Ukraine – 110 days of war



In the war raging in Ukraine, the West has no achievable goals

Almost four months after the start of the war in Ukraine, there is no doubt that, from a military point of view, Russia will win. It also appears to have successfully weathered the wave of Western sanctions against its economy. The United States put its military-industrial complex back to work and subjugated Europe, forcing it to pay dearly for food and energy. That Russia prolongs the war until it achieves its objectives is understandable. However, why do Western powers keep sending tons of weapons to Ukraine if they don't balance Russia's superiority on the ground, multiply the loss of life and destruction of the country's economy, and escalate the conflict? Is it intentional or is it automatism?

On 15 June, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Joint Chiefs of Staff) of the US Armed Forces, General Mark Milley, calculated the losses of the Ukrainian army. He is believed to be losing around 100 people a day, with an additional 100 to 300 injured.[1] On the other hand, on June 11, for the first time, Oleksiy Arestovich, the main adviser of Volodymyr Zelensky, admitted in an interview that, since the beginning of Russia's Special Military Operation, Ukraine had lost about ten thousand people. It is assumed that he was referring only to dead soldiers, because the number of civilian casualties and wounded is much higher, as indicated by the fact that the mobilization of women is now being prepared.

At the beginning of last week it was already possible to draw the following picture of the military situation: the allied forces of Russia and the militias of the secessionist republics of Lugansk and Donietsk recovered 97% of the territory of the former homologous provinces, Russia recovered the positions it had lost a month in Kharkov province and holds positions in the south. There is little left for it to take over the entirety of the territories inhabited by the Russian-speaking population. In this context, the military usefulness of the continuous Ukrainian bombings against the civilian population of the city of Donietsk is incomprehensible.

For its part, the British newspaper The Independent, citing an intelligence report, offered a week ago, on Saturday (the 11th), an extensive analysis of the relationship between Russian and Ukrainian forces: Ukrainian troops are 20 times inferior to Russians in artillery; 40 times, in ammunition; and 12 times, in reach. In addition, the Ukrainian part was almost completely without anti-tank launchers, although MLRS Grad and howitzers with a maximum range of 20-30 km are still available. Likewise, it lacks weapons to hit long-range Russian artillery.

Due to the lack of coordination with other weapons systems, the increasing incorporation of large-caliber self-propelled guns of French and American origin increases civilian damage without increasing military effectiveness. On the other hand, the Russians have numerous rocket launchers in operational condition, with a range of tens and even hundreds of kilometers. There is a situation of “absolute inequality on the battlefield, not to mention the complete dominance of enemy aviation in the air”, reads the British report. As a consequence, among the Ukrainian troops, despondency spreads and desertion increased.

There is, in addition to everything else, a side effect that was foreseen from the beginning: the compulsive delivery of weapons is feeding a black market in which it is possible to acquire a North American Javelin anti-tank system for around 30 thousand dollars, when only the missile costs 170 thousand dollars and the control center another 200 thousand. Criminal organizations of all kinds are taking advantage of the occasion to obtain a wide variety of weapons, and, it is suspected, not just handguns. The possibility that they could be used for criminal purposes in any part of the world is terrifying, if one thinks, for example, that anti-ship coastal missiles have been delivered and nobody knows where they ended up.

Faced with such a scenario, Western leaders can't imagine anything better than sending even more powerful weapons. Thus, on Tuesday, June 14, the Undersecretary of Defense for Political Affairs of the United States, Colin Kahl, informed that the country will supply Ukraine with heavy guided missiles, with a range of 70 km, for use in the HIMARS multiple rocket launchers . According to Kahl, the high mobility artillery rocket system will be delivered with GMLRS guided rockets.

With this military equipment, massive consumption of ammunition is not required, since it is a high-precision and powerful system, whose effectiveness is comparable to the “effect of an air attack”. Thus, Ukraine could carry out deep attacks on Russian territory, reaching civilian objectives, even if they are useless when it comes to the military, because for a long time the allied forces (Russia and militias of the People's Republics) have avoided large concentrations and used small units. furniture.

In this context, it is not surprising that Professor of International Relations at Macalester University in Minnesota, Andrew Latham, came to the conclusion that “Ukraine cannot win”. The result of this war cannot be an independent Ukraine. It is obvious that the eastern part will remain for Russia; and the western one, under the influence of Poland. Andrew Latham qualifies this scenario as an unconditional victory for the Kremlin, because one of the main tasks of the Special Military Operation was to prevent NATO expansion. Ukraine's fragmentation would exclude it from the Atlantic Alliance's sphere of influence.

At this point in the war, the respective strategies of NATO and Russia are becoming clear. Both are divided into two camps: the economic and the military. NATO's bet was to push the war to Moscow, using Ukraine as a hook, to which it gave all the guarantees that it would intervene in its support to defeat Russia.

In the military field, it was planned to flood Ukraine with portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, of different ranges and, already foreseeing the lack of resistance of the majority of the Ukrainian people, to produce a guerrilla system, supported by the Atlantic Alliance, introducing mercenaries under the guise of volunteers. The popular resistance that Western propaganda invented simply does not exist. In Donbass, the population welcomes the Russians and Chechens as liberators, while in the more Westernized regions, men of fighting age had to be banned from leaving; and now it is the women who are starting to be summoned.

On the economic front, the situation is not better for the Atlantic Alliance either. It failed to win the expected diplomatic support, to the point where former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi publicly said that only 25% of the world was in league against Russia. Moscow quickly compensated for Western sanctions by redirecting its exports to other markets. In any case, half of European Union members continue to buy gas from Russia, paying for it in rubles. As they cannot buy oil directly, there are European countries that purchase it from Greek shipowners or Indian refineries – at much more expensive prices, of course.

At the same time, because Ukraine has undermined access to its Black Sea ports, the outflow of wheat, which Europe needs, is impeded. Food and energy distributors are taking advantage of the situation to raise prices. In economies devoid of adjustment mechanisms, inflation rates of around 7% a year ruin entire populations that already lived on the verge of poverty. In the northern hemisphere, summer is about to begin. Let's see how Europeans react when the cold is added to hunger.

Ukraine has gone out of fashion. Even the “foreign partners” are tired of it. So said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference on June 7th. This “tiredness” of Western leaders became more than evident in the verbal clash that the US president had last weekend with members of the Ukrainian government. On an escape from the Summit of the Americas, Joe Biden was in Los Angeles on Friday, the 10th, for a dinner with campaign sponsors from the Democratic Party. Asked about the outbreak of war, the president said that the president of Ukraine "did not want to hear" the warnings about the Russian invasion. Biden said there was "no doubt" that Vladimir Putin had been planning to "go in", but Volodymyr Zelensky ignored US warnings.

Ukrainian presidential spokesman Serhiy Nykyforov reacted with extreme annoyance to Joe Biden's statements. According to him, his president had asked, on repeated occasions, international partners to impose sanctions in a preventive way, to force Russia to withdraw the troops stationed on the border with Ukraine. "And here we can already say that our partners did not want to listen to us", he said.

The statements of the head of the White House are ambiguous to say the least: did he mean that they knew that Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine anyway and that Volodynyr Zelensky did not listen to them? And in that case, it would be fair to ask what they would have advised him: to negotiate or to start a preventive war on his part? And why did they continue to sponsor the Ukrainian president, if he is so negligent and obsessed? Conversely, if the president meant that Zelensky should have negotiated to stop the invasion, why haven't they pressured him in the last four months to negotiate?

There still seems to be a long way to go for Russia and Ukraine to negotiate. Experience and common sense say that those who have the chance to win a war persist in it until they reach one of their objectives, but those who know they cannot win seek a ceasefire, at least to gain time. However, the Ukrainian leadership continues to send thousands of untrained recruits to the battlefront, and despite Kiev's complaints about insufficient support, Western governments continue to send it weapons, train its troops and send mercenaries.

"NATO seeks that Ukraine pays the lowest possible price for peace when it sits down at the negotiating table with Russia," said the secretary general of the military bloc, Jens Stoltenberg, last Sunday (12th), on a visit to Finland. “Our military support is a method to reinforce their positions at the negotiating table when they feel there to reach a peace agreement. I hope it's soon ”- he indicated. This does not seem like a realistic alternative, since, as long as Ukraine refuses to negotiate, Russia will continue its offensive and its contender will be increasingly weak. Therefore, you will have less power when negotiating. Jens Stoltenberg gives the impression that he doesn't know where he's going, and so he automatically continues to send weapons to justify his blindness.

The contradictory signals that the US government sends also contribute powerfully to this lack of clarity about Western objectives. While Cold War veteran Joe Biden insists on warning that if Russia uses tactical nuclear weapons to decide the war in Ukraine, the United States will respond in kind, members of the National Security Council officially declare to the media that “maybe adequate conventional responses are sufficient”.

The clarity, consequence and coherence of the messages that the leaders of the main powers send is an indispensable condition for world peace. Both allies and adversaries need to know the direction of the (still supposed) greatest superpower, in order to rationally organize its actions. Predictability is an essential ingredient for restoring world peace. In the United States, however, it is unclear who draws the government's line or what its objectives might be.

Ukraine's defeat is inescapable, and the deployment of Western weapons only prolongs the war at the cost of more lives and further destruction of the Ukrainian economy. Such a conflict can only be resolved with dialogue and giving in what is necessary to guarantee Russia's security and Ukraine's survival, even if on a reduced scale.

At such a dangerous moment, there should be a firm and unified leadership in the West that would give Russia clear signals and security that what was agreed will be effectively fulfilled. But this is not the case. The extreme oligarchization of US capitalism and the subordination of the state to the interests of a few corporations and individuals eroded presidential authority. To this structural condition must be added the president's physical and neurological weakness. In this way, each faction in the government or Alliance plays its own game. Only one or another bureaucratic apparatus, such as the Pentagon, is aware of the limits that cannot be crossed. No one in Washington or Brussels has the power to set clear and agreed goals, everyone plays their own game, and everyone does it automatically.

In the war being waged in Ukraine, the West has no achievable objectives, and is limited to prolonging the conflict, sending weapons in the vain hope of improving Ukraine's position in a forthcoming negotiation. The problem is that, by sending equipment without clear political guidance, the risk is that the leaders in Kiev want to up the ante as if they own the bank and, by attacking Russia, provoke its reaction against the arms suppliers. As long as NATO leaders do not cease sending weapons and impose a serious negotiation on their allies in Kiev, the risk of an extension and widening of the war will remain high. Let us pray for reason to return to the West.

*Eduardo J.Vior, sociologist and journalist, he is a professor at the Department of Philosophy at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA).

Translation: Ricardo Cavalcanti-Schiel.

Originally published on Telam Agency.


Translator's note

[1] These estimates seem to average over a very long period. For the most recent situation, the loss estimates are much bigger: the leader of the “Servant of the People” party of President Volodymyr Zelensky, in the Ukrainian Rada (Congress), David Arahamiya, stated last week that, in Donbass alone, Ukraine is losing up to 1.000 military personnel a day, of which 200 to 500 are killed.

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