The problem with how the West is supporting Ukraine

By | March 25, 2023

Phillips Payson O’Brien writes:

For the past four months, people around the world have witnessed the macabre process of Russian forces making repeated assaults near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut for only the tiniest of gains. By some counts, Russia has lost about five of its soldiers for every Ukrainian soldier lost—to say nothing of massive equipment losses. Although in theory a country can win a war by using its military forces to make forward assaults against an enemy’s forces, that’s just not a smart way to fight. Military technology long ago evolved to arm both sides in conflicts with extremely lethal weaponry, and any army that tries to approach this machinery head-on is likely to suffer major, and in some cases horrific, losses.

Far more effective is to weaken your opponent’s forces before they get to the battlefield. You can limit what military infrastructure they’re able to build, make sure what they do build is substandard, hamper their ability to train troops to operate what they build, and hinder them from deploying their resources to the battlefield. These steps are doubly effective in that they save your own forces while degrading the other side’s. Over the past two centuries, the powers that have emerged triumphant have been the ones that not only fought the enemy on the battlefield but also targeted its production and deployment systems—as the Union did by controlling the waters around the Confederacy during the Civil War and as the United States and Britain did from the air against Nazi Germany.

In light of such dynamics, the manner in which the West is supporting Ukraine’s war effort is deeply frustrating. Though NATO countries have a variety of systems that can target Russian forces deep behind their lines, recent aid has been overwhelmingly geared toward preparing Ukraine to make direct assaults against the Russian army. The most widely discussed forms of equipment—such as Leopard 2 tanks, Bradley armored personnel carriers, and even Archer long-range artillery—are not the kinds of systems that can disrupt or degrade Russian forces far behind the front lines.

In short, Ukraine is being made to fight the war the hard way, not the smart way. [Continue reading…]