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There Is No ‘Magic Bullet’ That Can Turn the Tide for Ukraine

HIMARS
U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 65th Field Artillery Brigade, and soldiers from the Kuwait Land Forces fire their High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (U.S.) and BM-30 Smerch rocket systems (Kuwait) during a joint live-fire exercise, Jan. 8, 2019, near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The U.S. and Kuwaiti forces train together frequently to maintain a high level of combat readiness and to maintain effective communication between the two forces. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Lefty Larimer)

Last Sunday when the remaining Ukrainian soldier withdrew from Lysychansk, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said evacuating his troops from the city “where the enemy has the greatest advantage in fire power,” was the right call, but “means only one thing… That we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.” While many in the West would like that to be true, the reality is very different: there is no basis upon which to hope for a future offensive to drive Russian troops out of conquered territories.

The most likely result for the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) if they continue fighting the Russians is that more of Zelensky’s troops will be killed, more Ukrainian cities will be turned to rubble, and more territory Kyiv will lose to the invaders. A sober analysis of the capacity of the of the two armed forces, an assessment of the military fundamentals that have historically proven decisive on the battlefield, and an examination of the sustainability potential for both sides, make it plain that Russia will almost certainly win a tactical victory.

Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said that, to the contrary, the withdrawals in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk weren’t defeats at all, but instead “successful” in that he claimed they allowed Ukraine to “buy time for the supply of Western weapons and the improvement of the second line of defense, to create conditions for our offensive actions in other areas of the front.” This is a common belief in the West but one not borne out by the facts.

In some instances, fighting tenaciously in the face of considerable enemy superiority can prove to be the difference between victory and defeat. For example, in the famous Battle of the Bulge, the U.S. 101st Airborne Division refused to surrender in Bastogne even after it had been surrounded and cut off by the advancing German army.

The U.S. commander, however, had good reason to hold on even against an enemy with overwhelming numbers of artillery and tanks: as soon as the fog and cloud cover broke, the U.S. commander could expect massive air support to break the back of the German assaults and aerial resupply of ammunition and food to Bastogne’s defenders. More critically, Gen. George S. Patton’s 4th Armored Division was also racing north to relieve the 101st. For the Ukraine defenders, on the other hand, there is no such help coming.

The much-ballyhooed supply of “heavy weapons” from the West that both Zelensky and Arestovych claim is coming will not be enough to turn the tide. Not even close. Zelensky advisor Mykhailo Podolyak correctly noted that the minimum needed by Ukraine to have a chance at reaching parity with the Russian invaders would require modern kit in the range of 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, and 300 rocket launchers.

As detailed by The Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the sum total of all heavy weapons delivered or promised by the West through last week’s G7 and NATO summits amounts to a paltry 175 howitzers, 250 Soviet-era tanks, and an anemic dozen or so rocket launchers. To date, no other help is being considered.

The ramifications of this mismatch should be clear: despite numerous and boisterous claims of Western support, it is militarily unsound for Ukraine to base its defense plans on the hope that major quantities of high quality Western heavy weapons will show up to help Ukraine stop the Russians. But there is a bigger, less obvious truth at play as well: even if Zelensky got everything on Podolyak’s list, it still would not likely change the battlefield dynamics.

The reason is that, like in all modern wars, military victory or defeat in the Russian-Ukraine War is likely to be determined by the side that has the highest quality of manpower and less on the platforms of war. For all its major missteps in the opening round, Russia began the war with a total active force of 900,000 whereas Ukraine had approximately 250,000.

Both sides have suffered egregious casualties since February – but Russia has hundreds of thousands more active troops from which to pull to replace its losses, whereas Ukraine has none. The impact on the battlefields of the Ukrainian disadvantages in weaponry and personnel is stark and unambiguous.

In a recent New York Times expose, Megan Specia wrote that a Ukrainian colonel admitted that most of the replacements being sent to his unit at the front have “never served in the army. The notion that people could simply spring to action when the war crept closer is wrong, he said. By then, it is too late.” As units like the one Specia described fall back from one city to the next, there is no military foundation upon which to base the hope that the Russian offensive will be stopped.

Moscow can replenish its personnel losses from an existing pool of relatively trained personnel. They have tens of thousands of additional tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces to replace combat losses. Russia has a decisive advantage in air power. Putin’s military-industrial capacity to continue making missiles, rockets, and artillery shells has been diminished because of sanctions, but still functions – whereas most of Ukraine’s manufacturing capacity has been methodically destroyed.

In short, there is no valid military path through which Ukraine can hope that trading space for time will result in stopping Russia’s methodical progress through Ukraine – much less reverse it. To continue contesting every town and city is to ensure the Ukrainian casualties continue to mount and its urban areas destroyed. In the end, Russia is still likely to achieve a tactical victory.

It is necessary, in light of these physical realities, for U.S. and Western policies to change. Continuing to give verbal support to Ukraine and claiming that eventually, Kyiv’s side will win the war is not likely to change the outcome and is likely to result in a policy failure for Washington.

No one wants to negotiate from a position of weakness with an invading power, but the harsh truth is that the longer Zelensky and his Western supporters continue pursuing unrealistic objectives, the more likely Ukraine eventually suffers an outright military defeat.

Expert Biography: Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis.

Note: This piece was updated with two small grammatical tweaks as requested by the author. 

Written By

Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1.

62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. Scottfs

    July 7, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    When fighting aggressors like Russia, the best solution is surrender. Poland should surrender now. The Baltic States should surrender now.
    Give Putin and Xi Jinping what they want now, to reduce bloodshed.
    Living under a dictatorship won’t be too bad. Due process and freedom is overrated.

    • fred

      July 7, 2022 at 1:47 pm

      LMAO…Under The Bidet Politburo, it has almost come to that.
      To The Author: There is no “Magic Bullet”. However, a Few Hundred More Self Propelled Arty Units, MLRS, Modern Tanks and AFV’s, Modern Air Defense Systems, and a lot more Ammunition, would definitively “Change The Tide.”

      • KB

        July 7, 2022 at 2:19 pm

        Oh, Please. It’s only because of Biden that the US has helped as much as it has. On the first night of the invasion, when it looked like it would all be over quickly, Trump was publicly congratulating Putin the savvy genius. And Putin still has Republican defenders, like Gaetz and Empty-G

        It’s laughable that Putin was afraid to invade Ukraine while Trump was president. The truth is that Putin didn’t want to hurt Trump’s reelection, after Russia had spent so much time and effort on his two campaigns. Putin was always waiting until Trump’s second term to invade, when Trump was planning to withdraw from NATO.

        • jim

          July 8, 2022 at 3:32 pm

          You will let the Ukrainian people fight to the last man.

        • James Jordan

          July 8, 2022 at 7:05 pm

          There’s always a magic bullet in this clown world. Wait until NATO joins the fight.

      • Sammy

        July 7, 2022 at 5:52 pm

        Maybe you should re-read the article. There is no path to a military victory for Ukraine. Ukraine had a chances to negotiate for nearly eight years. It could have recognized the sovereignty of the Lugansk and Donetsk breakaway provinces. But it chose to fight instead. Literally a case of “f__ked around and found out”. Now America is and the west is just increasing the number of dead Ukrainians by prolonging a war that was started partially through their own diplomatic failures dealing with Russia and Russian loyalists in the Ukraine.

        • Dave

          July 7, 2022 at 10:23 pm

          Oh, because after Ukraine recognizes the loss of Crimea, Donbas, and Luhansk, including retreating from the portions that they currently hold, and probably also Kherson and Zaporizia, and perhaps a few other regions too …. after all this, in your fantasy land, Russia is going to suddenly become a peaceful neighbor? More likely, Russia will just establish rail lines, artillery depots, and forward bases in those regions and use them a springboard for the next wave of invasion.

          Ukraine’s very existence is unacceptable to Putin. They have but two choices: fight, or die.

          • George

            July 8, 2022 at 12:46 pm

            Well, when its not you or your family doing the dying its easy to say those are the only two choices you have.

    • Stephen

      July 7, 2022 at 3:51 pm

      I am sure you are right. But if certain defeat is the only likely outcome then I for one would surrender or negotiate. That certainly looks like the case here. Are you volunteering to go and fight?

    • Jack67

      July 7, 2022 at 8:50 pm

      This author has that mindset. His book basically talks about giving up Taiwan to China as well. Just appease the aggressors, surely they will stop wanting more?

    • George

      July 8, 2022 at 12:43 pm

      Yes you are right but the fact is for Ukraine to win they need more than money and bullets. The West is not ready to send in men and woman to die in Ukraine. As long as that is the case, the reality is Ukraine will lose. The question is how many people do the Ukrainian government send to their deaths before they realize that? And if we send real troops into Ukraine are we ready for an expanded war not just in Ukraine and Europe but in Asia as well? It’s easy to talk tough, but are we ready for the hell that will be unleashed if we do what needs to be done to see Ukraine remain free?

    • mawendt

      July 8, 2022 at 1:36 pm

      Peace in our time?

      How quaint.

  2. NEIL HUSSEY

    July 7, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    I beg to disagree. Western military analysts have been studying this situation for some time.Though even they had thought like you that the Russians had a superior armed force. You and the Ukrainian allies are both wrong, as is the Russians , other than their WW1 use of massive artillary are not able to match the skill level and training that the Ukrainian military has had in the past eight plus years from many western trainers who already master the antiquated Soviet’s style of warfare being used here. A big IF, and only if the west bites the bullet and digs deep to give the Ukraine army the tools it needs to defeat Russia, I believe wholeheartedly that they have the will, the need, and the mindset to overpower the Russians and push them out of their country. The punishing end to Putin’s war should deter Russia from again trying to bully any previous Soviet satellite country that now exists within the Democratic world, as a member of the EU and NATO.The above said, if by any chance should either Russia or Belarus mistakingly or deliberately target a Nato country during this war,Russia and Belarus will find they are up against a foe that outmatches them in every area. Nuclear weapons by Russia be damned. Putin and his hacks know full well that any use of nuclear weapons will cause a catastrophic situation that will affect the whole world and would prove totalitarian in Earth’s destruction.Long live Ukraine.Glory to Ukraine.

    • fred

      July 7, 2022 at 1:49 pm

      Bravo Neil! 100% on the Money!

    • Vasiliy Terkin

      July 7, 2022 at 2:37 pm

      > other than their WW1 use of massive artillary are not able to match the skill level and training that the Ukrainian military has had in the past eight plus years from many western trainers who already master the antiquated Soviet’s style of warfare being used here.

      It sounds like nonsense. What special “skill level” did the Ukrainians get? What is this “outdated Soviet style”? Why couldn’t the Russians have mastered/created something comparable to “incredible Western skills”? How does this correlate with the heavy losses of the trained and experienced Ukrainian military? How much would skills help when the enemy outnumbered them tenfold in firepower?

      > within the Democratic world

      How is “democracy” in Russia different from “democracy” in, for example, the United States?

      • Stephen

        July 7, 2022 at 3:56 pm

        I agree. There is a lot of arrogance in western commentary. It is embarrassing. Given that we have not really won any wars recently, and they have all been against people who cannot fight back, I do not think we are in a position to deduct points from Russia for “style”. They seem to have a capable army that is professional. Not sure that western countries have that any more.

        • CRS, DrPH

          July 8, 2022 at 1:37 am

          Capable army that is professional? If you give points for civilian rape and murder, I’d have to agree with you. Otherwise, not.

          The “magic bullet” is that Ukrainians are fighting for their own country and people, and Putin is just throwing meat into the fire (Chechen words). Based upon the dramatic footage of Russian ammo dumps exploding on July 4th, I’d say that the US provided HIMARS rockets are doing their intended job.

          I’m waiting for Ukraine to shoot down a few Tupolev Tu-22M (Backfire) bombers with their new surface to air missiles, and hopefully sink a Russian sub or three with the help of Western satellite targeting.

          No magic bullet needed, just guts, God and glory. Glory to Ukraine!

      • Hồng Thắng

        July 8, 2022 at 12:00 am

        The writer should re-learn the history of the Vietnam War

    • Elijah

      July 7, 2022 at 2:41 pm

      USA use of nuclear power in Japan showed that using just two small bombs can stop the war. Why do you think Russia cannot act the same?

      • Sammy

        July 7, 2022 at 6:01 pm

        “just two small bombs can stop the war.”:

        So it was just two bombs? Not the total annihilation of the Japanese navy and airforce? Not the taking of all their satelite islands? Not the 63,000 dead American servicemen? Which all came first. The bombs were just to avoid a land invastion of the main island.

        Good analysis there Elijah

        • Elijah

          July 8, 2022 at 5:44 am

          Ok. Where is Ukrainian Navy and airforce? No such things at all. I mean that if Russia decides to win it will win anyway because it is nuclear. And USA/Nato will not mess if tactical nukes are used.

    • Stephen

      July 7, 2022 at 3:53 pm

      Western armies that just lost a twenty year war in Afghanistan to men armed only with light weapons are clearly awesome at training armies to fight intensive wars. Good to hear.

      • KB

        July 7, 2022 at 8:37 pm

        On the other hand, Russia lost to the same tribesmen in only nine years. With much higher casualties, too.

    • George

      July 8, 2022 at 12:50 pm

      So you are ready to send in the 500k western troops that are likely needed at this point? You are ready to commit those troops with the full knowledge that it will be the trigger China has been looking for to make their moves? And you are ready to get involved with a war that can easily escalate to the destruction of cities with nuclear weapons? I won’t argue that this will all eventually lead to these outcomes anyway, but I just don’t see that the West is ready to commit to your braggadocio and if we are ready to commit that we really are ready to execute as well.

    • Aztec6

      July 8, 2022 at 3:49 pm

      What a bunch of jingoistic hooey. The Russians are fighting a limited conflict and are focused on UKR’s military. They simply want UKR demilitarized. Why was there any talk about expanding NATO to UKR in the first place AGAINST our promises to Moscow?

      America’s moronic diplomacy is to fault for this invasion just like the first Gulf War. Hopefully we won’t send ground troops over, but with the moron in chief in the oval office, you can almost count on it.

      • tko

        July 9, 2022 at 3:06 am

        Where is this promise written? I can show you where USA and Russian promise to uphold the sovereignty and territory of Ukraine is written. Why are you so concerned about one and care nothing for the other? Why are we letting Russia invade Ukraine AGAINST our promise? Or do promises not actually mean anything to you? Putin has said Ukraine is part of Russia and shouldbe again, are you saying he is lying and only wants to demilitarize Ukraine?

    • Harald Ullrich

      July 9, 2022 at 4:38 am

      I served 12 years on active duty and 11 years in the reserves as a German officer. I agree with Mr. Davis’ analysis, and the vast majority of my ex-comrades and also still active comrades (colonel, lieutenant colonel) have the same assessment of the situation. Where and how should the Ukrainian troops receive sufficient training in modern weapons and practice the appropriate tactics and strategies?
      There will be no direct interference of NATO troops (even if the official one would be called “coalition of the willing”). The risk is too high.
      Besides, one should not forget that Ukraine is “divided” into two parts. The 2010 elections clearly showed this. President Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014, was overwhelmingly elected in the south and southeast of the country. And these are the areas that are occupied or contested today. There are reports in Western media of clear opposition by the local population to Ukrainian troops (e.g., frontline reports on French television Grance24 and on social media blogs in Ukraine itself). In this respect, the unified will to continue the war on the part of the Ukrainians is doubtful. A war of attrition would have no support on the part of the EU. In Germany and other countries, stage 2 of the national gas emergency plan has already been declared. In the next stage, large parts of the basic economy (chemicals, steel, glass) will collapse due to the lack of gas. How do you think the German and European public will react then? Economic suicide for Ukraine? For the USA, everything looks different. The USA takes over the gas supplies from the Russians and is a big Islands far away from the conflict.

  3. GhostTomahawk

    July 7, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    It’s time for the west to stop playing in this sand box. Stop wasting money. Stop sending materiel. The illusion of hope is prolonging the suffering and the ultimate inevitable conclusion here. Russia regardless of their ineptitude is a larger force and can bleed longer and more than Ukraine. Ukraine had no chance here unless NATO aka THE UNITED STATES MILITARY intervened. With Joe Biden using Barack Obamas playback of impotence Ukraines fate was sealed. Biden can attempt a moral high ground participation trophy “victory lap” for trying to help. Other than protecting the elitists foreign interests in Ukraine that’s all this was. Optics.”Look we care”. But they didn’t. They spent OUR MONEY. They sent OUR military equipment to defend a non ally. Our elected leaders who voted for this need to be removed from office. It’s pathetic. Who cares about Ukraine? Not me. Obama and Biden didn’t care when Putin annexed part of it before… what changed?

    • D

      July 7, 2022 at 2:15 pm

      Ukraine is officially an ally though

      • Elijah

        July 8, 2022 at 5:48 am

        Not an ally, you are wrong. Ukraine has no defence alliance with any country.

    • Lee

      July 8, 2022 at 4:27 am

      So imagine you could go back in time you history flunky and stop Hitler from invading Poland? Now let’s go to present day and we have the capability and power to help another country repel Pupu head from taking all of Ukraine! Do you think he will stop there dumba$$!!! We also have China and NK to worry about as well as Iran! We have to stop this and make Russia pay in both blood, weapons, and pain!!! You’re probably a liberal conservative who doesn’t believe in the death penalty as well weak ass Panzy snowflake!

  4. JR

    July 7, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    The Taliban had no howitzers, tanks, planes or drones. Well, until the USA gave them the key to city hall and tons of weapons as they left.
    Ukraine cannot win an artillery duel over the long run, but they have a great advantage against Russia for asymmetric guerrilla warfare.

    • Elijah

      July 7, 2022 at 2:36 pm

      There is no guerilla warfare on territories liberated by Russia because unloyal population escapes to western Ukraine. And pro-russians welcomes russian army.

    • Vasiliy Terkin

      July 7, 2022 at 2:46 pm

      There will be no asymmetrical guerrilla warfare. Medieval religious fanatics are fighting in Afghanistan in the mountains (!). In Ukraine, the typical European population is not ready to run through the woods to crap on the Russians. Especially considering that in most cases it is difficult to distinguish a Russian from a Ukrainian.
      If the Ukrainian leadership persists, Ukrainians themselves will not want to fight by the fall, given the looming collapse of the economy and possible famine.

    • Stephen

      July 7, 2022 at 4:06 pm

      Have you seen the pictures of happy people waving Russian flags in Mariupol and other parts of Donbas? This is not quite the same thing as the old colonial British enemy entering Helmand province.

      • KB

        July 7, 2022 at 7:00 pm

        Kremlin propaganda, beginning to end. They knew that they had better wave those flags if they knew what was good for them.

        “Thanks Russia, for blasting our homes into tiny pieces with your missile and artillery barrages, and for your drunken troops stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down! Really great!”

  5. TG

    July 7, 2022 at 2:02 pm

    Interesting points. But again, what if the western elites like what’s going on? What if that’s the plan? To bleed Russia, regardless of what it does the Ukraine. I mean, the western elites could care less how many Ukrainians die, or how much of Ukraine is reduced to rubble. It will just make the Ukrainians hate the Russians even more. Perhaps throwing barely trained Ukrainian troops into combat will be relatively ineffective – but it will still make the Russians bleed, yes? Rooting out even poorly trained troops from defensive positions in ruined cities is not easy, I should think,

    If you see someone doing something apparently stupid, and they keep doing it regardless of the evidence – maybe they are stupid. Or maybe they have another agenda.

  6. D

    July 7, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    So you’re saying NATO should step in militarily?

    • JR

      July 7, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      I have read, Russia fully anticipates outright war with NATO and has a plan. Which sounds quite ridiculous on surface, due to the nuclear wild card, and possibly any kind of analysis might prove it beyound all doubt. Regardless, the best course for NATO nations, is to forget about the NATO pact and each country should wage war on Russia to extent they are willing and capable without a formal declaration. In short, an expansion of the current strategy. Just keep picking off personnel and assets one at a time for however long it takes. Russia cannot win against that strategy.

  7. Stefan Stackhouse

    July 7, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    We can probably supply the Ukrainians with enough weapons to eventually slow the Russians to a stop. It may take a while, but it could happen. Rolling the Russians back is a different proposition, and would require a continuous supply of weapons (free, for them, but not for us!) that is most likely well in excess of our productive capacity. It can’t and won’t happen.

    On the other hand, any “negotiated settlement” with Russia will involve the permanent cession of territory for only a temporary “peace”. Once the Russians have rearmed and rebuilt their army they will be right back at it again. Not a good deal for Ukraine.

    I don’t know what the Ukrainians should do. Pick the most defensible line possible (difficult in such flat land), and have a plan for a fighting retreat back to such a pre-reinforced line? Any better suggestions?

    • Bruce

      July 7, 2022 at 6:45 pm

      Ask the Mexicans what they did in the 1840s, finding themselves in a similar position . They gave in and permanently ceded much of their territory. No doubt they told themselves that they would regroup and get it back.

      • Elijah

        July 8, 2022 at 5:56 am

        Nice comment. People forgot US history and how it got lands: California, Texas and so on )

  8. Vasiliy Terkin

    July 7, 2022 at 2:56 pm

    All Ukraine had to do was fulfill the Minsk agreements and confirm its neutral and non-aligned status. Then there would be no reason for conflict in principle. Apparently, this scenario did not suit the U.S. and Britain.

  9. Jim

    July 7, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Using Ukraine as a doormat to bang on Russia’s door is cynical.

    It’s easy to be an arm-chair general fighting to the last man.

    There is reason to believe the collective West is throwing good money after bad, and not able to pay its debts.

    Pound sand diplomacy has already cost one western government (Johnson) and more could fall (Biden). How much damage to our alliances are we willing to inflict (Germany)?

    How much damage to America?

    When do you stop digging a hole on a failed policy?

    And when are the people who inflicted this policy on America going to be held accountable for the worst diplomatic failure in American History.

  10. Stephen

    July 7, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    This is a good article.

    My main disagreement is that I see no evidence for all this alleged Russian incompetence or early military failure. The early move on Kiev was either a fixing move or an attempt to persuade immediate surrender that was a gamble. If the latter then that did not happen but was an intelligence or political failure not a military one.

    In any event, the Russians retreated when they chose to and there is no evidence that columns were wiped out or that Ukraine managed to stage any form of combined arms operation to defeat them. They did ambush some individual tanks but that is hardly the stuff of strategic victory. The likely outcome here has been clear pretty much from the start.

    The actions of the US and UK to scupper negotiations in late March will go down in history as a very poor decision, and possibly even a war crime.

    • KB

      July 7, 2022 at 7:06 pm

      No evidence that Putin allowed to be shown in Russia, at any rate.

  11. Goran

    July 7, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    This thing boils down to one thing and one thing only, and that is whether Ukrainians would rather die fighting for their country or live in subjugation. If they are willing to fight, they should be helped in every way possible. I am picturing Davis in Sparta when the Persian messengers showed up … he’d probably get a hernia trying to accommodate their demands.

    • Jim

      July 7, 2022 at 6:09 pm

      Is it fear of subjugation or hate for Russians (and all things Russia) that is central to the Ukraine ideology?

      Hate as a governing ideology is wrong when nearly half of a country shares a language, culture, and history.

      This pound sand diplomacy and foreign policy was something the American People didn’t ask for and weren’t told about… as if they were little children.

      What a sad way to treat the Sovereign, American People.

  12. Neil Ross Hutchings

    July 7, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    Putin offers the first olive branch: “Everyone should know that, by and large, we haven’t started anything yet in earnest,” he said. “At the same time, we don’t reject peace talks. But those who reject them should know that the further it goes, the harder it will be for them to negotiate with us.”

    We will now see how Kyiv reacts, more importantly how Washington advises Kyiv to react.

  13. Peter the not so great

    July 7, 2022 at 7:03 pm

    If Kyiv losses the war it will still have backing from the west for an insurgency and will become Putin’s Afghanistan. How many Putin puppets will meet untimely deaths and occupying soldiers will be exterminated? As Vlad’s saber rattling get louder it could be interpreted as fear of losing…and shortening his own life expectancy.

    • Begemot

      July 7, 2022 at 8:20 pm

      Ah, Putin’s Afghanistan. The much desired goal of this, the war that America has desired for Russia. It may come to pass, but the dying won’t be as unidirectional as you seem to think and hope. While Russia may bleed, Ukraine may bleed out. This isn’t in the interests of the people of Ukraine, but their interests have never mattered to those who have ruled Ukraine or the Kiev government’s foreign sponsors.

      Be careful what you wish for.

      • KB

        July 7, 2022 at 8:56 pm

        “Be careful what you wish for.”

        Good advice. Those wishing to restore the Romanov empire should follow it too. The Empires of both the Tsars (The Prison of Nations) and the “Proletariat” bled themselves white trying to keep subject peoples in line.

        An interesting thing I read yesterday was that legislation is going through the Duma calling for Russians to work overtime to help purchase articles for the troops. Always a sign that things are going well. These are things that were supposedly already purchased with tax dollars, but the money was actually stolen through Russia’s systemic corruption, and who’s to say the money won’t be stolen again? It’s the Russian way. This is what the Ukrainians have to look forward to if they lose.

        I also read yesterday that the Russian administration is trying to stop sales of alcohol in the occupied Ukrainian territories, as their troops are going out of control and causing great embarrassment.

        • Begemot

          July 8, 2022 at 12:24 pm

          I’ve read that Alice found Wonderland after falling down a rabbit hole. Does that make it true?

    • Elijah

      July 8, 2022 at 6:13 am

      I think you don’t understand what is Ukraine. It is no way Afghanistan. In Russia there are about 2 millions (maybe more) ethnic ukranians. But not a single terrorist attack since the beginning of conflict. The only part of Ukraine where any insurgency can rise (but not in muslim type scale) is small part in the West. And there is little to zero chance that it will be soon conquered.

  14. Roger colman

    July 8, 2022 at 1:46 am

    Daniel is right on the current level of Western military assistance. He is wrong on the relative military industrial complexes by a mile. Russia has no chance to win on human and technology multiplier resources against a western armed ukraine. The only military resource where Russia is still winning is artilary. The current ukrainian kit has nearly stopped the Russian land forces. The current ukrainian kit has stopped the Russian navy and largely the Russian air force. And has crushed the ability of Russian tanks.
    Wake up folks. The west has taken Russia out if action economically and militarily for decades. Leaving only china by itself as an adversary.

  15. Joe Herman Freeman

    July 8, 2022 at 7:31 am

    The entire war like so many was based upon a series of miscalculations by the West which expected that Ukraine couldn’t fight by Ukraine which was led to expect massive help and by Russia which expected little or no support for Ukraines independence from Russia and preference for the West.
    There was NEVER a realistic possibility that the Ukrainians alone could defend their country successfully against a massive invasion from Russia.they lacked the heavy equipment weapons with sufficient range and trained manpower. Additionally the Russians were and continue to operate with shorter better supply lines from a privileged sanctuary had air superiority control of the Black Sea and an additional privileged sanctuary in Crimea connected by the Kerch Bridge to Russia proper.
    And finally the Russians had another privileged sanctuary in Belarus. All of which meant that they could attack as they chose with secure logistics from 3 directions complicating Ukrainian defense.
    Furthermore the EU and hence NATO had put themselves in a terrible position over the years to defend themselves let alone Ukraine.
    The two major and original NATO members were virtually non participants. Macron of zfrance kept trying to surrenderfor Ukraine.
    Germany actually wanted no part of it due to dependence on cheap Russian hydrocarbons and the fact that it had virtually disarmed over the past 30 years and disbanded its military.
    Addition a lly there was a lack of purpose and will on the part of the West which frittered away the year prior to the invasion as Putin built up and staged his invading army.
    Only when Russian armor crossed the border were sanctions put in place and as usual sanctions failed to stop or even seriously hinder 200 000 troops from aggression.
    And finally Putins continuing threats of nuclear use deterred the West for another crucial period in which significant heavy weapons could have poured into Ukraine.
    Having analyzed WHY Ukraine is in the position it now finds itself its possible to see why NATO and the EU can easily find itself repeatedly in exactly the same position repeatedly when Russia finishes its dismemberment of Ukraine. The Baltic countries and Eastern Europeans are terrified and for good reason. And they at least especially Poland assisted Ukraine far more in proportion to their resources than other larger older NATO members who have been virtual free riders for years.
    As V I Lenin reputedly said in 1918 we come now to the question of what is to be done.
    There is of course a range of options for the EU the US and hence for NATO. These range from immediately ceasing support for Ukraine and allowing the Russians to reincorporate Ukraine into Russia proper at one extreme to actually giving the Ukrainians all the support possible on a crash priority basis and allowing the war to continue to its bloody conclusion using the time to properly increase the NATO forces within the NATO countries. This extreme we old require considerable expense and sacrifice on the part of the US and the EU as a whole. And of course there are options within this spectrum. But make no mistake ANY option other than complete and unequivocal support of Ukraine at this point will require Russian cooperation as they currently are in a winning position.with that in mind we may as well begin with the only option which does NOT require Russian cooperation which is full support of Ukraine.
    The fact is that the Russians have NOT won their war and the Ukrainians do NOT require 1000 artillery pieces 500 tanks etc to fight their war.
    The Russians selected as a fallback their historical formula for this fight which was massive artillery prep pound everything to rubble occupy the rubble move the artillery up then rinse and repeat.
    The Ukrainians tried to match that and failed due to lack of equipment.
    An additional fact is that the Russians are ill suited to fight a war of maneuver or logistically support massive concentrations of artillery any appreciable distance from a protected rail head. And the final fact is that Ukraine and its infrastructure are already devastated in large measure.
    There is additionally the fact that if the West is going to have to fight the Russians to prevent their reabsorbtion of at least Eastern European countries similar devastation will occur in these countries. Consequently it simply is logical to fight the current war with Russia on the current ground rather than future ground such as the Baltics Poland Rumania or Germany and have those c ountries trashed as well.
    The EU alone has far more productive capacity than Russia and should it so choose can ramp up its excellent arms industry to supply more first rate equipment than Russia which is already reduced to using T62 tanks. Add the US and its arms capacity and its not even close.
    The economies of the combined western powers far exceed Russias.
    What is lacking is the political will and foresight on the part of the West that matches Russias.
    The fact is thatthe West moving to a quasi war time production and economy SHOULD be a priority for the West NOW rather than when a NATO country such as Estonia Is attacked by 1000 Russian artillery pieces and 500 tanks.
    And universal conscription and training in ALL Western countries should begin NOW rather than when 200 000 trained Russian troops knock on the door of a NATO country and begin shelling it.
    And of course there are the Chinese…who by the way can match or exceed the productive capacity of either the US or the EU.
    Ding the above would allow more heavy weaponry to pour into Ukrsine from existing hoarded Western military equipment and enable the Ukrainians to continue fighting.
    There are workarounds for Europe’s energy problems if they shelve their dream of relying on green energy and Russian gas. And the same is absolutely true for the US if it shelves its similar pipe dream. The Russians by the way along with the Chinese and Indians have no such tender regard for the planet or climate change.
    In fact the Russians figured out about 15 years ago that climate change operates to their geographic advantage.
    In any event getting the Ukrainians around half the artillery that the Russians have would help them a lot especially if the artillery is long ranged and highly mobile and accompanied by sufficient ammunition and anti air area denial systems that are also mobile.
    Giving the Ukrainians large longer ranged cruise missiles that can interdict and destroy the Russian Black Sea fleet and drop the Kerch Bridge as well as hit the Rissians in Crimea should be done. Crimea properly speaking is NOT Russian it is Ukrainian territory.
    Doubtless the Russians will not like this and doubtless they will threaten nuke use. The response to this should be a promise of equal use of nukes. Becsuse that in the end will always happen when the Russians don’t get what they want.
    Without an effective air force and the means to protect air bases there is not much point in sending 500 tanks. Extensive supplies of anti Armour missiles along with extensive supplies of armed drones were demonstrated to be sufficient by the Azeris against the Armenian tanks and artillery.
    Belarus should be informed that any direct involvement by them will be interpreted as a preparatory attack on Poland and will be countered by NATO The Belarus army is questionable as is its population. They would like to be rid of their dictator for life.
    The point to the rough outline above is that the EU and NATO are going to eventually HAVE to do more or less the above sooner or later. And sooner is better. The Eurasian continent is threatened by not only Putin but Xi. And each let alone both constitute an existential threat to the West to a relatively free way of life and its very existence.
    It’s better to assist the Ukrainians in their struggle on their land than in another country shortly after Ukrainia ceases to exist.
    So what’s the object of the exercise?
    First to prepare adequately for a larger more dangerous threat from either or both megalomaniac dictators. Second to at least partially if not totally cripple the lesser threat here and now.
    If properlyvsupported the Ukr a Indians can probably cost the Russians something north of 100 000 casualties and a major potion of their heavy equipment that it took them overc10 years to build.
    If properlybenforced long term the sanctions will hinder them in rebuilding and at least delay further adventures against a better prepared NATO as it moves from tripwire to forward defense with preemptive capability which in the end will be required.
    And most importantly from the Ukrainian standpoint it gives that country a chance at survival. At some point the Russians will have a choice of bleeding out in a serious way or abandoning their adventure to annex Ukraine or eradicating it.
    Either works.
    The major question is are the Western allies capable of mustering the long term political will to take the above actions in Ukrsine. And if not when if ever?
    This struggle has been coming for over 100 years.
    In the next 20 years or less its GOJNG to come to a climax.
    The outcome will be determined by what the West does from this day forward.
    I’m not an arm chair warrior I was a Marine in Vietnam. I’ve seen first hand what half measures timidity political mismanagement and lack of will produce.
    They produce defeat.
    I’m old now.
    It’s unlikely I will see the end of this struggle although given the utter recklessness of the current US administration and the lack of unity in the EU I might.
    I take the time to point out the choices.
    None are pleasant
    But some have markedly worse outcomes than others.

  16. Form_d_k

    July 8, 2022 at 11:48 am

    The author clearly is being disingenuous, as I refuse to believe they are not familiar with the makeup of Russia’s armed forces. Their ground force has only 280,000 troops. You can throw spez, marines, and VDV into the mix but that isn’t going to double that number.

    The large number of Russian personnel the author refers to includes Rosgvardia who are not meant toq and are not equipped for frontline combat. It also includes hundreds of thousands of naval and air force personnel which have not exactly proven their worth in Ukraine. It includes logistical troops and an entire separate force focused on rail. It includes a strategic missile branch. It includes border troops.

    The Russian Ground Forces entered the war with 280,000 active duty personnel. They have taken significant losses which is why they increasingly count on PMC & proxy forces.

    And the author citing the size of Ukraine’s military as if it were somehow massively outnumbered is also what I can only imagine is deliberate deception, as I cannot fathom a person with their background wouldn’t be familiar with the concept of reserves and mobilization. Igor Strelkov, a person who I imagine has more insight than the author, constantly bemoans that in many places of the front Russian forces already are outnumbered, a situation they claim will lead to extremely grim scenarios where Ukraine gets to pick & choose where they can launch widescale strategic offensives. The only way out of this is mobilization, but the Kremlin appears reluctant to do so and in any case will take some time to bring fresh troops to bear.

    I can only guess the author’s opinion is meant to generate alarmist headlines that generate read: clickbait.

  17. Andrew M Winter

    July 8, 2022 at 11:48 am

    Could not disagree more:

    Neither side has control of the Air. That’s the magic bullet. If Ukraine wants to dominate in Ukraine they need control of the air. They are trained for it, and are trained up to a standard of interoperability with NATO. All they need are the planes. They even have the pilots ready willing and able to fly.

    The problem isn’t hardware. The problem is the politics of nuclear stand off.

    If Ukraine has the means to shatter what’s left of the Russian Army in Ukraine, which would be the case if they had air superiority, Russia can’t counter them, they aren’t trained for that mission, at least according to this,
    https://www.sandboxx.us/blog/how-russias-warfare-doctrine-is-failing-in-ukraine/

    Ukraine, if they had that ability, could then go on offense into Russia propper. With a properly air supported high speed combined arms assault Moscow, a mere 400 miles from Kharkiv, would be a very doable objective.

    But that invasion would trigger a nuclear war.

    That is why the magic bullet, which is readily available, will not be provided. Ukraine will get what they need to defend until fall. But Ukraine will not be gunned up enough to stage a general counter offensive, because we can be relatively sure that Ukraine won’t just “stop” at their own borders. No sensible nation would want to do that. But Russia has nukes, and…

    • CPT K USA

      July 8, 2022 at 5:39 pm

      Mr. Winter, I think you are grievously mistaken. You write:

      “Neither side has control of the Air. That’s the magic bullet. If Ukraine wants to dominate in Ukraine they need control of the air. They are trained for it, and are trained up to a standard of interoperability with NATO. All they need are the planes. They even have the pilots ready willing and able to fly.”

      This is almost entirely incorrect, save for the truism that if Ukraine wants to dominate Ukraine they must control their air. They don’t control their air, they are increasingly unable to dominate it, and their control over their own air increasingly irrelevant to the ground and pound war in existence. Ukraine’s only possible way to victory would be not in matching Russian Arty, but in using maneuver warfare to destroy Russia’s army. The Ukrainian decision to accept positional warfare has condemned them. They cannot win. “God fights on the side with the best artillery,” said Napoleon Bonaparte, and he was right. In this context though, any attriting conflict favors Russia in the long run, regardless of whether in the air, in infantry, or in artillery.

      The moment Ukraine adopted the Wehrmacht’s static defensive posture, fighting for unnamed filthy villages in the back of beyond with their “hold your ground” for “every inch” mantras, they were doomed. And they will suffer the same fate as the 1943-1944 handicapped Army Group South. They will be attrited, and Ukraine defeated.

      If any of your latter observations were in fact adopted (even without the nuclear threat), Russia would still prevail here, as were they to mobilize at any level approaching the mobilization maximum Ukraine is already operating at, they would have 50-1 force ratios conventionally.

  18. Tom

    July 8, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    Let’s give Ukraine full nuclear arsenal and stop this Stalinism based DNA virus. No one ever will trust any Russian fake face. All the lovely Russians can make vacations in Kazakhstan or in the Taiga. Europe will never forget this scam… This is just the beginning! Do you really think that Russia stop in Ukraine? What will be next? Wake up people and don’t be idiotic. This Russian scam should stop to use our tools and equipment. Let them bleed out and financially collapse so the babushkas can’t even buy a glass of vodka. Always easy to talk about giving up east Ukraine for none Ukrainian dudes. How about you give up Paris, London or part of Washington to the Russians or Chinese? I want to see the face of the people writing about giving up if the Russian scam is in the front of their own garden… We should stop to write how the war will be lost and find ultimate solutions to stop this scam.

  19. CPT K USA

    July 8, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    Spot on article by LTC Davis (ret.). As an active duty officer in the United States Army, I completely agree with his analysis. All of the myriad facts recited by him were well known prior to our provision of billions of dollars of armaments to a non-ally with hemorrhaging demographics whose defense does not coincide with our long term strategic national interests.

    It was entirely predictable that the imposition of sanctions rising to the level of a full embargo combined with provision of tens of billions of dollars of equipment would force (read—guarantee) an outright strategic Russo-Sino anti-American alliance. Yet, instead of seeking to use Ukraine’s unfortunate position to shore up and ensure American hegemony continues into the 21st century, our “strategic” planners and politicians opted for the PR war. Unfortunately, in war, fortune generally does favor the side with the larger battalions, particularly when as here with Russia, the conflict is one seen by the belligerent (Russia) as an existential one. Russia cannot and will not allow Ukraine to become part of an anti-Russian military alliance on their doorstep. They have been crystal clear on this for twenty (20) years. The best way forward would have been to, instead of incentivizing the destruction of the global dominance of “king dollar”, finding a way using realpolitik to give Russia guarantees via-a-vie Ukraine by relaxing economic pain in Russia, bringing Russia into a loose working arrangement of Sino containment, and by ensuring that through concrete actions, we guaranteed the Russians that we had no aspirations of pushing an anti-Russian alliance up to Russia’s heartland.

    As a military officer, and as an American, it would be utterly intolerable for our national defense for the Chinese to support a soft coup in Mexico City, replacing the pro-American government with a pro-Chinese regime, to begin training their armed forces, arming them, assisting them in efforts to suppress pro-American autonomous areas (think Sonora), and openly seek to enter a strategic military alliance with Mexico… we would first seek to dissuade Mexico City, while supporting Sonora’s autonomous aspirations, and if that failed, we would militarily intervene in Mexico to overthrow the Mexican government and to install a pro-American regime, and if that all failed, we would send a direct expeditionary force.

    I see no reason why we should expect Russians to not act in their rational self interest to protect their own vital national security, nor why we should oppose such an action. They perceive that their basic ability to survive as a nation is at stake, and they will use any and all force to prevent an existential threat to their survival.

    Thanks for the good and spot on article LTC.

  20. Zero

    July 12, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    The article author seems to believe in the following proverb:

    Defeatism always wins, so why fight it?

    Despite having military experience, the author has misunderstood key political, military, and logistical facts.

    Putin fears calling the ‘Special Military Operation’ a ‘War’. He does not want to call general mobilization–for a number of good reasons. Even if he calls a General Mobilization, he will only have reluctant bodies, not trained servicemen.

    The Russian Air Force has been ineffective and AWOL, and it is doubtful there is a hidden air force ready to jump in and surprise us
    all.

    The Russian Navy is cowering beyond the range of Harpoons, to fire their fast dwindling supply of Kaliber cruise missiles. The Russian Navy is not much of a factor, and will grow less as they run out of ammo.

    The Russian Army is in disarray. Many are refusing to fight, and some are being disobedient to orders–it can be stated with reasonable assurance that the Russian Army’s morale is very low.

    On paper, Russia appears to be a military behemoth, with Tanks, and various armor and ammunition stockpiled it huge numbers. But more robust analysis has revealed that most Russian armor and ammunition is unusable, or outdated and militarily useless.

    Russia has almost completely run out of precision munitions. Missiles and artillery shells have a large number of duds. Russian artillery barrels are wearing out quickly, and direly in need of maintenance.

    As Russian captured equipment has revealed, Russia uses Western computer chips to enable advanced navigation and targeting. Due to sanctions, this has prevented the manufacture of tanks, precision missiles, aircraft etc.

    So while Russia on paper appears to have a virtually unlimited supply of arms and ammo, in reality, they are fast burning through their best equipment, and the replacements are militarily inferior.

    Only a few HIMARS and M270s have already changed the course of the war. Ukraine has been accurately striking command posts, communication hubs, ammo dumps, and troop concentrations far behind enemy lines.

    As time wears on, Russia will not be improving, while Ukraine has the entire West still supplying them with more modern weapons without the same limits as Russia labors under.

    It is sad that a former officer of the US Army can be so wrong about his assessment of the Ukraine War.

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