A Strategy Observation about the Ukraine War

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The contest was over from the start. Below are ten strategic points why, most of them obvious from the git-go. (For efficiency purposes, I’m defining “git-go” as mid-February 2022, two years ago, but I agree with you if you hold that this whole thing began well before that.)

  1. Russia has three times the population, 30 times the land and ten times the economic output. To call Ukraine an underdog is a understatement.
  2. For the Russian military, the consequential military distances from potential battlefields in Ukraine vary from zero miles to maybe five hundred. The consequential military distances for the United States military vary from a few hundred to a several thousand.
  3. Russia’s leader knew what his goals were and made them pretty obvious. Ukraine was going to be controlled from Moscow, was not going to be part of NATO and was not going to be the locus of anti-Russian military forces.
  4. Ukraine’s leaders could state a clear goal of kicking the Russians out, but it was a goal whose attainment was entirely dependent on outside help. Why did they even think they could count on American support?  Maybe because the corruption schemes and secrets so indicted high-level American government and party individuals that high-level Ukrainian corruptionists figured they had some omerta impunity leverage.
  5. The Ukraine is new as country entities are concerned; its statehood not won but gifted to it by the Russian government. The current regime didn’t come to power organically, either. Power was evidently lent to it by foreigners. As such, the intensity and sincerity of national identity, and popular loyalty to the regime, can be legitimately questioned region-by-region within the Ukraine. They are obviously not all-in. This is not to say that no Ukrainian national fervor existed. It did and does, and the enthusiasm explains some of the mistake, but the sense of defending the homeland was and is not evenly spread or universal.
  6. The Ukrainian government leadership and ruling elite were and are no more democratic or less corrupt than the regime in Russia. It was easily predictable that they would divert much of whatever help came in. That the US government made so little effort to audit US aid did nothing to ameliorate the look of mutual corruption.
  7. The notion that somehow Ukrainian territory was essential to US security was clearly absurd on its face. The backup argument was dominoes – that if the Russians were allowed to take Ukraine, they would take Germany or something. That argument was as absurd as the first. The US government cloaked the absurdities using the standard, albeit effective, technique of repeating them very loudly and shaming anyone who disagreed. For critical thinkers, this was just another tell. The foggy disingenuity coming out of the White House made it seem that the Democrat regime’s goals for Ukraine were actually to maintain a shady business partner and to guard impunity for whatever had been going on there.
  8. Economic sanctions are known to be nearly always counterproductive. As the Russian economy continued to improve and European economies continued to weaken, sanction talk should have faded, but it did not.
  9. The Nordstream pipeline bombing made so little sense, it too came across as some kind of Hail Mary play and a ponderous illegal mistake.
  10. The sham of NATO unity was exposed by the decisions of the Turkish president.

The Afghanistan debacle just wasn’t enough. Now it seems the Democrats want to at least affect the timing of Russian victory in Ukraine so as to avoid yet another in-our-faces reminder of Democrat strategic fecklessness right before the elections.

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3 Responses to A Strategy Observation about the Ukraine War

  1. Geoff Demarest says:

    “Ukraine, Russia and the West” ? I congratulate your commitment. That book is too pricy for me. From what I can tell, however, Hedlund makes some interesting points. My irritation (not at all with your comment, but about the boundaries of strategy literature in general) is that the whole discussion these days is so dominated by Political Science grammar and by the zillion professors and statesmen who opine from within that grammar. “Hard power-soft power, Western, left-right, democracy, balance of power.” The whole music just bugs the hell out of me.

    • Jeffery Lebowski says:

      At the risk of doxxing myself, its in DOD Libraries. And I’m super cheap.

      To the point of choice of verbiage in the strategic literature, and to the point, the discussion of strategy has reached a point of near monoculture of the International Relations Idealists. Like nearly all monocultures, its starting to fail, but has the advantage of failing spectacularly. The disadvantage of course is that they retain the reigns of power in the West.

      Hedlund would likely see you, I and even Kevin as war criminals of the West, serving our financial masters. He’s a realist, which I tend to like, and likely Russophile Marxist, which is one I tend not to like.

      To the Ukraine question, a smart retired FAO once told me “There is one rule of geography, which is stuff closer together effects things more than stuff that is further away. There is no second rule of geography.”

      The Wars of the Soviet Succession never really ended, and I think other than fulfilling the Welles Declaration regarding the Balts, and integration of the Middle Euros into the West, we didn’t have game plan until the EU thought Ukraine was Western.

      That was a project that was going to need hard power, and the Euros and (and parts of our bureaucracy) are so divorced from (or never even thought in terms of) hard power projects that they didn’t know, what they didn’t know.

      Now, I think there are very unstated reasons outside of just Russian imperialistic goals (which I believe to be real) for why the Wars of the Soviet Succession started and likely will not stop for a long time. Bad borders unthoughtfully drawn (or drawn for entirely Soviet reasons) is a prime one. For the US, we’ve never really figured out what the US security nexus is to places like Abkhazia and Maripol.

  2. Jeffery Lebowski says:

    Provocation without deterrence is a strategy, but its not necessarily an effective one.

    A Swedish hard left IR academic Stefan Hedlund postulated in a recent book that Ukraine is the collision of two deeply held and incompatible visions. In the West, one of its treasured notions of the international rules based order as recognized in the Helsinki Accords (the problems the US self inflicted on that one, aside, for the moment) and Russian views of hard power, spheres of influence and other international relations standbys from an earlier age.
    Hedlund incorrectly in view, describes Western actions as yet another Western “intervention.” I mean, people speaking Ukrainian, identifying as Ukrainian in an area roughly known as Ukraine from such authoritative geographical sources as Risk means the war we are seeing is a Russian intervention as much as a Western one. Much like the war in Iraq currently is a Iranian intervention as much as an American one

    The West has bet much of its remaining influence, to say nothing of the majority of functionally irreplaceable ground combat power on the man of Zelensky. To quote the great film “Its a bold strategy, Cotton, let’s see how it plays out.”

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