How Long Will Western Support For Ukraine Continue in the face of Devastating Economic Pain at Home?
There is no doubt that Washington and Europe are invested heavily in a Ukraine victory over Russia, which helps explain why there is so much euphoria and misinformation about Ukraine’s current offensives around Kherson, in the south, and Kharkov, in the north. The southern offensive is a bust and caused catastrophic casualties. Source? The Washington Post. This article appeared a week ago as the Kherson offensive shriveled and Kharkov was just being launched:
In dimly lit hospital rooms in southern Ukraine, soldiers with severed limbs, shrapnel wounds, mangled hands and shattered joints recounted the lopsided disadvantages their units faced in the early days of a new offensive to expel Russian forces from the strategic city of Kherson.
The soldiers said they lacked the artillery needed to dislodge Russia’s entrenched forces and described a yawning technology gap with their better-equipped adversaries. The interviews provided some of the first direct accounts of a push to retake captured territory that is so sensitive, Ukrainian military commanders have barred reporters from visiting the front lines. . . .
“We lost five people for every one they did,” said Ihor, a 30-year-old platoon commander who injured his back when the tank he was riding in crashed into a ditch.
Ihor had no military experience before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. He made a living selling animal feed to pig and cow farms. His replacement as platoon commander also has no previous military experience, he said.
The Ukrainian commander’s claim that his unit was losing 5 men for every Russia killed or wounded corroborates the information presented in the Russian Ministry of Defense’s daily briefing. To reiterate a point I have made previously–Ukraine lacks the air cover and artillery support needed to give advancing troops a chance at victory while Russia’s capabilities on both counts are fully intact and operational. As a result, Russia relies on medium and long range fires to inflict terrible casualties on Ukrainian forces and limits its own casualties and loss of equipment. That is not my belief. It is confirmed by both Ukrainian and Russian sources.
The Washington Post article provides other troubling insights for western cheerleaders who have convinced themselves that Ukraine is marching towards Moscow and the Russians are fleeing in panic. Pay close attention to what one wounded Ukrainian says:
Oleksandr said the Russian artillery fire was relentless. “They were just hitting us all the time,” he said. “If we fire three mortars, they fire 20 in return.”
The Ukrainian soldiers said they had to carefully ration their use of munitions but even when they did fire, they had trouble hitting targets. “When you give the coordinates, it’s supposed to be accurate but it’s not,” he said, noting that his equipment dated back to 1989.
The Ukrainians soldiers thrown into battle have limited or no training in how to use the weapons provided by the United States and NATO and the Russians have a gigantic advantage in fires and supplies of ammunition.
Russian electronic warfare also posed a constant threat. Soldiers described ending their shifts and turning on their phones to call or text family members – a decision that immediately drew Russian artillery fire.
“When we turn on mobile phones or radio, they can recognize our presence immediately,” said Denys. “And then the shooting starts.”
This is one of the reasons that Russian commanders do not allow their soldiers to deploy with cell phones. It is a further sign of inadequate training for Ukrainians and a failure of command–i.e., it is incumbent on commanders to take the lead in making decisions that minimize the risk of casualties for those in their charge.
Up north in Kharkov, Russia chose to abandon the territory rather than stand and fight. Instead, as was the case in the south, Russia attacked the advancing Ukrainian units with fixed and rotary wing aircraft and with artillery and precision missiles. Yes, Ukraine now holds territory that Russia abandoned but Ukraine is paying a terrible price. And Ukraine shows no ability to target Russian airfields and artillery emplacements. In short, Russia has the capability to continue to strike exposed Ukrainian troops in the field.
So what does this have to do with western support? The news on the economic front is getting worse. Even in the United States. Check out this headline from today’s New York Post:
The Post offers vignettes on four families who recount how they are suffering. Biden’s claim of zero inflation is laughable in the face of this evidence of families pinching pennies and making tough choices whether to buy groceries or pay utility bills.
Things in Germany are even worse and the political leadership is pretending that there is no crisis:
Prices for gas and electricity are exploding, driving companies into bankruptcy. . . .Bread, rolls, cakes and cupcakes — that’s what the Plaz Bakery is famous for. . .
But right now, Plaz no longer knows whether he can stay in business. At the end of August, he received mail from his gas supplier. Instead of the previous €721 ($719) per month, he will now have to pay €2,588 for heating and hot water from October 1, 2022. That doesn’t even include the costs for the baking oven. Plaz has a gas contract that secures delivery at the old price until the end of the year.
But if the gas prices continue to rise, the baker may well be looking at an annual gas bill of €42,000 for the oven alone, up from currently €12,000.
The BDI conducted a survey of industrial companies. It shows that 58% of the companies describe the exploding energy costs as “a big challenge,” and 34% said it was threatening their very existence. According to the BDI, almost one in 10 companies in Germany has already cut back or even suspended production.
Russia is in no mood to help mitigate Germany’s pain. Just the opposite. Russia’s Ambassador to Germany said this on Tuesday:
According to Sergei Nechaev, the very fact of supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons, which are manufactured in Germany and “used not only against Russian servicemen, but also against the civilian population of Donbass, is a “red line” that the German authorities should not have crossed.” He believes that in this context it is also necessary to take into account the “moral and historical responsibility” of Germany to the Russian people “for the crimes of Nazism during the Great Patriotic War.”
“Nevertheless, the Rubicon has been crossed. Pumping Kiev with weapons, as required by the Anglo-Saxon NATO allies from Germany, is a path to nowhere, only prolonging the conflict and increasing casualties. Many people in Germany are aware of this,” Nechaev said in an interview with Izvestia.
According to him, the German authorities unilaterally decided to “collapse the mutually beneficial bilateral relations, unique in their scale and intensity,” between Berlin and Moscow, which were built “on a partnership basis in recent decades.”
Many in the German political class are insane. They are out of touch with reality. With businesses and employers facing an existential threat to their ability to continue to operate, German economists, scientists and environmental campaigners are pressing Berlin to take its inflation-driven tax revenues and invest it in the country’s environmentally-friendly future. Madness.
You make a mistake if you focus on limited tactical gains by Ukraine on the ground and ignore the economic peril that threatens to engulf Europe’s largest economy. A collapse of the German economy will have a domino effect on the rest of Europe and will make it politically untenable for NATO to continue to pour money into Ukraine while Germans, French and Brits face hunger and unheated homes. Without western economic aid, enormous amounts of aid, Ukraine will not be able to sustain military operations.