It went largely unnoticed, but Washington's refusal to let MiG fighter jets destined for the Ukrainians take off from their base in Germany is a clear message, according to a retired French general: Even if a NATO country is attacked, the U.S. will never send their soldiers to fight on our soil.
PARIS — With its back to the wall, America's mask has come off. This great nation, which 80 years ago stood at the height of its moral strength, which claims to be the bulwark of freedom and democracy, has lowered its head in the face of the challenge.
We, the people of Europe, believed in her. During the Cold War, the U.S. military trained every year to rapidly deploy tens of thousands of soldiers from American soil to hold back Soviet forces.
Of course, General Charle de Gaulle quickly understood that Washington would never sacrifice itself for Paris and that France had to have the ultimate weapon, but we would count on a solid support: America was ready to sacrifice its sons en masse for its values on our soil.
Putin did not miss this “decoupling” opportunity
We now know, since March 9, 2022, that this is not, and will no longer be, the case. Private Ryan will never die on our beaches again.
The facts no longer have room for ambiguity. Faced with the difficulties of the Ukrainian forces, Washington urged, from the very first week, the NATO countries capable of doing so should reinforce Ukraine with their MiG29s: Ukrainian pilots were capable of using them, unlike Western aircrafts, which would require too much pilot training to master them. In compensation, the Americans proposed, the willing countries will receive more modern F16s.
Putin immediately seized this great opportunity to decouple Europe and the United States: He declared that any country whose MiGs took off towards the Ukrainian sky should in fact become a belligerent. The threat is clear: that of a flight of Russian missiles successfully tested in Syria.
In the event of conflict, Europe will remain alone
The Polish president, who volunteered to donate MiGs, agreed to take the risk but not alone: If, by donating his planes, he enters the war, then so must NATO — and therefore, the United States. He proposed that his MiGs take off not from Poland but from the U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany, which would make the United States a de facto co-belligerent.
It clarifies the situation: in this existential crisis, Europe is alone and will remain so.
So Washington – which, for ages, has vowed to the Europeans in NATO that it would fight for them – backs down. The American duplicity appears clearly: These planes, declared useful yesterday if they took off from Poland, suddenly no longer “change the balance of power significantly” if they take off from an American base!
Words and weapons, yes; words and deeds, no.
This decision is hardly surprising since, from the beginning, the U.S. authorities (pivoted towards China and the midterm elections) claim that their soldiers will never participate in this war. In reality, it clarifies the situation: In this existential crisis, the greatest since World War II, Europe is alone and will remain so even if the Russian troops do not stop at the NATO border.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens to President Biden
Rod Lamkey/CNP via ZUMA
Second pillar of the West
We should have known better! Didn’t Barack Obama, advised by his Vice-President Joe Biden, back down in 2013 when Syria crossed the red line? Didn’t Donald Trump, proclaiming his “America First”, abandon the Kurds, declaring that he would never send a soldier to die for Podgorica and explicitly refuse to commit to collective defense?
Not to mention the brutal abandonment of Afghanistan ...
Of course, the United States supports Ukraine, with this new aid of $14 billion voted on the evening of March 9, as if to make us forget their retreat that same morning. They have delivered 2,000 Stinger missiles and 17,000 anti-tank missiles. They will continue to fight ... “from behind,” as Obama said, even if some elements of the 82nd Airborne Division have just been deployed in Poland.
But let’s be sure we've learn the lesson once and for all: The blood that's shed will be ours.
Let us prepare, without any illusion about the American defense “umbrella.” Let us quickly regain our military autonomy and European sovereignty. Let us be the powerful and peaceful geopolitical actor that world peace needs. Our security requires that we become the second solid pillar of the so-called “West,” ready to make hard decisions.
*Vincent Desportes is a retired French Army general and military theorist who served as military attaché in the French embassy in the U.S.