Within days of the war’s outbreak, President Biden signed off on an emergency spending package that included $13 billion in aid to Ukraine, half of which was allocated for military purposes. Combined with the recently promised $33 billion in additional military assistance to Ukraine, the total cost of U.S. taxpayer-funded military assistance to Ukraine in 2022 approaches the Russian army’s annual budget. Perhaps most important, in Ukraine, U.S. advisorsprovide intelligence and targeting guidance along with the rapid resupply of critical war-fighting equipment.
As the fighting raged in Ukraine, as if on cue, retired U.S. Army generals appeared on television to herald an imminent Ukrainian victory based on the country’s allegedly spectacular battlefield successes and Russia’s extraordinary incompetence. Russian forces, they argued, were doomed to defeat by serious tactical errors, logistical shortfalls, and weak execution. In retrospect, some of these comments involved “mirror imaging,” but much of the criticism almost certainly reflected the sunk costs of U.S. investment in Ukrainian military capability.
It did not take long for American analysts to insist that the Russian military leadership had made the unpardonable mistake of not “front-loading” the Russian offensive in Ukraine with strikes from precision guided missiles, Desert Storm-style. American military pundits and their British colleagues were also quick to pass judgement on the failure of Russian ground forces to race west along two or three major axes. If Ukrainian forces could inflict enough human and equipment losses on Russian forces, the narrative went, Moscow would abandon its objectives and withdraw its forces. Of course, expecting the Russians to suspend operations on such spurious grounds makes about as much sense as expecting Washington to sue for peace after Pearl Harbor.
The retired generals paid little attention to the operational situation. Contrary to the picture painted by Western analysts, Russian ground forces pressed forward, moving methodically along a 300-mile front to identify and selectively attack Ukrainian forces. Read more…