July 12, 2022

"As Long as It Takes" – but it doesn't have to take that long

"As Long as It Takes" – but it doesn't have to take that long

Below my introduction you will fine an opinion piece from The Wall Street Journal, “West’s Ukraine Strategy Will Mean a Prolonged, Bloody Stalemate,together with comments. But first brief mention of important matters before Congress this week and the remainder of the month.

The House of Representatives and Senate are back in session this week with a significant workload they will try to address before their annual August recess.

The House will bring up this week the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 7900) while the Majority Leadership will be working to advance all the annual appropriations bills recently reported out of the House Committee on Appropriations, possibly via two large "minibus" packages.

Expectations are that the House will consider first a six-bill vehicle (H.R. 8294) focused on popular domestic programs to the floor the week of July 18. That would possibly leave a larger six-bill package for later in the month and among the spending bills that could be included in that “package” would be State-Foreign Operations Appropriations.

The House Committee on Appropriations draft Defense Appropriations bill is, of course, of significant interest as Putin’s scorched earth war in Ukraine continues. As it now reads the bill provides $761.681 billion in discretionary spending, an increase of $33.207 billion above 2022 which is in line with President Biden’s budget request. The legislation provides critical security assistance to Ukraine with resources for training, equipment, weapons, supplies and services, salaries and stipends, and intelligence support to the Ukrainian military and national security forces. More specifically, $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, as requested by the President. This is in addition to $6 billion for the Initiative, and $9.05 billion to replenish United States stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine, provided by the recently enacted Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Obviously, there is more to say about these pieces of legislation and the Senate’s consideration of same and numerous other pieces of legislation related to Ukraine, but the bottom line is that legislation critically important to our national security interests being defended by the people of Ukraine deserves our interest and support. The experts of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network are addressing and will address specifics, but it is important that all in our government hear and understand the broad public support for Ukraine.

In reading and considering the article below, it is important to remember the position of the people of Ukraine.

Some foreign leaders and others talk about negotiations and how to end the war short of a Ukrainian victory. It is the people of Ukraine who are fighting and dying. It is their freedom and sovereignty on the line at the moment. So, it is their decision as to when this war in Ukraine is to end. And in that regard, I reference a June 30 article in The Wall Street Journal, “Ukrainians Wouldn’t Cede Land for Peace, Poll Finds.”

You can look up the article, but it reported that 89% of Ukrainians say it would be unacceptable to reach any peace arrangement by ceding Ukrainian territory that Russia has seized. The is an overwhelming majority and its view and position must be accepted.

The Wall Street Journal

West’s Ukraine Strategy Will Mean a Prolonged, Bloody Stalemate

NATO is committed to support for ‘as long as it takes’—not to win, only to stave off Russian victory.

By Mark Kimmitt

July 10, 2022 11:56 am ET

Ukrainian soldiers near Odessa, Ukraine, June 28. PHOTO: LESZEK SZYMANSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK

Leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization last month rallied around a new slogan for Ukraine: “As long as it takes.” When a reporter asked President Biden to explain what that means, he said: “As long as it takes so Russia cannot, in fact, defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine.” Note what he didn’t say: as long as it takes for Ukraine to win. [A critical point, as long as “winning” is Ukraine’s objective, making sure Ukraine has what it needs to win must be the objective of the United States and the West. And that means the right weapons and other support at the right time and in the right place. The “as long as it lasts” would not have to be all that long if the people of Ukraine are given the right support, at the right time and in the right place. The United States has gotten better in both what it is providing and the time it is taking to get the support to Ukraine, but this is war and better is not yet good enough! RAM]

The West’s strategy is to give the Ukrainians enough military aid to defend against Russian advances and to counter Vladimir Putin’s belief that he can win on the ground or wait out the Alliance until it runs out of gas, wheat or patience—in other words, to wait Mr. Putin out. The likely result will be a prolonged and bloody stalemate reminiscent of the Western Front of 1915.

The excellent daily analysis published by the Institute for the Study of War and Twitter feeds of ground operations closely follow attacks and counterattacks by both Ukrainian and Russian forces. An operational-level analysis suggests that these fights, while consuming vast amounts of materiel and causing major casualties, achieve little progress for either side. The Russians’ capture of Severodonetsk wasn’t a breakthrough; it had even less strategic significance than Mariupol. The Ukrainian relief of Kharkiv may be important for residents of the city but does little to change facts on the battlefield.

Recent changes in Russian operations suggest that they are making a transition from a maneuver war to an artillery war. No longer relying on modern-day lightning strikes as were seen in the initial attacks toward Kyiv, or the World War II maneuver tactics then attempted in the Donbas, this new phase depends on taking advantage of Russia’s massive advantage in indirect artillery, rocket and missile systems. [And take advantage of Putin’s malevolent willingness to slaughter people, destroy everything in front of his troops and ignore – if not be encouraged – by the outrage of the world. RAM]

The Ukrainians are using recently arrived NATO systems with far more range and precision to counter that Russian advantage by targeting Russian firing positions, ammunition sites and logistics centers. While the Russians are taking a tactical pause after winning a protracted fight in Severodonetsk, the Ukrainians are being resupplied with even more equipment and ammunition. Rather than win through maneuver, the goal is now to win through exhaustion. Both Mr. Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky seek to wear the other side down, and the NATO promise of indefinite resupply to offset the Russian artillery advantage will likely result in even more static front lines.

Concentrated artillery fire, particularly targeting trenches and static front lines, was the hallmark of the Western Front. So seems the direction of the front lines today. While military doctrine euphemistically refers to artillery barrages as “harassment and interdiction fires,” their effects are significant—especially to troops in trenches and along the front lines. Large numbers of Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield have been killed and wounded by shrapnel, and many withdraw from the front lines suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. [And the West; it is important to remember it is not only Ukraine’s soldiers who are being killed and wounded, Putin’s scorched earth approach freely and apparently enthusiastically slaughters all in its way. RAM]

The numbers of soldiers killed may be less important than plummeting morale and an unwillingness to fight among units enduring days and nights of constant shelling. Recent reports even indicate increasing battlefield desertions. This shelling is reflected in recent calls by Mr. Zelensky for more artillery, more mobile rocket systems and more ammunition to silence Russian artillery and missiles and the logistics convoys that bring up their ammunition. These items are what Ukraine assesses it needs to achieve parity, and it is unfortunate that deliveries will fall far short of the requests. It is unlikely that the Russians will be able to push beyond the Donbas, and the Ukrainians are even less likely to push the Russians out of Luhansk. Rather, static front lines and trench warfare as seen between 2014 and 2022 may reappear.

The NATO strategy to resupply the Ukrainians for “as long as it takes” means that this phase could be longer and far bloodier than earlier phases. [Unnecessarily so. Right weapons – right time – right place. RAM] The rate of casualties among the military and civilians will likely increase. More infrastructure within range of artillery and missiles will come under attack as exhaustion tactics not only seek to kill and wound, but also to terrorize and demoralize. Severodonetsk, like Mariupol, resembles Amiens in 1915, Berlin in 1945 and Mosul in 2017.

Perhaps Mr. Putin will stop if he takes Donetsk and the Donbas or concede the fight when Ukraine has enough precision weapons to hammer Russian logistics centers and choke off the Russian offensive. Perhaps the West will no longer restrict itself from providing weapons that could decisively defeat Russian forces. Perhaps a willingness to negotiate will emerge as exhaustion creeps in. Perhaps the NATO countries will tire and “as long as it takes” will becomes “in together, out together.”

But as long as Messrs. Putin and Zelensky both believe they are winning, or at least not losing, and as long as they are listening to their generals and not their diplomats, it is likely that this conflict will remain a slow, bloody and long war resembling the Western Front of 1915-18. “As long as it takes” may make the Donbas into a 21st-century Flanders field.

Mr. Kimmitt, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, served as assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, 2008-09.

The introductory comments and the parenthetical within the presented article are Mr. McConnell’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network.

Bob McConnell

Coordinator, External Relations

U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network

Robert A. McConnell is a co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation and Coordinator of External Relations for the Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network. He is Principal of R.A. McConnell and Associates. Previously, he has served as head of the Government Advocacy Practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Vice President – Washington for CBS, Inc, and Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration.