Educating J.D. Vance – if he will not listen, others should

March 6, 2024

Great timing.  Yesterday, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation held its virtual summit, Without Justice, Can There Be A Genuine Victory Or An Enduring Peace? With four panels of fabulous experts discussing topics from “Ukraine in NATO Secures Global Security,” to “Victory for the People of Ukraine – What is needed?” to ‘Justice for Ukraine – Accountability for War Crimes,” to “Reconstruction & Rebuilding (reparation, assets, closing sanctions loopholes) and now two prominent members of our Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) who participated in the virtual summit have been published in Newsweek attempting to educate the naïve – or worse – junior senator from Ohio.

Debra Cagan and Ambassador John Herbst dispassionately dissect one of J.D. Vance’s ongoing and ill-advised arguments against American support for Ukraine.  Hopefully, the senator will read and learn, and one must hope others who have adopted ill-advised reasons to oppose support for Ukraine will also learn and change their opinions and votes.

The International Criminal Court has determined Vladimir Putin a war criminal and that war criminal is pursuing a demonic war against Ukraine and the people of Ukraine that involves civilian massacres, abduction of Ukrainian children and their “reeducation,” rapes, indiscriminate destruction of schools, hospitals, apartments, and the mining of fields and cemeteries.

The United States must provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defeat this war criminal.


Sen. Vance Is HalfRight, but Ukraine Is Not the Problem | Opinion

By Debra Cagan and John Herbst

Published Mar 05, 2024at 4:41 PM EST Updated Mar 05, 2024 at 5:00 PM EST

Senator JD Vance's (R-OH) recent comments on continued support for Ukraine made a number of compelling points about the ability of U.S. and Western arms production to keep pace with our aggressive adversaries, notably Russia and China. But where we part company is the senator's insistence that this is a result of providing too much of our own resources to Ukraine.

On the contrary, Ukraine has exposed alarming shortcomings in the U.S. national security apparatus, particularly within the defense industrial base that the United States has relied upon for every war and conflict over the past 100 years. While the United States and its allies were taking a breather during the post-Cold War years, reducing capacity and expertise for rapid production scaling, Russia and China were not idle. And while we were still engaged in Afghanistan post-mortems, Russia and China never missed a beat.

We are now witnessing in Ukraine every day what a war looks like against a near-peer enemy, a kind of war the U.S. has not had to fight since the middle of the last century. We have watched our equipment perform admirably in some instances, and poorly in others as the Russians have exploited vulnerabilities defeating some of our most sophisticated assets. And we are only now recognizing that daily, high-intensity conflict has inordinately high burn rates of almost everything in that battlespace.

In war, militaries use what they have. If Ukraine had access to aircraft and long-range missiles, minimizing the need for area bombardment, those burn rates would not be nearly as high as they have been. We also believe that the recent Ukrainian withdrawal from Avdiivka would not have occurred if Ukraine had those assets, and not had to rely on the terrible grind of just artillery. The numbers are stark. Estimates are that in the most recent engagements the Russians are using between 1 and 1.5 million rounds of indirect fire ammunition per month. Compare this to U.S. production of approximately 30,000 rounds of 155 mm artillery ammunition per month. The problem, Sen. Vance, is not Ukraine.

Newsweek here had a picture of Vance – I have seen enough of him – rather than a Ramirez cartoon, making one of the points of the article. RAM

We have learned that what we thought would be enough in terms of not only quality, but quantity does not last as long against Russia as it did against Syria, the Taliban, Iraq, and Iranian proxies. We have also learned that many of our recommended battlespace strategies and tactics, born out of incredibly complex war games and the brilliant minds of seasoned military planners have not necessarily worked as well as we assumed they would against this near-peer enemy.

Most important, what we really discovered is not that Ukraine is draining U.S. assets, but that the Emperor in the West, that's us, either has no clothes or certainly not a large enough wardrobe.

This epiphany has only been exacerbated by continued supply-chain problems and a reliance on less than reliable partners for the critical components we need to build weapons to defend the United States. We have been talking about this problem for quite some time and have urged the administration to take urgent action to ramp up military production. Indeed, some of what Vance is going on about are really self-inflicted wounds.

We had known for ages that we would have to find new and additional sources for nitrocellulose and high explosives for artillery shells, but we were content with thinking we had just enough. It is this just-enough approach that has been turned on its head the hard way in Ukraine. The upside for the U.S. is as we empty our older stocks for Ukraine, the U.S. military, and those of our closest allies, will now have better, modern, more useful weapons and equipment than ever before; we will truly be far more effective and efficient in the modern battlespace than we were even a year ago. And finally, we will have moved beyond this notion of having just enough.

If Vance wants to shine a bright light on these problems and work in the U.S. Senate to provide the authorities and wherewithal to ensure the rebuilding of the U.S. defense industrial base, to enable us to continue to deal with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and the bevy of other actors intent on attacking us, we would welcome his intervention as great national leadership.

But it would be reckless were he only to raise this as part of his frantic effort to find some reason, any reason, to justify his opposition to aiding Ukraine. (If you follow the link, it takes you to George Jaskiws’ excellent piece, 'Highly' intelligent J.D. Vance's spiteful position on Ukraine as a danger to the world in The Columbus Dispatch.  RAM)

It is the height of naivete to assume that caving to our adversary Putin in his insatiable appetite for empire would serve, in any way, U.S. security and prosperity. Ending aid to Ukraine undermines our credibility and leadership and significantly increases the risk of further aggression against NATO and our Pacific Allies.

We are quite intentional in saying further aggression. Russia put nuclear weapons in Belarus and has been threatening Poland and Lithuania for years with nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad. It has deployed so many sea mines in the Black Sea that NATO Allies and Black Sea littoral states Romania and Bulgaria are under constant threat, and it unleashes routine cyber-attacks against us and our allies. Meanwhile China trolls Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines daily, to say nothing of North Korean adventures on the peninsula.

As such Sen. Vance, the best answer to your observations is that we need a policy to deal with the Russian threat to us and our allies—containment. The current place we need to contain Putin is in Ukraine. We do no fighting, but only provide aid. The aid we provide is less than 4 percent of our defense budget, not a high price for containing Russia and deterring China. The benefit to the American people, to our economy, and for our long-term safety and security is incalculable.

Many of America's best and most prescient leaders understood that even if we want to "take a breather," our enemies just keep on doing what they do. We should not have to remind ourselves yet again what happens when the U.S. walks away. It never ends well.

Debra Cagan is senior advisor to the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center. She previously held high-level positions at the US Department of State and Department of Defense from the Reagan to Trump administrations.

Ambassador John Herbst is senior director of the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center and a former US ambassador to Ukraine and to Uzbekistan. Find him on Twitter at @JohnEdHerbst.

The views expressed in this article are the writers' own.