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The Ukraine War and von Clausewitz: Strategy vs. Mere Tactics 

Image of similar artillery being used in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

It is hard to believe the hype that potential deployments of German Leopard and U.S. Abrams tanks have triggered in the western media. Every expert and wargamer seems eager to sell the new weapons offered to Ukraine as miracle solutions and so-called gamechangers.

This is blatant ignorance; war is not a game. Battles are fought at the tactical and operational levels, but wars are won and lost in the strategic realm.

Ukraine: A Matter of Ends and Means

As the great warfare theorist Carl von Clausewitz once noted, “No one starts a war or rather, no one in his sense ought to do so without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by the war and how he intends to conduct it.” Indeed, as a war planner you must know what you can and cannot achieve with the means available to you. 

This basic principle is relevant to both parties in the current war. If Russia’s goal is to occupy, hold, and integrate the Donbas region and Crimea for national security purposes, its means may ultimately suffice, especially given the relatively manageable lines of communications it is dealing with.

For Ukraine, the retaking of lost territories provides a bit of a different challenge. Its vast yet motley array of modern Western weapons might allow the retaking of some territories, but the entirety of Ukraine’s infrastructure is at risk from Russia’s long-range weaponry so long as the war continues. Should Ukraine eventually respond with long-range attacks on Russia itself, the doors open for warfare beyond the conventional realm, and a direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO becomes possible. This promises total war with possibly global repercussions. 

Although the West promises full logistical support “as long as it takes,” an analysis from the strategic perspective would have to ask what that really means. How long can the U.S. and NATO support such a war without it impacting national debts and domestic public support? Western populations are quite fickle when it comes to accepting long-term warfare commitments that might lead to rationing, lost wealth, the possible return of the draft, and the prospect of high casualties.

Surely, America weathered the long conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq rather well, yet there the enemies were impoverished third-world nations that had only limited resources at their disposal. Most Americans today, bombarded with constant messaging about the cruelty of the Russians, are still in favor of fighting the war in Ukraine to the last Ukrainian. But would they be prepared to send their own sons and daughters to partake in that far-away blood-fest? 

Clear Heads, Sound Strategy

I think it’s critical for Western leaders not to be fooled by blind beliefs in the capabilities of their weapons, nor to be overly enthusiastic about casualty reports. Here, Clausewitz again offers a reality check: “Casualty reports on either side are never accurate, seldom truthful, and in most cases deliberately falsified.” Hence Western planners must contemplate potential strategic objectives and challenges in a realistic and unbiased fashion. 

For Ukraine, the strategic Achilles heel isn’t the ability of their army to fight successful tactical battles. They have proven they can do that. No, for Ukraine, the greatest risk factor is a non-homogeneous culture and ingrained corruption. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is currently confronted with these challenges and has resorted to quite drastic measures. He has fired key leaders and confidants, and he has silenced the media as well as church authorities.

Russia knows this. Despite its own challenges at home, it is targeting these strategic vulnerabilities, in addition to bleeding the Ukrainian army and civilian infrastructure to bring about internal discontent and turmoil. 

Is It a Lesson Learned If You Later Forget?

So while Russia is fighting a limited war of attrition to hold on to its conquered territories, it also pursues the strategic goal of overthrowing the Zelensky government. It is doing this through a variety of means from the inside instead of resorting to a crude assassination attempt. As the conflict drags on, it behooves Western leaders to remember Clausewitz’s principle that, “The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose.” It would be a costly disappointment if Ukraine wins some critical battles, yet loses because its internal strategic center is caved in by the opponent. 

The war in Ukraine is a mixture of many elements and experiences, both old and new. Hence von Clausewitz is again on target when he says that, “Every age has its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions.” Hopefully, the West understands that and won’t be driven by focus on mere battles, miracle weapons, and unconfirmed casualty numbers. The U.S. has suffered from all these delusions in some of its recent wars, yet it seems to have forgotten once again. 

MORE: Why Putin Fears the M1 Abrams Tank

MORE: I Went to War in the Leopard 2 Tank Ukraine Wants

MORE: World War III – Where Could It Start?

MORE: A U.S.-China War Over Taiwan Would Be Bloody 

R.W. Zimmermann is a former tank battalion commander and 3rd Armored Division Desert Storm veteran. He worked as a warfare strategy and leadership instructor for the US military.

Written By

R.W. Zimmermann is a former tank battalion commander and 3rd Armored Division Desert Storm veteran. He served as a warfare strategy and leadership instructor for the US military and has written Op-eds on various military and international relations topics.



  1. Ben Leucking

    January 31, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    “It is hard to believe the hype that potential deployments of German Leopard and U.S. Abrams tanks have triggered in the western media.”
    Not stated by the author is that 1945 is just as guilty of using click-bait titles and hyperbole as the so-called western media.
    Pot meet kettle…

  2. Gary Jacobs

    January 31, 2023 at 6:02 pm


    There is of course a flip side to the corruption argument. Ukraine is actually trying to root out the corruption in their country. Much of it is a residual effect of being under the oppressive yoke of Russian imperialism and corruption for centuries.

    Russia on the other hand, is a bonafide kleptocratic mafia state. They are not only doing nothing to root out corruption in their country…it is actually a feature of their entire system top to bottom.

    Bill Browder’s books are good 1st person accounts of it. Freezing Order being the better of the two, And they are also the backstory of what led to to murder of Sergei Magnitsky…and The Magnitsky Act.

    As well, the missing cold weather gear for their troops is a disastrous side effect that led to the deaths of many Russian troops. Plenty more examples available.

    As for the argument on tanks, most observers who are serious about helping Ukraine understand tanks are not the end of the conversation, but only a way station. Ukraine needs longer range weapons like the GLSDB to shape the battlefield [Reuters is reporting that the next US aid package will contain unspecified “longer-range rockets.” – presumably the GLSDB], planes like the F16 for air patrol and close air support [with JDAMs to bomb Russians], and more air defense like the Patriot and SAMP/T to both protect civilians from Russia’s missile terror and protect advancing troops..

    SAMP/T deliveries should begin soon, and with the Aster 30 missile’s range of 120km-150km, depending on the variant…and a speed of Mach 4.5, Ukraine will be in a much better position to defend its territory against all manner of planes and missiles… as well as use their semi mobile capabilities to protect advancing armored units as they retake their country from Russian occupation.

    Furthermore, now that the barrier on Western made tanks has been broken, Ukraine has made no secret of what else it wants to win the fight against Russia: Aircraft and longer-range missiles.

    As with the German Leopard 2 tanks, there seem to be several nations indicating that they would be happy to lend Ukraine some of their F-16s. There have also been reports that analysts at the Pentagon believe sending F-16 jets to Ukraine would be a good move, and there have been reports about the US training Ukrainian pilots to operate the f16.

    Biden said no to F16s when asked about it today by a reporter…but Biden and other Western leaders will probably change their minds and the jets will eventually go to Ukraine…after the next huge Russian war crime leaves enough broken bodies on the ground to make them realize just how ridiculous this particular line in the metaphorical sand happens to be.

    It appears to be part of a deliberate strategy to not escalate too fast with new and better equipment, thereby deflating Russia’s absurd nuke threats.

    They draw a line, say no to HIMARS, No Patriot, No Tanks, etc… and wait for the Russians to predictably commit another atrocity so the previous lines can be crossed with western equipment finally being delivered to Ukraine… and the cycle starts over again.

    It’s a dangerous game of chicken, with Ukrainian blood being spilled in the process.

    We should be getting ahead of this cycle rather than playing into it so this war can be over sooner rather than later.

  3. Walker

    January 31, 2023 at 6:02 pm

    As if we didn’t get enough defeatism from Davis, now we have to hear a complete rehashing from this guy. When is 1945 going to get a writer who believes in countering Russian imperialism? When has it become so important to hoard our immense military budget and force the world to fight for freedom on their own. And the amount of dishonesty these guys spread to get their goal. It’s just really irritating.

    Like Davis, Zimmerman says we should doubt casualty numbers, but really what he is saying is that Russia isn’t losing troops but Ukraine is. This is only half right. When we look we can see that Ukraine is being as accurate as possible. The numbers may not be 100% but not the exaggerations that are normally seen in conflict. The lack of publishing heir own casualties is an extension of this. In order to not be inaccurate they realize the best thing to do is say nothing. There is a real reason for this. Our intelligence is also watching and their accuracy plays a role in what weapons they get. If they severely exaggerate, they will not get the support they have been getting. Is Zimmerman blind to this fact, is he stupid, or is he just lying?

    He also spends quite a bit of time talking about goals. He states that “If Russia plans to keep the land it took, it may well succeed.” But again he is either lying, ignorant or just plain stupid. They are not trying to just hold on, they are trying to take more and they are using the most wasteful means to do it. They are wasting the one asset they have. A larger population than Ukraine. They take people from the poorest areas and send them to their death intentionally to gain a couple houses. This is not sustainable. And when Ukraine does go on offensive, they will not have these people to stop them.

    Zimmerman spends a lot of time quoting strategic truths, but he applies them incorrectly. It’s because he isn’t being honest about the situation. Like Davis he isn’t living in reality and instead sees what he wants to see. I for one can’t wait to see how Ukraine makes use of the weapons we give them. I can’t wait to see Russia run out of young men and lose a whole generation or two of citizens.

    Here is another spot where like Davis, Zimmerman is dishonest. He speculates even though he doesn’t say it here, that Ukraine doesn’t have realistic goals. He assumes that Ukraine can not make effective use of the weapons that they receive. But even cursory review of Ukrainian tactics shows they should not be underestimated. I for one can’t wait for them to show Davis and Zimmerman wrong. Unfortunately for Russia this just means a lot more dead Russians. It will be decades before Russia returns to the power they had before. And I for one feel no pity for them whatsoever. If fact, I say give the Ukraine’s F-16s to hasten Russia’s end. What is the worst thing that can happen? Ukraine my use it incorrectly and it gets destroyed. Or they could use it properly and stop Russian imperialism in perpetuity.

  4. 403Forbidden

    January 31, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    Ukraine War was planned & executed as biden came to power, just like how Iraq War happened for george w bush, and also how the invasion of USSR happened for hitler.

    It’s called The Devil’s Work.

    Ukraine will develop into like post-war berlin or baghdad for years and years to come.

    Where spies and foreign govt agents come and go as they pleased and money flows like rivers of dirt and the symbol of corruption.

    While ordinary people or nameless citizens survive in squalor and put up with mindless or numbing crime like what’s exactly happening in mexico and haiti today.

  5. JR

    January 31, 2023 at 7:38 pm

    Yes, because appeasement has worked so far… I’m sure Putin will stop with Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine and not be empowered by weakness…

    This is completely a war of choice by Putin. The focus should be on him stopping the war and people should stop saying that Ukraine should accept victim-hood. I wonder why Russia’s neighbors want to join NATO so badly? Maybe the Russians weren’t very nice in their past occupations.

  6. Jacksonian Libertarian

    January 31, 2023 at 8:54 pm

    It is doubtful Western Tanks will add any combat power to Ukraine, that isn’t offset by their negative impact on logistics. The vehicle mounted TOW missile launchers on the other hand, will keep ATGM’s supplied to the front now that Javelins and other man portable systems have run low. The West has deep stockpiles of TOW missiles so the logistics of ATGM’s will be retained for sometime.

    Combat Power rule of thumb: 1 smart weapon = 500 dumb weapons

  7. R.W. Zimmermann

    January 31, 2023 at 9:50 pm

    Author Response to Jacobs, Walker, Leucking + ALL–

    Open and Civil Exchange of Diverse Ideas and Perspectives

    Thanks for your quite interesting and thought-provoking comments—hence I think I have once again succeeded in stirring the pot to look at the Ukraine war from both sides of the coin.

    And no, I’m not taking the side of either Russia or Ukraine. Why should I? Both sides are quite corrupt in their internal political and military structures. Indeed, Zelensky is giving the appearance that he is trying to fight corruption, yet he has not succeeded to this point. Now, the big factual difference between the two countries in the context of international law is that Russia was the attacker.

    I suggest that it remains to be seen of western support continues at the same level, if Ukraine is not able to show significant tactical and operational success. We should all remember that it’s European and American taxpayers (including you and I) who are ultimately footing the bill for all the “game-changing” weapon systems that Ukraine is demanding every day. Where does it all stop? Aircraft carriers, German U-boats and tactical nukes for Ukraine? Direct NATO intervention?

    There comes a point when the blood-fest has to end and diplomacy has to take the stage. In the era of nuclear weapons, rational minds have to accept that a total victory over Russia, as the one over Nazi Germany in WWII, is impossible to achieve—and that’s not defeatism. It’s merely realism!

    Although I always enjoy an honest and factual give-and-take, I believe we should not call each other “stupid and liars.” As Americans, we all enjoy free speech and see certain situations and topics through different lenses—and that’s perfectly okay. My perspective comes from a professional military background in the combat arms as a former paratrooper, reconnaissance leader, tanker and Joint Staff officer. I am not an arm-chair strategist. My background and experiences also allow me to know that our intelligence—battlefield and strategic—can often be quite faulty.
    Those of you who are interested in history might recall some of the major failures of U.S. intelligence, including the Bay of Pigs, the Tet Offensive, the Iranian Revolution, the 9/11 Attacks, the 2003 invasion of Iraq (WMD) among others.

    So let’s continue our interesting discussions without becoming fanatical or insulting to each other. We all have our personal points of view and as the events in Ukraine unfold, history will hold us all accountable. In fact, none of us may in the end accurately predict how the Russia-Ukraine war will end. As for me, I’d rather see an end to it sooner than later because it’s innocent civilians who suffer the most in all wars. I also don’t want to see any fellow American troops needlessly die in that conflict.

    Best to y’all and thanks for reading!


  8. Harmen Breedeveld

    February 1, 2023 at 3:58 am

    I am underwhelmed by this strategic analysis.

    Strategy is about your ultimate goal and your plan to reach that goal.

    The goal is ensure an independent Ukraine and a clear loss to Russia.

    The plan to get there is to inflict heavy losses to the Russians, both in manpower, equipment and terrain, until Russia tires of the war and is willing to negotiate for real.

    Some main elements of this plan to reach this goal are equally clear: – Arm, equip, train and provide intelligence to the Ukrainian armed forces.
    – Support Ukraine’s government and civil society financially and with other means.
    – Cut off Russian income from exports and important Russian imports (for instance computerchips).
    – Maintain Western unity and seek to expand the alliance if possible (for instance by getting South Korea to sell arms to Ukraine).
    – Avoid dangerous escalation, among others through ensuring that Ukraine will not take the war into Russia on a large scale (for instance through agreements with Ukraine and withholding or delaying certain categories of arms that are especially suited for such attacks).
    – Rely on Zelensky as the leader of Ukraine and one of the main symbols of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian aggression.

    I am sure there are elements of the main goal and the main plan that I miss, but I am fairly sure that the points above cover a good bit of both.

    I think that both the goal and the plan to achieve that goal are possible, but I am also sure that there are many good criticisms to give. Unfortunately, this article by Mr Zimmermann does not make them and does not even really go into Western strategy, even though it claims to do so.

    Mr. Zimmermann, please consider this a challenge!

  9. Enfield

    February 1, 2023 at 4:36 am

    It is extremely difficult to win a conventional war against the Red giant. There are lots of strange statements from the so-called protectors of the free world at the same time as some promise to send more and more war material to this conflict zone. What stands out is how AFU uses all the material they get their hands on. AFU is short on everything all the time and It’s unclear why the AFU is trying to match the Red giant’s artillery shelling that appears to be endless. NATO has been training and equipping AFU forces for years but the result is striking given the enormous amount of material and casualties the AFU has suffered.

  10. Cheburator

    February 1, 2023 at 8:09 am

    I’m wondering why nowhere is it reported that procedures are being carried out in Ukraine for the delivery of minors to military registration. What will this formation be called – Zelensky Yugent?
    Adequate actions for a country winning a war (according to Ukraine)
    This is the center of Europe, and where a voices saying? – “that this in itself is a war crime”, I somehow do not see a lawsuit in the ICC

  11. Jim

    February 1, 2023 at 10:12 am

    First, cheerleaders don’t want to hear (read) anything that goes against their narrative: Ukraine is winning and has been winning since the first day of the war…”and don’t you say anything different.”

    (Remember, this is, at least in part, a propaganda war… so most Ukraine supporting armchair warriors thinks their claims are making a small contribution to the war effort… “I did my part.”

    The fact Ukraine has burned through men & material at a rate which has been hard to resupply means nothing to them… that Russia has inflicted this burn rate only makes them more determined to claim, somehow, Ukraine is winning.

    These people want to fight to the last Ukrainian… a sickening attitude which expresses their motto.

    “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”… (useful tool for my agenda, vendetta or whatever motivates these people)… it’s easy when somebody else is doing the dying.

    Regarding international law: one has to consider the doctrine the U. S. has used to justify their actions in Libya and Kosovo, the Right to Protect. From 2014 to 2022 over 10,000 eastern Ukrainians were killed by random shelling (terror bombing) into the Donbas and in the weeks prior to the invasion that random shelling increased exponentially.

    Are the Russians just supposed to sit by and see Eastern Ukrainians, mostly ethnic Russians, get “terror bombed” by the neo-Nazi inspired Azov battalion and other Stephan Bandera inspired followers?

    Also, evidence exists that Ukraine was planning a giant thunder run into the Donbas to expel the ethnic Russians and reclaim the territory… an act which would have emulated Kiev’s hero, Stephan Bendera with a giant slaughter… you either run to Russia or you will be killed… they might have kept some alive for hostage negotiations…

    Yes, there is no limit to the weapons they want because they can’t bare to admit their side lost… or they didn’t get their long-held vendetta, or whatever.

    To their best point: the overall weapons package (not an individual weapons system) will bring victory.

    That might have salience if there was evidence the Ukraine army has the ability to use these weapons in a coherent and coordinated manner.

    Where does it stop?

    In their minds… it doesn’t stop until they win… no matter what the cost… no matter how much they use the U. S. vicariously to fulfill glorious plans.

    Those plans are turning into ashes… in their mouths.

  12. from Russia with love

    February 1, 2023 at 11:19 am

    @R.W. Zimmermann
    author? in the comments under your own article??? This is the first time I’ve seen this on this site!
    I have a few questions for you about some of the theses in your pack.
    1) goals … you correctly wrote that Russia is waging a war of attrition, but you were very wrong in scale. ask yourself the question with whom Russia is waging a war of attrition if the Ukrainian armor, air force and air defense ended after 4 months of the conflict. Ukraine has been fighting with weapons supplied by NATO for 8 months and is completely dependent on these supplies. in fact, the Ukrainian army has long been gone.
    2) you write that Russia wants to establish control over the Donbass and Crimea (you still forgot about the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions). why? The goals of the special operation were announced on February 24 last year. this is a complete denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine. the release of these four areas does not solve the main goals of the special operation. what are your versions based on these facts?
    3) The West promises full financial support… don’t you think that this is one of the tools for Russia to achieve its goals? gigantic financial and technical resources are pouring into Ukraine like into a black hole. a mass of weapons and equipment is transferred to “soldiers” who have completed a 7-day – 1-month training course and they go to the front where Russian artillery, air defense and aviation totally dominate and are destroyed there.
    4) you write that Zelensky is trying to fight corruption, but so far he has not defeated it … but Zelensky is Ukraine’s main corrupt official! during his tenure as president, he turned from a modest actor with a capital of 700,000 into a billionaire. what fight against corruption are you talking about? bees declare war on honey :))) take a closer look at the situation. Zelensky eliminates those who pose a threat to his position. The usual squabble within the gang.
    and a comment question.
    Recently, Elon Musk began to publish data on the level of censorship on Twitter. what kind of “freedom of speech” are you talking about???
    thanks for the article. For the first time I see on this resource an article by a person who is trying to figure out what is happening.

  13. from Russia with love

    February 1, 2023 at 11:57 am

    @R.W. Zimmermann
    I have one more question for you.
    you put “Z” at the end of your comment. I understand that this is your signature according to your last name, but I’m wondering if you had any problems with this signature??

  14. R.W. Zimmermann

    February 1, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Author’s Response to Harmen +ALL:

    Strategy and Inherent Risk Factors

    Thanks for your comprehensive comment that appropriately lists some of the potential aims of western strategy. Without becoming too cynical here (in a positive sense, of course), I would suggest you send that list to some of our political decision-makers because they may not be fully aware of them.

    While your list makes some good sense, it also includes distinct weaknesses.

    – I suggest that banking on Zelensky alone is dangerous. He may not be as popular in Ukraine as he is in the West, thanks to his constant appearances on western TV and other media. He may have more enemies in his own country than we know, especially after taking some draconian measures to limit civil and religious liberties, including a ban on the Russian language.

    – What is an independent Ukraine? Is it a full member of NATO and the European Union right on Russia’s border or could it be merely aligned with the West, yet not be a NATO member? Here one would have to admit that this all could have been achieved without a bloody war by building on the initial [weak] Minsk agreements.

    – Can we truly prevent Ukraine from acts of sabotage in Russia or later by merely not allowing them hitting targets deep in Russia with the longer-range weapons we are now delivering? Can we be sure that Ukraine will not conduct false-flag attacks to ultimately draw NATO and U.S. troops directly into the conflict?

    – Could expanding the NATO alliance and influence into the Indo-Pacific arena ultimately do more harm than good? Could it realign North Korea and its nuclear ambitions with China, hence rendering all embargo efforts against North Korea useless?

    – Ultimately, are we underestimating Russian national resolve to deal with casualties and economic sanctions?

    Bottom Line: Strategically, many objectives are linked, plus you have to view the battlespace from both/all sides of conflict, especially if you don’t want to become directly involved.

    What I’m trying to point out here is that good strategy also examines and tries to predict potential risk factors that may undo your best-laid plans. Throughout modern history, we’ve experienced many such miscalculations, haven’t we? More recently, they included underestimating the Taliban’s staying power in Afghanistan and the presence of WMD via shoddy or blatantly ignored intelligence in Iraq (2003). Both wars produced less than stellar outcomes and cost us trillions in taxpayer dollars, precious American blood and broken bodies.

    Wars are easily started, yet successfully ending them may be the bigger challenge—and that holds for all sides of conflict.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to comment.


  15. R.W. Zimmermann

    February 1, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    Author’s Response to “Russia:”

    Signature Abbreviation and Political Correctness

    No, why would I have a problem with my abbreviated “Z” online signature. My troops called me Lt Z. and later Col. Z decades ago—loooong before the Ruskies used it on their vehicles. Even my students have usually called me Mr. Z.

    I believe that we can clearly drive the political correctness agenda too far. Hey, we might as well ban Jaegermeister because it was invented in Nazi Germany (1933).

    I thank you for calling me out on that subject and hope my stance doesn’t disappoint.


  16. Jim

    February 1, 2023 at 4:06 pm

    Newsweek, January 30, 2023, by Ellie Cook

    Headline @ top of article

    “Zelensky Tells U. S. to ‘speed up’ as Russia Makes Gains in Bakhmut”

    So, this from the horse’s mouth…

    So, time matters… wonder why?

  17. Gary Jacobs

    February 1, 2023 at 5:29 pm

    R.W. Zimmermann,

    I never referred to you as either stupid or a liar. I certainly disagree with many of your positions, and I had a bit of a chuckle your one sided case of Ukraine’s corruption, but that is a far cry from either stupid or liar.

    Back to the facts of the matter:

    You were asking ‘where the aid to Ukraine ends…Aircraft carriers, German U-boats and tactical nukes for Ukraine? Direct NATO intervention?’… now you are tempting me, but I’ll resist.

    The top line dollar figure is of course quite misleading as we calculate the cost of items that were actually sitting in a mothball closet and not being used. Many of them have been outright replaced by other equipment.

    As I have stated to others making similar arguments before, the vast majority of the equipment we are giving Ukraine is coming from either long term storage, or items we have so many thousands of that the amount we are giving Ukraine is inconsequential to the US…especially when the result is the degradation of the Russian military and the diminishing of their threat to the rest of Europe.

    For example:
    -Abrams Tanks – 31 promised to Ukraine. We have 5000+
    -Bradley IFV – 109 to Ukraine – We have 5000+ and these are being replaced.
    -M113 – Hundreds have been given to Ukraine – we dont use them anymore.
    -MaxxPro MRAPs – same details as M113
    -Hummers – Same details as M113
    [note: MaxxPro and Humvee both replaced by thousands of JLTVs which are not being sent to Ukraine]
    -GLSDB is a combination of two items in quite plentiful supply. use of these will also alleviate pressure on GMLRS supply as GLSDB can be fired from HIMARS and M270s

    Today Ukraine said they need 200 F16s to defend their country…there have been over 4000 F16s produced, and we are now largely switching to the thousands of 5th gen F35s. Not to mention all the F15s and F18s we still have

    The main items of concern are artillery shells and GMLRS HIMARS ammo, of which we have sent a lot of to Ukraine. They do take time to ramp up production of.

    Not only is US industry ramping up production of both, but Germany’s Rheinmetall is also ramping up to 500,000 155mm shells per year and they also just applied to the US to license production of GMLRS rounds for HIMARS and M270s

    We sent or promised 38 HIMARS to Ukraine [some still to be delivered]. After seeing their effectiveness against Russia, Poland alone order 220. Every one of Russia’s neighbors has ordered more HIMARS. And Poland alone spent $5 Billion for Abrams tanks.

    PrSM and GMLRS-ER are coming to the US military soon as well. The ammo we are giving Ukraine for HIMARS wont even be the standard ammo when full rate production kicks in of these two new rounds.

    I could go on like that for days, but the point is that the argument about Ukraine being a drain on the US military is patently false. In fact we should be thanking them for waking up our industrial might to produce ammo as we prep for the real competition with China.

    As for corruption, Ukraine has shown progress in this area despite the Russian invasion, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a scale of least to most corrupt nations, recently revealed.

    The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the world, scoring on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

    Ukraine received 33 points out of 100 in the CPI for 2022. The country’s score has increased by one point compared to 2021. The points scored in 2022 are the highest indicator of Ukraine since the launch of the updated CPI methodology.

    Among the undoubted positive results of 2022 are:
    -adoption of the State Anti-Corruption Strategy
    -the appointment of the head of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO), which became a driving force for intensifying investigations into high profile corruption.
    -the High Anti-Corruption Court showed its effectiveness in 2022 as the court considered 49 cases. 37 of which resulted in sentences.

    Russia came in with 28 points on the corruption index, making it substantially worse for corruption than Ukraine.

    Another trendline to note is that Ukraine’s score has increased by 8 points since 2014 when the country really woke up to Russia’s nefarious influence as Putin attempted another coup in Ukraine to force their president to abandon 3 years of negotiating with the EU a trade agreement, and instead sign one with Russia. Then of course Russia launched their invasion of Crimea and Ukraine’s east.

    Bottom line: Ukraine deserves a chance to be free of Russia’s imperialism and corrupt influence so it has a chance to become a better society.

    They have never asked for NATO ground troops. They did ask for a no fly zone early in the war, which was denied. A fairly prudent move by Biden that managed escalation.

    Now all they are asking for is them means by which to liberate their country themselves. And all we have to do is raid our storage closet and give them a few decent hand-me-downs [of which we have plenty more for ourselves] for them to do it.

    If that isnt the best investment the US military has ever made, it’s pretty damn close.

    There is also an extensive ‘realist’ case for supporting Ukraine, degrading Russia, and rebalancing the alliance of democracies+affiliated countries to compete with China.

    Happy to expand on that at a later time.

    Have a liberating day.

  18. Lance Benson

    February 1, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    “How long can the U.S. and NATO support such a war without it impacting national debts and domestic public support?”

    Well, as an example, for the U.S., an average of $165 billion a year for 20 years was spent on Afghanistan and Iraq while the economy grew by 45%. $50 billion in 2022 and thus far $45 billion through September for 2023 are not that much by comparison, with no American lives lost, and the U.S. long-term policy gains so far are significant, such as greater cohesion in NATO, disconnection of Europe from energy blackmail by Russia, increase of European defense spending to 2% of GDP, likely accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO, restriction by sanctions of Russian economy growth, destruction by Ukraine of elite Russian military units, expenditure by Russia of vast amounts of ex-Soviet munitions and equipment, a generational antipathy of all things Russian by Ukrainians–to name only some geopolitical benefits to the U.S. and Europe (at great cost to Ukraine). Open the spigots. With logistics set up, send 500 Abrams tanks and 1,500 Bradleys. Otherwise, they sit in the desert degrading.

  19. Paul

    February 1, 2023 at 6:11 pm

    I find it hard to understand mr Z when he questions if the West have strategic goals and if they are achievable. Should not be so very hard to imagine, and even if they are not stated in public that does not mean none exist.
    Complete victory cannot be a victory parade in Moscow, it should rather be the complete restoration of Ukraine’s international recognized borders followed by a negotiated security framework that secures those borders.
    The West should draw the line of involvement short of committing troops. The West supplies weapons, ammunition, training, embargo of Russia, technological and financial support, while Ukraine supplies the troops and fights the war. This works because the power to negotiate a settlement, withdraw or surrender lies with the parties that suffers the human costs of the war, so the West does not risk imposing an unwanted war on Ukraine.
    If this is enough for Ukraine to force Russia out, that’s good. If not, then the war will turn into an attritional struggle that Russia cannot hope to win, as long as the West keeps up its commitment. Wars are fought at the battlefield, but they are won in the factories and banks. Russia is an economic dwarf compared to the West. The ca 50 trillion Real GDP of the West vs Russia’s ca 4 trillion Real GDP gives a picture of the hopeless position of Russia in a war of attrition. Just consider Germany and Japan’s fate in WW2, after initial stunning success they were ultimately outproduced and defeated. And that is before we factor in the rampant corruption hampering Russian economy and their technological dependency on the West (think computer chips etc)
    What about China, could they decide to go all in on Russia’s side? Unlikely, China has much to lose if they alienate the west and there is also a silver lining for them. If Russia is defeated, then China will be more dominant in the relationship with Russia, and they could move in to replace Russia’s position as overlord in central Asia (all the x-soviet -stans)
    You might argue that Russia is more determined than the West, and that is likely a fair assessment. But given the abovementioned uneven economic muscles and the fact that the West will not suffer the human costs that Russia must endure, the West will not have to be as determined, by far. Likely the Russians will lose their loved ones and suffer economic hardship while the West endures minor economic setback. Russia’s best card to force the West out was probably the strangulation of Europe’s gas supply this winter, but that window is now shut given the warm winter so far.

    Even, should it turn out that Russia no matter what, manages to cling on to some or all the occupied territories and proves impossible to evict, there is still the possibility to pursue smaller goals in a negotiated settlement. For example, the same conditions as for complete victory except Russia gets to keep Crimea. Or some other arrangement the parties could be willing to accept.

  20. Walker

    February 1, 2023 at 7:23 pm

    @R. W. Zimmerman.

    It’s good to see an author on here addressing our complaints. On a military site, we all here believe our own BS. And while I appreciate you aren’t just some armchair commander, you should yourself realize that the site attracts many of us ex-military types. I for one have been in the thick of it myself. So many of us here are also more aware than you may believe. Not long ago you may have noticed LTC Davis telling us to not believe the Generals. I found that article to be extremely hypocritical. But I guess that is neither here nor there.

    You say that Ukraine is corrupt but working on it. This is a critical point. They are spawned from the corruption in Russia. And Russia loves to remind us of this. But the people of Ukraine have had it with corruption and it is the people we should be helping. Also remember that even in the best of situations corruption will still exist. How many of our own politicians are corrupt? That Ukraine is working to reduce corruption is extremely important. And as they can see the effects of corruption on Russia’s military they will see the need to fight it more for their own independence. There will still be individuals that look out for themselves over their own country , those that still identify more with Russia than their country of passport. It would be wrong to think of Ukrainians as some monolithic group fighting against a Russia they all hate. Even the US before independence had people loyal to the crown.

    It’s good that you question what we are doing in such a war and why we should be involved. Even while to me the answers are pretty self evident. All we have to do is look at the action of Russia over the last 20 years under Putin. Russia is anathema to the American way of life. So that is why of course we should at least root for Ukraine but may not explain why we should help them. But as I have pointed before elsewhere, after WWII, the world stratified into what we know of as three worlds. Russia took the middle with their communist block, we led the top with our ideology that led us all to a very prosperous world. And we let many of the poor countries to their own devices and corruption drugs and unfortunately exploitation by us richer countries. So no we are not some perfect country. We could have done better and when the Soviet Union broke up, we decided to use Russia instead of help it. I have always contended that this was a mistake. Russian oligarchs used the vacuum to be corrupt and take over all the wealth from inside. Putin did the same with power and corruption. Had we helped Russia in the 90’s much of what we are seeing now may not have happened. But here we are.

    We can not change Russia right now. The only way is for Russia to break and we have a chance to break Russia a second time. If we do, I highly suggest that afterwards we repeat our successes in Japan and Germany after WWII and not repeat what was done to Germany after WWI.

    I believe that but for the help of France, we would not be a country ourselves. At least not the country we are. And I believe that we ourselves have some responsibility to help countries in need such as Ukraine fighting for their freedom and independence. You ask what that means. Again that is to me self evident. You ask if that means as members of NATO. Again self evident, it means NATO if that is what the people of Ukraine want.

    You complain about how Zelensky isn’t all the champion of democracy and personal freedoms. You do realize they are currently in a battle for their very existence, right? Let’s help them through this and then see. They will need a lot more help after this is all over and there won’t be a lot left in many places. This is a great opportunity to ensure that if they want that help from us, they have to live up to the standards we believe in.

    Also we have to think what happens if we turn our backs on them. If Russia gets what it wants, it will have learned that its methods work and the way to win is by being more ruthless. This is a very dangerous game we are playing and the stakes are extremely high. We really can’t afford to lose and we can’t afford to stay out of it. Just as we couldn’t stay out of WWII. As I see it we have 3 choices. Take care of this now, wait for Russia to go for all of Europe, or just let the world turn to rot. I have trouble understanding why everyone wouldn’t go for option 1. That is my position and while you can give me reason after reason why you may disagree, I am unlikely to alter from that position and more likely revert to clearly saying what I think of people who disagree with me.

    On a different note, since 2014, I have been watching Russians try to use propaganda to justify their evil empire. They love to invade comment spaces surrounding issues involving Russia. And yes, they are here in droves. But they are mostly harmless. Much like the rest of us. They are set in their thinking and unable to adjust. They just live in or attempt to create an alternative reality. They try to find someone to move to their ideology or at least muddy the waters. But they are no more effective at that then I am of convincing either you or Davis that you are fundamentally missing the point in Ukraine. So I say they are harmless. I guess better here as armchair warriors than actually being in Ukraine hurting innocent people.

    One last point for you to reflect on. You have your military experience. Why did you do it and what did you want it to achieve on the grand scale? No one can choose to put their life on the line without having some ideals of why. Apply that to these circumstances. How can you as a writer achieve the ideals you wanted? It’s fine to be a voice of caution but be aware that caution can’t be the end game. Applied caution is what is needed. That is to realize what the goal needs to be and use caution to ensure that the goal is kept in sight and how to achieve it.

  21. Jim

    February 1, 2023 at 7:59 pm

    To their best point: the overall weapons package will bring victory.

    We’ll see.

  22. Walker

    February 1, 2023 at 8:23 pm

    @Gary Jacobs,

    Very excellent comment and right on point. To set the record straight, Zimmerman wasn’t accusing you of calling him a liar or stupid. He was correctly pointing out that I did. I do get worked up a bit and that was a bit over the top. I won’t however apologize for it. I’m getting to be a cranky old man and say what I think. And for the life of me, I can’t understand how people don’t get it. But I also realize such language is often counterproductive. Anyway, keep up the good comments.

  23. R.W. Zimmermann

    February 1, 2023 at 9:10 pm

    To Gary, Walker +ALL:

    Hey, many thanks for all your responses and diverse points of view and that you supported your arguments with adequate rationale and even stats. You have my respect for that.

    Although I could have chosen to remain quiet as most Op-ed writers do, I prefer open discussions and rational disagreements—that’s what our country is all about and what makes us different from others. That also allows us to learn from each other and understand the sentiments that prevail in our country regarding critical issues. Obviously, we’re a country divided in many aspects—social and political.

    Indeed, on many things we still agree to disagree. Ultimately, when it comes to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, I still prefer a more cautious approach that opposes unlimited support without clear objectives, tighter budgetary oversights and lack of diplomatic engagement. My predictions for the conflict in the long-term remain less optimistic than yours. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit to that. I do know that this year will be decisive for both sides.

    I do hope to see y’all back for some more stimulating intellectual jousting in the future.



  24. Arm Chair Airsofter

    February 1, 2023 at 11:04 pm

    The TLDR of Russian trolls (pick one or more):

    – “Russia is winning! It will be over in a week”
    – “ukronazi to be nuked by putin. I spill vodka make from break fluid of T-72”
    – “It’s a conspiracy by Biden, the CIA, MOSSAD, Chuck Norris and James Brown. You attack Russia!”

    Pretty much sums it up?

  25. Serhio

    February 1, 2023 at 11:26 pm

    “Complete victory cannot be a victory parade in Moscow, it should rather be the complete restoration of Ukraine’s international recognized borders followed by a negotiated security framework that secures those borders.”

    One can argue a lot about whether it is realistic for Ukraine to “liberate” Crimea, Donbass and other regions that have become part of Russia. However, you should clearly understand one thing: if a miracle happens and Ukraine recaptures Crimea – or Lugansk, or Donetsk – it will do it not as a liberator, but as an invader.

  26. Jim

    February 2, 2023 at 8:55 am

    These things are pretty much Rock’em, Sock’em Robots.

    “You knocked my block off!”

    One of the better toys when I was a kid… an appealing commercial, too… the quote above is from the TV ad.

    … another metaphor… the Wild West… verbal shootout @ the O. K. corral.

    People with differing opinions knocking heads… what else is new.

    The sand is starting to shift under peoples’ feet.

    People who were cock-sure they were standing on the Rock of Gibraltar… not anymore.

    I think the sand is getting pretty hot, too… like a cat on a hot tin roof.

    My interpretation of the most recent RAND report.

    America needs to bring the Ukraine Op to an end… negotiations before anymore permanent damage can be done to America’s standing in the world… a self-inflicted wound.

    Stick that in your pipe & smoke it.

    What a stupid, failed policy.

  27. c1ue

    February 2, 2023 at 10:23 am

    I don’t know if this is irony or tragedy: this article by a battlefield commander which makes no presentation of facts, much less analysis, of the tremendous military-industrial differences between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
    No mention of the vast artillery disparity or the visibly draining Western reserves, combined with multi-year production being expended in months.
    No mention of the fundamental logistical and training challenges associated with the incredible mishmash of Western and ex-Soviet weaponry.
    No mention of the literal top to bottom intelligence failures that are trivially obvious from comparison of Ukrainian losses (supposedly small) with massive and repeated requests for ever more equipment and money.
    If this is the best that a “former Desert Storm armored unit leader” and a “leadership and strategy instructor” can come up with – Clausewicz would be horrified.

  28. Realist

    February 2, 2023 at 3:50 pm

    Just my opinion, but I think we got caught flat-footed like the BEF in WW2. NATO has been starving it’s military for years, the US changed it’s ground force profile to combat insurgencies. We are not prepared to support a grueling war of attrition. Our artillery systems are designed to support fast moving armor columns under overwhelming air support.
    I’m obviously not a military genius, but I pay attention. When Gen Mark Milley says the time for negotiation has come, I believe him. And again, my opinion, but there is no scenario where Russia gives up Crimea and the home port of the Black Sea fleet

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