President Biden announced a $1 billion military aid package to Ukraine, including shipments of additional howitzers, ammunition, and coastal defense systems. This announcement comes after brutal fighting in the Donbas region sparked concerns from some that the war is unwinnable if it does not turn in Russia’s favor.
Initially, ‘experts’ like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said Ukraine would “…fall within 72 hours” of invasion. But, as we sit more than 100 days since the invasion, we hear a different tune from the Pentagon.
Intelligence officials believe the war is at a ‘critical stage.’ Essentially what happens in the Donbas region will determine the future of this war.
If Russia can take the two regional cities, it will be positioned to push further into Ukraine and toward victory.
If Ukraine can push Russia back, it may be positioned to continue rallying support.
If Ukraine is only able to hold the line, well, then who knows what happens next.
General Milley, now being more cautious with his predictions, said of the current situation and appearance that Russia has the upper hand:
“There are no inevitabilities in war. War takes many, many turns. So I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability.”
Although he did add the obvious that “…the numbers clearly favor the Russians.”
The details of the recent military aid include 18 howitzers, 36,000 rounds of howitzer ammunition, and two harpoon coastal defense systems. Since February, more than $5 billion in security assistance has gone to Ukraine.
Part of what has gone over for the fight and is also slotted for the future are radios, ammunition, and night vision goggles. In addition, high Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems known as HiMARS are on the way as well.
HiMARS provide close and long-range rocket and missile range precision support. Sounds great and very useful. However, it will take three weeks of training for the Ukrainian military to be able to use them.
This begs the question, is all of this equipment even useful? According to Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malair, they’ve only received about 10% of the requested assistance.
That runs counter to what Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in Brussels that the United States and Ukraine are :
“…working in lockstep to meet Ukraine’s requests for new capabilities, especially its need for long-range fires, armor and coastal defense.”
Honestly, we aren’t entirely sure where the weapons are going or how they are being used. U.S. officials admit that they don’t clearly understand where the weapons are going pr how effectively they are being used.
This makes it challenging to make intelligence predictions on what is coming next in the war, which would then feed into policy decisions. There is some speculation that Ukraine isn’t using some of the western specific systems due to the required training.
For example, Switchblade drones are not used as much as commercial drones that are retrofitted with explosives. Given that Ukraine isn’t known for its ability to secure weapons from the illegal arms trade, this should cause concern for any American.
But the biggest concern for many in the national security sphere is how we will keep up our own war-fighting capabilities. With tensions rising just about everywhere on the globe, the need to be prepared at home is on the minds of many.
Of the $1 billion promised, a third of it will be from the Presidential drawdown authority. This is a fancy way of saying it will come from our military stockpile.
The other two-thirds will be purchased by the United States from the defense industry and then sent to Ukraine. So there is a genuine concern that we are depleting our own supply of weaponry.
One-third of our inventory of Javelins is gone. One-quarter of our Stingers which are shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, are gone.
The Army has forged a contract with Raytheon, who makes the Stingers, to restart production at a cool $625 million. Good for Raytheon, I suppose, bad for us since they say it will take a year to restart that production.
As it stands now, at the rate at which we are plowing through our stockpile, we will start to run out of certain critical assets by next year. That’s hard to swallow, especially if the rumors are true that the Ukrainian forces aren’t utilizing all of the equipment in the first place.
While the United States, England, and many eastern European countries are still steady in support of Ukraine, there are plenty of significant players who are starting to grow weary.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Ukraine will need to negotiate with Russia at some point. In line with France, Germany and Italy have all pressed for a cease-fire and peace talks.
The waning support isn’t the only thing that is causing complications. The U.S. State Department is looking into reports that Russian-backed separatists have captured two American veterans fighting for Ukraine.
While not confirmed if it is true, that will surely be difficult for the Biden administration to navigate. Especially given that a court in Donetsk under separatist control sentenced two British citizens to death by firing squad.
White House spokesman John Kirby told CNN that the United States would “…do as much as we can for as long as we can” to support Ukraine. The question is, how long could that be?
A war that was supposed to be over within days has turned into months and looks more and more like what is known as a ‘war of attrition.’
Suppose that is true, that no side will win this war begs the question of when it will end.
“It’s not going to be months, I think we’ll be here for a number of years.”
Sounds very familiar to those of us who fought the last forever war in Afghanistan.
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