Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
September 17, 2023
The proxy war has been going on for more than 18 months, there is no clear end in sight. Local media has been very selective, most of the news from the front line is from Ukraine governments: we do not know how many brave Ukraine soldiers have lost their lives and how many capable hands are left. President Zelenskyy and his dear wife will be in the US soon, they will tell us that it is imperative that we have to support Ukraine’s cause with cash and military equipment until Ukraine “wins” the war with Russia.
Eighteen months of war may not have caused severe hardship in Ukraine, but majority of the people around the are tired of the war. The global economy has been damped by war. Specifically, Europe is exhausted, the US is stuck with billions of dollars covering the war. It is no coincident that the US top general, General Milly, who will retire in ten (10) days, spoke the truth to CNN today that a Ukrainian victory in the conflict is a “very high bar” and would take a “very long time.” He further said that “This is going to be long; it’s going to be hard; it’s going to be bloody!” His real message, as a decorated army general, to all the smart politicians: “That’s a different war on paper and real war.” Probably the war should never have happened: there was no clear goal and never had an exit strategy.
President Zelenskyy and his military staff should explain to us why “Ukraine is firing shells faster than can be supplied.” Question one: why is Ukraine firing so fast? Question two: what has been achieved with all those shells? Question three: It is obviously not sustainable, what’s next?
Europe nations should think twice before throwing big bucks to expand their arms manufacturing industry for the war. Ukraine war will not last forever, what will people do with the huge over capacity after the war? Europeans are facing major economic challenges because of the Ukraine war already; all the available resources should be devoted to improving local people’s life! It is a moral issue.
Top US general: Removing Russia from Ukraine a ‘very high bar’
Sun, September 17, 2023 at 9:09 AM PDT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has resisted negotiating a peace with Russia since the country’s invasion began more than a year and a half ago, citing unserious terms from Moscow. He said the best outcome would be to remove Russia from all Ukrainian territory.
Milley, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is retiring from his post at the end of this month, said that objective won’t be possible, however, in the country’s current counteroffensive.
“There’s well over 200,000 Russian troops in Russian-occupied Ukraine. This offensive, although significant, has operational and tactical objectives that are limited, in the sense that they do not — even if they are fully achieved — they don’t completely kick out all the Russians, which is the broader strategic objective that President Zelensky had,” Milley said in a CNN interview Sunday.
“That’s going to take a long time to do that. That’s going to be very significant effort over a considerable amount of time,” he continued.
He refused to say exactly how long he believes it will take, citing the changing aspects of war, but he doubted that the conflict will end any time soon.
“I can tell you that it’ll take a considerable length of time to militarily eject all 200,000 or plus Russian troops out of Russian-occupied Ukraine,” he said. “That’s a very high bar. It’s going to take a long time to do it.”
That slow pace has worried Western allies, and Milley has previously both defended the Ukrainian effort and said its success will require patience.
“That’s a different war on paper and real war,” Milley said. “These are real people in real machines that are out there really clearing real minefields and they’re really dying. So when that happens, units tend to slow down … in order to survive, in order to get through.”
Joseph Ataman and Clare Sebastian, CNN
Sun, September 17, 2023 at 5:47 AM PDT
Artillery has dominated the war in Ukraine. But nearly 18 months in, a significant gap still remains between the shells Ukraine wants and how fast European and American factories can supply them. And concerns are rising that Europe’s patchwork of arms manufacturers is ill-suited to meet these needs.
Away from the front, Ukraine’s war has become a numbers game: who can acquire, make and resupply more tanks, bullets, and, most of all, artillery shells.
Amid their counteroffensive, Ukrainian guns are firing up to 6,000 rounds daily, Ukrainian MP Oleksandra Ustinova told CNN, but the military wants to shoot more than 10,000. Even that is a fraction of the 60,000 shells that Russia was using at the peak of its barrages this year, per an Estonian and Ukrainian government analysis.
All in all, Kyiv needs some 1.5 million artillery shells annually, according to the CEO of one of Europe’s largest arms manufacturers, Rheinmetall.
By July, the US had supplied more than two million artillery rounds to Ukraine since the 2022 invasion, the Pentagon said. The European Union has supplied at least a quarter of million this year, in addition to bilateral donations directly between individual member states and Ukraine. The United Kingdom, too, has also donated ammunition.
But in February 2023, Europe-wide production of artillery ammunition had a maximum capacity of 300,000 shells annually, Estonian defense officials estimated. The best-case scenario of an increase to making 2.1 million shells annually is still years away from being realized.
Call to arms
“I need ammunition, not a ride,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told his American counterpart as Russian tanks rolled across the border last year.
Determined to help Ukraine in its struggle for survival, the European Commission in Brussels in March announced plans to provide Ukraine with 1 million artillery shells by March 2024 in a three-stage plan.
Backed up orders
Amid the rush to ramp up production, manufacturers are facing backlogs that could take years to work out, with production lag times that threaten their home country’s military readiness.
A French parliamentary report from February 2023 stated that standard 155mm shells would take up to 20 months to be delivered, rising to between 24 to 36 months for more advanced guided models.
German arms company Rheinmetall has a 40 billion euro ($43 billion) backlog of orders across its catalog of ammunition, weapon systems and vehicles, Papperger said, with ammunition accounting for 10 billion euros of that.
It’s a similar situation across the Atlantic, with the US military ordering some ammunition “20-30 months” ahead of delivery, according to William LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment.
However, these increases speak as much to the paltry demand prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, as the EU’s push for increased production.
Even Tuuli Duneton, the senior the Estonian defense official who helped engineer the EU’s plan, admitted that the goal of producing 1 million shells for Kyiv in 12 months was “ambition combined with pragmatism,” given the difficulty of convincing member states to back a more demanding goal.
“This is just the beginning. This is something that ideally would grow, as the years go on, this number,” she said of the scheme, which is currently set to end in 2025.
“It’s a very close dialogue with the governments, where can they co-invest? Where can we build more capacity? Where can we share the risk for building war-time capacity? The industry can’t pay for all that themselves,” Brandtzæg said.
No golden bullet
The EU’s plan isn’t a catch-all solution.
For now, the West hasn’t mastered getting cheap, standardized artillery at scale into Ukrainian hands and NATO stockpiles.
Russia though – with its more state-backed manufacturing – appears to have achieved just that.
Despite international sanctions and the mounting cost of the war, Russia is still producing artillery ammunition at a rate seven times cheaper and eight times faster than the West, according to the Estonian defense ministry.
That’s a harsh reality for the Ukrainians to endure, especially as criticisms swell over the slow counteroffensive.