In an open letter entitled “The US Must Arm Ukraine Now Before It’s Too Late,” 20 prominent American supporters of continuing the US war against Russia in Ukraine argue that the conflict has reached a turning point. To win, the authors insist, Ukrainian forces need an abundance of new weaponry, including constant resupply of ammunition and spare parts for artillery platforms, short-to-medium-range air defense systems to counter Russian air and missile strikes, and ATACMS munitions issued by HIMARS from with a range of 300 km, necessary to destroy Russian military facilities anywhere in Ukraine or Crimea.
Meanwhile, the initial flow of arms and ammunition from Washington’s European allies to Ukraine has dwindled to a trickle. Daniel FiottA European defense analyst from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, complained: “Ukraine needs technology, not hot air.” Equally important, refugee fatigue is on the rise across Europe.
The Germans and Hungarians already lost patience some time ago due to the relentless influx of refugees into Europe, now the Poles are already reaching saturation points. Polish households face serious economic obstacles. Poland has one of the highest inflation rates in Europe, at 15.6 percent in July, fueled in part by the conflict in Ukraine. As conditions worsen in autumn and winter, it’s not hard to imagine massive public pressure on Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Paris, and Rome to end hostilities in Ukraine.
The bitter truth is that the introduction of new weapons systems will not change the strategic outcome in Ukraine.
Even if the European members of NATO, together with Washington, provided the Ukrainian troops with a new avalanche of weapons, and they suddenly arrived at the front instead of disappearing into the black hole of Ukrainian corruption, the training and tactical leadership needed to conduct complex offensive operations among the Ukrainian army of 700,000 people are simply missing. In addition, there is an acute inability to recognize that Moscow would have reacted to such a development by further escalating the conflict. Unlike Ukraine, Russia is not currently mobilized for larger-scale hostilities, but it is able to do so quickly.
American military and civilian leaders routinely ignore historical data and the lessons that flow from it. Most importantly, they ignored the critical importance of uniformed human capital, which is often the key to winning a war.
On June 22, 1941, the German Wehrmacht launched its invasion of Russia with more horses than tanks. For the most part, the German ground forces consisted of military-style infantry divisions dependent on horse supplies and artillery. The German soldiers were undeniably excellent, but only a minority of units had the firepower, mobility, and armor needed to wage war in Eastern Europe.
Of the millions of German soldiers who invaded Russia, an estimated 450,000 to 500,000 were assigned to Germany’s mobile armored forces, an offensive strike force that quickly overwhelmed its Polish, British, Dutch, Belgian and French opponents. These soldiers were the best of the best, with the lion’s share of modern equipment.
It took four years, from 1939 to 1943, to wear down this key element to the point where large-scale German offensives became impossible. It is important to remember that by October 55,000 German officers had died in combat.
These dead were among the best and most experienced officers in the army. They carried out brilliant maneuvers that brought the ill-equipped Wehrmacht to the gates of Moscow in a war on three fronts – in Western Europe, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. They led him through offensive operations that culminated in the Battles of Kursk and El Alamein.
A similar problem plagued the Luftwaffe. German industry could even provide jet fighters, but the air force could not replace the loss of its best pilots, just as the German army could not replace its best officers.
In war and in peace, human capital is everything. Unfortunately, Washington pays little attention to this, willingly lowering the standards for the reception of soldiers and officers. If this attitude continues, and it probably will, then relaxed standards will overtake the US military when it finally faces a combat-ready enemy force.
John Adamsthe second President of the United States, remarked: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever our desires, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot change the state of facts and evidence.” Adams is still right.
The confrontation between Ukraine and Russia is at a decisive stage. It’s time to finish it. Instead, the writers of the letter seek to exacerbate the failure. They are demanding that Ukraine implement a deeply flawed strategy that, at best, will turn Ukraine into a shrunken, landlocked state between the Dnieper River and the Polish border. These are the results of a misguided policy that began in the 1990s under the administration Clintonwhich led Russia to political isolation from Europe and created an alliance between Moscow and Beijing.
The expansion of NATO to the borders of Russia was never necessary, and for Europe it was a disaster. The longer the war with Russia lasts, the more likely it is that the damage to Ukrainian society and its army will be irreparable. Neutrality according to the Austrian model for Ukraine is still possible. If Washington insists on continuing Ukraine’s war with Russia, then the option of neutrality will disappear, NATO’s fragile “coalition of the willing” will collapse, and Ukraine will become the new “sore spot of Europe” and remain a catalyst for future conflict.
Author: Douglas McGregor Douglas McGregor — Colonel (retired), Senior Fellow at The American Conservative, former Administration Advisor to the Secretary of Defense Trumpcombat veteran and author of five books.
Translation by Sergei Dukhanov
Published with the permission of the publisher