel civilians and infrastructure with drones and rockets sent from bases out of the range of Ukraine’s present weapons while the Ukrainians wait. Many of these bases are in Russia. 

The situation calls for a simple logical policy change. You don’t restrict your friends to knives in a gunfight. Just give Ukraine weapons to shoot back. If someone shoots at you, the right of self-defense says you can return fire. You’re not escalating, just leveling the field to protect yourself. If bad guys have guns, law enforcement has to have them, too, if they’re to be effective.

A simple solution is to give Ukraine the means to hit back. If Russia sends rockets or drones from bases in Russia or Crimea, give Ukraine drones and rockets to take out whence they come. Do the same with planes. 

An agreement with Ukrainians to only use long-range weapons to take out these bases is quite doable. With our satellite and trajectory computing, we know exactly where the Russians are launching attacks. This action is only returning fire. The Russians are placing the bullseye on these locations—no attacks from there, no return attack.

Early in the war, it was reasonable to fear that any long-range weapons provided to the Ukrainians might result in hitting Moscow. After a year of close cooperation, an agreement only to assail identified targets are reasonable. The deal is in the interests of both the U.S. and Ukraine. A resulting irrational response from Putin isn’t in anybody’s interest.

Lessening or eliminating air, drone, and rocket attacks from the previously out-of-range bases gives the Ukrainians military, economic, and morale boosts., while having the opposite effect on Russia.

Facing losses in people and equipment, an unpopular Belarus government might find getting involved in Russia’s war unattractive. Knowing you’re getting hit back focuses the mind.

Older planes, drones, and long-range HIMARs exist in our inventory—only a short time is needed to bring them to bear in the field. The Ukrainians have proven very adept at mastering a wide variety of arms.

Once available, we establish a website showing where attacks on Ukraine originated. Then we have a choice of immediately retaliating or warning Russia and Belarus to expect to be hit wherever an attack on Ukraine emanates. 

The first option would yield immediate results. The second option puts Putin on the horns of the dilemma. He could divert resources to protect his bases and continue using them or cease using them, thereby avoiding heavy losses, resulting in a significant plus for the Ukrainians.

If Russia opts for the second choice, the new equipment can return fire anywhere within Ukraine. For instance, the Crimean area lies within Ukraine’s recognized borders and is the main staging ground for drone attacks. Only lack of range has prevented this in the past. 

The beauty of this “Right to Shoot Back” doctrine is that it leaves it up to Russia and Belarus whether the war widens geographically. Just returning fire isn’t escalation. It simply matches what your opponent does. Whatever Putin decides, Ukraine is in a much stronger position. Without safe bases, we’ve significantly weakened Russia and Belarus. We get this result without endless discussions with our allies. This policy is a win-win any way you look at it.

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