By David Sole
Ukraine’s leadership is desperate for a “magic bullet” to save its deteriorating military situation in its war with the Russian Federation. February 24 will mark the first anniversary of the start of Russia’s Special Military Operation. At the same time the public in the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union are still being fed the fantasy that Ukraine is on the way to driving out the Russians.
The war evolved from a 2014 coup d’etat engineered by the U.S. CIA and State Department that installed a rightwing government that shares a 1200 mile border with the Russian Federation. That was followed by 8 years of the massive buildup of Ukraine’s military, armed and trained by the United States, along with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Ukrainian attacks against millions of ethnic Russians in the Donbas region continued, costing over 14,000 lives. And Russia’s demand that Ukraine not be incorporated into NATO went unheeded, a serious military provocation in itself.
Russian Federation forces made serious initial gains, taking control of most of the Donbas region and a large swath of southeastern Ukraine. This amounted to about 20% of Ukraine’s territory. Counter-offensives by the Ukrainians, with a multi-billion dollar infusion of U.S./NATO military aid, saw the Russians withdraw to more defensible positions in Kherson and Kharkiv provinces,
The war has become one of attrition, especially with both sides using massive artillery firepower. In this contest Russia has a huge advantage, estimated by some as 6 to 1 over Ukraine. Russia’s call up of over 300,000 military reservists has also been seen as a big buildup all along the front lines.
Ukraine, on the other hand, has been throwing its best troops and equipment, first into its counter-offensives which have ground to a halt. Now, much of the costly fighting has centered around the city of Bakhmut, which may soon be encircled by the Russians.
On December 21, Ukraine President Zelensky flew to Washington D.C. to meet with President Biden and speak to a joint session of Congress. Much of his appeal was directed to the U.S. public, which may be getting tired of funneling tens of billions of tax dollars into this proxy war.
On January 17, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, flew to a secret location in southeastern Poland where he conferred with Ukraine’s top military leader, General Valerii Zaluzhny.
On January 18, Zelensky spoke via video to the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF meeting has reportedly drawn a record attendance of business and government leaders. Apparently not satisfied with the huge quantity of materiel, troop training and intelligence sharing from the governments of the western nations, Zelensky is appealing for the world capitalists to lobby further on Ukraine’s behalf.
On Friday, January 20, Zelensky is set to meet with military leaders from 50 countries (including all 30 NATO members) brought together under U.S. guidance at Ramstein military base in Germany.
“The main message there (in Ramstein) will be more support and more advanced support, heavier weapons, and more modern weapons…” said NATO head Jens Stoltenberg.
The problem, however, is that the U.S., U.K. and E.U. have run out of much of the war material needed by Ukraine and can’t increase production for months or even years. For example, 300,000 much needed 155 mm artillery shells are now being taken out of stockpiles that the Pentagon maintains in Israel and south Korea. South Korea has only agreed to send tens of thousands of these explosives on the condition that its shells do not go directly to Ukraine. Instead the Korean ordinance must replace shells in other stockpiles that can then be dispatched to Ukraine.
Even if all 300,000 artillery shells manage to make it to the front lines, and assuming that Ukraine has enough functioning artillery pieces to fire the shells, it should be remembered that Ukraine was firing around 6,000 shells per day earlier in the war. That would be enough for 50 days. After that world-wide stockpiles will be gone.
Promises by Ukraine’s backers include Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Patriot air defense systems and heavy tanks. Whether these armaments can be delivered in short order and who is trained to service them in Ukraine is questionable. And whether this new infusion of equipment can stop the recent gains of the Russian Federation is doubtful.
Quantities of this heavy equipment are also a question. In December, Ukraine’s General Zalushny gave an interview with “The Economist.” He clearly stated he could “win” the war against the Russian Federation, but only if he had “300 tanks, 600-700 [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 howitzers.[artillery pieces].” The numbers being talked about for these items are far, far below General Zaluzhny’s wish list.
All the speeches and cameo appearances by Zelensky and Zaluzhny will not be able to alter the stubborn facts on the ground. Western aid can certainly prolong the proxy war but that will only result in further death and destruction for the Ukrainians. Peace talks do not seem to be on the horizon since the U.S. and NATO are happy to see the Russians involved in a bloody conflict while they, themselves shed no blood. As long as Ukrainian leaders remain in power and are dedicated to obeying their imperialist masters, the fighting will, no doubt, continue and intensify.