NATO Summit Won’t Stop Ukraine’s Declining Fortunes

31 NATO leaders at Vilnius Summit cannot save Ukraine proxy war
31 NATO leaders at Vilnius Summit cannot save Ukraine proxy war.

By David Sole

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held a high level summit July 11-12 in the capital of Lithuania not far from the Ukrainian battlefields. Delegates included U.S. President Joe Biden, the leaders of Germany, France, the United Kingdom and 27 other NATO allies. Central to their discussions was what to do about the failure of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine which is becoming harder to cover up with the Ukrainian “offensive” stalled going into its 7th week.

Of course Ukraine’s President Zelensky was in attendance, too. Having been given over $100 billion in military assistance over the past 17 months, NATO officials have to figure out their next moves since “victory” over the Russian Federation is now further away than ever. It was probably inevitable that the summit revealed deepening cracks among the allies.

CNN World headlined “NATO’s crucial summit in Vilnius nearly came off the rails and gave Russia a PR victory.” Zelensky was so upset with the failure of NATO to lay out a clear path to membership that he denounced the gathering in a tweet as “absurd.” The British Defense Secretary was quoted as saying that Ukraine “should be more grateful for the support it has already received.”

The New York Times noted on July 19 that for NATO to project unity “is getting harder to sustain as the war in Ukraine goes on.” It states that “the membership disputes may be overshadowed by new worries that the long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive is bogged down, and that Kyiv could run out of ammunition.”

Ukraine has gotten pledges for more weapons to keep the proxy war going. France will be supplying long-range missiles and Germany will send more tank ammunition. Denmark and the Netherlands announced that they, along with 9 other NATO countries, would start training Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 fighter jet. President Biden, several months ago, withdrew the U.S.’s objection to sending F-16s onto the battlefield.  It is also reported that Biden may agree to send long range Army Tactical Missile Systems with a range of 190 miles.

While some of these weapons would not arrive for months or even next year, the U.S. has been shipping 155 artillery rounds that release hundreds of cluster bomblets – a weapon outlawed by most countries world-wide. Many of these cluster bombs fail to detonate and may be around years after a conflict inflicing death and injuries on civilians.

This type of shell is not effective against tanks or armored fighting vehicles, which is really what Ukraine has been demanding. Unfortunately for them the U.S. and the rest of NATO has run through all their stockpiles of 155 mm artillery shells and is sending these hated weapons instead.

None of these weapons can or will change the unequal balance of forces. Even Western experts agree with the Russian Ministry of Defense that Ukraine has lost up to one-third of its tanks and heavy armor in the first weeks of the offensive, along with tens of thousands of troops killed or wounded.

Reports that those severe losses have slowed down appear to come from the fact that Ukrainian battle commanders are not sending out their armor into the field of combat. Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Valery Zalushny complains that “the West hasn’t given him enough to fight with. He wants air superiority, long-range missiles, and the ability to have as many artillery shells as Russia can fire” according to the Washington Post.

Zaluzhny’s wish list is beyond the ability of the West to manufacture and provide. There is also the concern that the U.S. and its allies will go too far and be dragged into a direct war with the Russian Federation.

Another alarming announcement came from Biden following the NATO summit. On July 13 the President authorized the call up of 3,000 military reservists to be sent to eastern Europe. U.S. troops already are stationed in countries bordering Ukraine, such as Poland and Romania.

With little positive to report on their Ukrainian proxies in the war, the Western media has shifted its attention to a change in the Russian high command. A July 13 report in the New York Times “has exposed dissension and fueled a shake-up in the Russian military, as it tries to fend off a Ukrainian advance.”

The first thing to note is that, for 6 weeks and at tremendous cost to themselves, the Ukrainian armed forces have failed to make any significant “advance” against the heavily dug in Russian lines.

The article does report that a top Russian general inside Ukraine has been replaced whereupon he recorded a four minute denunciation of his superior officers. General Ivan Popov addressed himself to his troops, a serious breach of discipline, especially in wartime. Popov’s remarks were put on social media by a former general and current legislator.

Popov, however, does not appear to have any relation to the Wagner group insurrection inside of Russia three weeks ago led by its chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. Questions also were raised about the whereabouts of General Sergei Surovikin, head of the air force and previously head of Russian forces in Ukraine. Popov apparently had been complaining about “the lack of counter-battery and artillery reconnaissance capabilities” among other issues.

Anyone familiar with military history can cite numerous battlefield command replacements under the intense pressures of war. The U.S. Civil War, for example, saw the Northern troops repeatedly defeated over and again by the Southern slave owners’ armies. General George B. McClellan was appointed head of the Army of the Potomac by President Lincoln in the summer of 1861. Only months later Lincoln removed him from his post as General-in-chief of the Union forces (March 1862). In November 1862 Lincoln removed him from command. McClellan is reported to have conspired to carry out a coup in his anger against Lincoln and failed in his run for the presidency in the 1864 elections.

During the Korean War (June 25, 1950 0 July 27, 1953) President Harry S Truman appointed World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. forces. Less than one year later, on April 11, 1951, President Truman fired MacArthur.

It would be unwise to read too much into command shake-ups in the Russian military. It is inevitable that mistakes will be made and that supply problems will arise. The problems inevitably are intensified by the life and death situation at the front lines. The powerful resistance shown by the Russian forces over the past 17 months, their ability to advance and, when necessary retreat, to prepare for and stop Ukrainian offensives and to minimize their casualties with use of superior weapons systems, all are evidence of a strong, motivated rank and file and an evolving, capable military leadership.

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