Don’t throw good money after bad in Ukraine

War helicopter crash Mariupol 2022-04-01. Source: World Wide Web

Berlin, Germany (Weltexpress). Two senior former US administration officials have argued in a joint article that Washington should accept the fact that no matter how much more money it sinks into Ukraine, the outcome of the war will not change. This is because Russia has the motivation, the iron will and the military means to prevail in Ukraine.

Anyone who has analysed the Russian “Special Military Operation” (SMO) in Ukraine over the last 24 months will have noticed that the Russian leadership has never been interested in gaining as much ground as quickly as possible. One reason for this was always to preserve the lives of their own soldiers and to encourage the enemy to defend areas that were actually extremely unsuitable for defence or to attack positions that were impossible to take with Ukraine’s current capabilities. In both cases, the Ukrainian side suffered disproportionately high losses.

Also, the Russians rarely charged in a straight line towards their actual target, which we will call “C”. In order to reach “C”, the Russians usually first took a diversion via milestone “A”. Only once this had been reached and secured did they return to position “B” with as few losses as possible, from where the way opened up for a relatively painless achievement of the actual objective “C”.

The Ukrainian political and military leadership, under the overall supervision of NATO generals, fully embraced this tactic of the Russians and thus always fell into the trap. The Ukrainian side’s priority was clearly to achieve quick propaganda victories. A significant proportion of the financial and military support from the West, and above all from the USA, depended on the image of the “victorious” Ukrainian army.

Although the Ukrainians suffered extremely high losses of soldiers and war material due to Russian combat tactics, Kiev has been able to fool its Western backers in recent months into believing that a military stalemate was taking place. As the front line was fairly static for a long time, Kiev was able to largely ignore its own failures.

It was not until the recent capture of Avdeyevka by the Russians that the disastrous state of the Ukrainian army became clearly visible. The signs of exhaustion of the Ukrainian armed forces manifested themselves in mass refusals to obey orders, the surrender of entire units or the panicked flight, leaving their wounded comrades, weapons and ammunition behind. Even the most brilliant propagandists in the Western “quality media” were unable to turn this catastrophe into Ukrainian victories or orderly retreats to level the front.

Against this background, the two high-ranking former members of the US government argued in their article to members of Congress to vote against the 60 billion dollars requested by US President Biden for Ukraine. Ukraine had already lost and therefore “good money should not be thrown after bad money”.

This is followed by my translation of the joint article by Ray McGovern, former army intelligence officer and later head of the Soviet Division in the CIA; from 1981 to 1985 he was also responsible for the daily CIA situation reports for the US President. The second in the group is ex-colonel of the US armed forces, Lawrence Wilkerson. He was Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell in the US State Department and later a professor at the College of William & Mary. In a YouTube interview a few days ago, McGovern explained that he and Wilkerson had offered their article to a number of US mainstream media such as the New York Times, Washington Post and others, but no one showed any interest. It was eventually published on the Consortium News website.

As members of the U.S. House of Representatives grapple with whether to give Ukraine another $60 billion, they must also grapple with the shifting nature of the intelligence they have been fed. On 13 July 2023, President Joe Biden announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has already lost the war”. This was six days after CIA Director William Burns, normally a reasonable voice, had called the war a “strategic failure” for Russia because “it exposed Russia’s military weaknesses”.

Earlier, in December 2022, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, (the top chief of the current 16 US intelligence agencies) reported that the Russians were suffering from “ammunition shortages” and “are unable to produce what they consume”. We advise caution, however, as these same people are now saying that Ukraine can only win if the US provides another 60 billion dollars. Do these people think the geography has changed in the meantime, or that they can overcome Russian industrial might, or convince the Russians that Ukraine should no longer be one of their core interests?

Obama’s reasons

Let’s remember President Barack Obama’s reasons for not wanting to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine. In 2015, the New York Times reported Obama’s reluctance as follows: “In part, he has told advisers and visitors that arming the Ukrainians in Kiev would promote the idea that they could actually defeat the far more powerful Russians and that might draw a more forceful response from Moscow.”

A senior US State Department official explained it this way: “If you’re playing on military terrain in Ukraine, you’re playing against Russia’s strength, because Russia is right next door. It has a huge amount of military equipment and military power right on the border. Anything we do as [NATO] countries in terms of military support for Ukraine will probably be doubled and tripled and quadrupled by Russia.”

These words were spoken by then US Deputy Secretary of State (and current US Secretary of State) Antony Blinken to an audience in Berlin on 5 March 2015. It turned out that President Obama was right. It’s hard to understand why Blinken (and Biden) chose the path of President Donald Trump, who was the first to deliver lethal weapons to Ukraine, over Obama’s. So much for geography and relative strength.

And what about core interests? In 2016, President Obama told The Atlantic that Ukraine was a core interest of Russia, but not of the US. He warned against Russia’s escalating dominance: “We need to be clear about what our core interests are and what we’re willing to go to war for.”

In an earlier period, when William Burns was still ambassador to Russia and more sensible, he warned Washington of Moscow’s “emotional and neuralgic reaction” to Ukraine’s admission to NATO. When he was approached by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in February 2008, Burns reported that Russia’s opposition was based on “strategic concerns about the impact on Russia’s interests in the region”. He warned at the time that “Russia now feels able to respond more forcefully”. Burns added: “In Ukraine, this includes fears that the (NATO) issue could potentially split Ukraine in two, leading to violence or even, some argue, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”

Regime change in Kiev on 18 February 2014

The overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 proved Russia’s warnings about Ukraine and its fears that the West would also try to bring about “regime change” in Russia. In a major commentary entitled “Russian Military Power” published in December 2017, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) concluded: “The Kremlin is convinced that the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction reinforced by events in Ukraine. Moscow views the United States as the key driving force behind the crisis in Ukraine and the Arab Spring and believes that the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych is the latest step in a long-established pattern of US-orchestrated regime change efforts.

Is Putin paranoid about “US regime change efforts”? The DIA didn’t think he was paranoid. And surely Putin has taken note of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin’s statements in April 2022: “One of the US goals in Ukraine is to see a weakened Russia (…) The US is prepared to move heaven and earth to help Ukraine win the war against Russia.”

To summarise: Russia has both the will and the means to prevail in Ukraine – no matter how many dollars and weapons Ukraine gets.
Obama was right; Russia sees Ukraine as an existential threat from the West. And nuclear powers do not tolerate existential threats on their borders. Russia learnt this the hard way in Cuba in 1962.

After all, there is no evidence that Putin will threaten other European countries after Ukraine. The old Soviet Union and its empire are long gone. Therefore, President Trump’s recent statements questioning the US commitment to defending NATO countries from an actual non-existent threat are nonsense and pure bombast.

The US should accept that no amount of US money will change Russia’s will and means to prevail in Ukraine.

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