Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
February 22, 2023
After one year, the war in Ukraine will continue. It was not expected, and it is unfortunate that there was still no end in sight. Obviously, Biden and Putin both are being challenged. But the US has one advantage over Russia: US has no boots on the ground, while Russians and Ukrainians are engaged in a meat grinding warfare day and night.
Yet the US and allies are already facing a severe challenging logistics of arming Ukraine. “The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of ammunition and depleting allies’ stockpiles.” Even worse is the prospect for the next coming year, critical ammunitions for Ukraine will take a long time to be deployed at the front line. The sad predicament is that “it is going to be an extremely expensive war!” How long the general public in the west camp will continue to finance the endless war?
The prospect of not ending the war cannot blame on Putin alone. Ukraine leadership as of now has not presented any realistic peace proposal and the US has not forced any resolution. Biden will now face significant pressure for supporting Ukraine by his GOP colleagues at home. However, GOP does not have any clue of how to end the Ukraine war with honor.
It is unfortunate that the US is divided by partisan politics.
After a year of arming Ukraine, the US and its allies face even more daunting challenges to come
Published 5:00 AM EST, Wed February 22, 2023
Last October, a weeklong barrage of Russian missiles and kamikaze drones destroyed nearly a third of Ukraine’s power stations, plunging millions of Ukrainians into darkness ahead of winter and signaling a significant Russian tactical shift to target civilian infrastructure.
Back in Washington, the attacks were a game-changer. President Joe Biden was so outraged by the threat to civilians that he directed the Pentagon to find a way to get Ukraine America’s most advanced missile defense system, the Patriot – a move his administration had previously dismissed.
The episode was one of several critical turning points in the yearlong security assistance effort, one that has been defined by the US providing Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated, powerful and longer-range weaponry – from shoulder-fired Javelins to HIMARS rocket launchers to M-1 Abrams tanks – even when Kyiv’s requests for that same weaponry had been previously denied.
It’s a process that US officials say has been driven by the Ukrainian military’s evolving capabilities, by its needs on the battlefield and by Russia’s evolving tactics. Diplomatic considerations, including Biden’s overarching goal of maintaining unity in the allied coalition, has also been a hallmark.
Yet for all the calculations and considerations, fundamental to the White House’s posture toward Ukraine is a pledge of clearly defined consequences Biden made directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a two-hour secure video teleconference on December 7, 2021, more than two months before the invasion.
US officials acknowledge the scale of assistance during the first year of the war far surpasses anything they’d planned for. They also acknowledge how difficult the next year will be. Not only do the US and its allies have to keep up that assistance in the face of dwindling western stockpiles, officials say they are also encouraging Ukraine to change its battlefield tactics.
The hope is that Ukraine can use its arsenal of sophisticated weapons to transition away from the sort of pitched battle of attrition that has dominated much of the fighting to a style of mechanized maneuver warfare that uses rapid, unanticipated movements against Russia, sources familiar with their discussion said. The goal is to yield decisive battlefield gains to put Ukraine in a strong position to negotiate a peace, while also keeping an eye on limited munitions stockpiles with less artillery-intensive warfighting tactics.
How Ukraine asks for its weapons
The process of Ukraine requesting weapons from the US has come a long way since the harried first days of Russia’s invasion, when Ukraine’s government was pleading for anything they could get their hands on and the US worried about the prospect of Russia occupying the whole country – and hauling off valuable US equipment. Multiple regular channels now exist and all are filtered through the Pentagon.
In addition to lower-level military contacts, National security adviser Jake Sullivan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley all speak directly with their counterparts multiple times a week.
Sullivan and Milley also hold regular joint calls with top Zelensky adviser Andriy Yermak and Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces. These calls give Sullivan and Milley a chance to get the latest reports from the battlefield and assess the Ukrainian military’s needs.
Ukrainian requests through these various channels are then funneled over to the Pentagon, where officials conduct rigorous analysis of the requests to assess the impact they will have on the battlefield, how quickly the Ukrainians can train and integrate the new weapons and the impact of transferring the weapons on US military readiness.
Even as the process has gotten more organized, with US equipment now often landing in Ukraine within days of Biden approving a security package, the urgency persists.
“We’re doing a lot; we’re doing as much as we can as fast as we can,” the official told CNN. “Is it enough? Probably not.”
Biden’s decision to provide a Patriot missile battery also motivated other countries to act: Germany followed suit with its own commitment to transfer a Patriot battery and the Netherlands has pledged Patriot components and missiles.
At key inflection points – from the decision to provide howitzers in April, HIMARS multiple rocket launchers in June and tanks last month – the ratcheting up of US security assistance has been matched or complemented by allies.
“At every stage of conflict, we have adapted to make sure the Ukrainians had what they needed to be successful – and they have,” a senior administration official said. “We have adapted, they have adapted.”
The challenges of Year 2
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the West in its support for Ukraine as the war enters its second year is sheer logistics, and maintaining the pace of weapons and ammunition supplies to Ukraine as stockpiles dwindle.
“A lot of the ammunition stocks have been depleted in Europe,” Estonian Ministry of Defense Permanent Secretary Kusti Salm told CNN, and Europe’s current industrial capacities are limited in terms of how fast the ammo can be manufactured.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month that Europe and NATO’s production capacity needs to be ramped up if the West is going to meet Ukraine’s needs.
“This has become a grinding war of attrition and therefore it’s also a battle of logistics,” Stoltenberg said. “The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of ammunition and depleting allies’ stockpiles. The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production.”
Stoltenberg said the wait time for large caliber ammunition has increased from 12 to 28 months.
A senior European official said last week that the European Commission hopes to have a proposal ready by March for how to increase the production of ammunition across the bloc. The official noted that it is a complex problem, because ammunition production is expensive and will require that the defense industry upgrade its facilities.
The US has already embarked on a massive effort to re-arm, including plans from the Army to increase artillery shell production by 500%.
A different style of fighting
The Ukrainian military has instinctively wanted to fight an artillery war, US officials say, which involves firing a crushing amount of heavy artillery at the enemy’s defensive lines.
US officials have urged Ukraine to shift to a maneuver warfare style of fighting used by the US and other modern militaries – that is, fighting that uses rapid, unanticipated movements and a combination of different combat arms rather than relying too heavily on artillery.
Prospects for peace?
At Zelensky’s request, US officials have provided input on a 10-point peace plan Zelensky has been showcasing since November, National Security Council official John Kirby said last week.
The plan includes calls for the restoration of Ukraine’s state borders with Russia and the withdrawal of Russian troops, a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes, and the release of all Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Officials told CNN that the plan is not necessarily a starting point for negotiations with Russia. Rather, it represents Kyiv’s vision of an ideal post-war order, one that can hopefully convince Ukraine’s allies to maintain their support for as long as it takes to get there.
“I think strategically the allies are getting to the realization that this is going to be a longer war,” said Salm, the Estonian defense secretary. “It’s going to be an extremely costly war and in order to manage this strategy, you need to have an end goal.”
Zelensky has repeatedly ruled out ceding any territory to Russia to try to get them to withdraw. A decisive Ukrainian victory, with western help, is the only solution, he told the BBC earlier this month — otherwise, Russia will “keep coming back,” he said.
The bottom line, though, is that Putin has still shown no willingness to negotiate an end to the war, US and western officials say – or even that he would be willing to accept anything less than a full overthrow of Kyiv.
“There are no signs that Putin’s war aims have changed” since last February, the senior European official said.
Biden’s visit to Ukraine draws criticism from conservative House Republicans
Shannon Pettypiece and Garrett Haake
Mon, February 20, 2023 at 12:04 PM PST
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s surprise trip to Ukraine on Monday drew a variety of attacks from congressional Republicans who criticized his support for the war-torn country and accused him of neglecting issues back at home.
“You should be standing with East Palestine — an American town in your own country that needs your help,” tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., in a reference to the Ohio town where a train derailment and chemical leak this month caused thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes and raised environmental concerns.
“When our border is in crisis, Joe Biden goes home to nap in Delaware. When Ohio burns with toxic chemicals, Biden’s admin says everything is fine. So on Presidents’ Day, I’m not surprised that Biden is ditching America for Ukraine. He ditched America’s interests since the start of his presidency. They can keep him!” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., tweeted.
The President’s Day criticism, much of which came as Biden was still in the war zone, echoed Republicans who have accused Biden of neglecting the U.S. southern border and bearing some responsibility for the war in Ukraine.
“So it takes two years for Joe Biden @POTUS to visit the war zone he created at our southern border, but then he goes to see another war zone he created in Ukraine,” Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., tweeted.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who also tweeted a call Monday for parts of U.S. to secede, said the conflict has become a proxy war between the U.S. and China and should be ended immediately.
“The U.S. support for war in Ukraine has been like a U.S. proxy war with Russia. But now it’s becoming more like a U.S.- China war through the Ukraine — Russia war. End it now!” Greene tweeted.
“For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine,” Biden said.