Ukraine: USA is hunkering down for a long conflict of attrition

Ukraine's importance to NATO will prevent quick end to military operation

As with my previous opinion piece I would like to lay my cards on the table and let Pravda.Ru readers know at the start that I am a foreigner, ignorant of Russia's internal politics, and against the military operation in Ukraine. 

And now to the opinion:

If the EU wants to kick its dependence on Russian oil, gas, and coal, then the best option - while increasing nuclear, wind and solar in the long term - is for energy imports from Ukraine in the short and medium term. The Ukrainians are happy to help but the main locations of those vital resource deposits happen to be occupied or threatened by Russian forces. Coincidence? You decide.

This 2018 article, focusing on coal goes onto identifies Ukraine as second only to Norway in terms of oil and gas energy reserves, making it crucial for European energy security.

Notice also how Russia occupies the areas with the richest coals deposits.

Despite the failure to achieve a quick regime change with the drive to Kiev, Russia has made serious inroads into Ukraine from the South and East, effectively creating a land bridge between Russia and Crimea.

Compare the following maps:

  • This is a Wiki map of current occupied ground in Ukraine.
  • Here is a 2015 map from the Energy Consulting Group highlighting oil and gas fields.

Comparing the maps will show that Russia has taken some of the territory with the hydrocarbon reserves and threatens most of the rest. Even if Russian forces do not gain complete control of the rest, they can still make the territory ungovernable and unusable for Ukraine. 

To meet its needs, Europe cannot eliminate its dependence on Russia without aiding dictators in Iran or Venezuela, which is undesirable. America will only meet about 10% of the need in the next year or two. The Gulf Arab states seem either unwilling or unable to meet Europe's needs quickly. This makes Ukraine even more important Europe's - and by extension NATO's - strategic interests.

But European capitals are in a bind. If they help Ukraine too quickly, and ratchet up the political-military expense to Vladimir Putin rapidly, he can retaliate with energy denial and economic hardship.

Consequently, it could remain the case that the UK, US, and only a few other countries continue to supply articles of war, while most EU members help more in humanitarian supplies and aid to refugees.

However, Russia is not out of the woods. The U.S. Congress passed a new Lend-Lease Act just a few days ago. This means Ukraine will be able to borrow heavier platforms like tanks, artillery and the like in order to retake the territory it has lost. That these weapons take months for crews to train on, means the US government is hunkering down for a long conflict of attrition. That Americans won't be fighting means they will not feel any of the negative effects of attrition in lives they felt in Korea, Vietnam, or to a lesser extent Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia and Ukraine alone, will do the dying. This makes American support for Ukraine easier and politically convenient.

If we remember that pumping money into the U.S. military industrial complex creates jobs and pleases special interest groups, then there is actually a positive political incentive to keep arming Ukraine. 

Next, this military operation is not the slow burn that the past 8 years was for the Donbas and Luhansk. It is resource intensive. The implication is that Russia could be bled dry of its young men and industrial capacity.

Numbers are working against Russia in another way. Contrary to everything reported in the media, at least here in the West, in the conflict zone it is in fact Russia that is outnumbered, not Ukraine. True that at the start of this operation the total forces that Russia fielded were numerically superior to Ukraine's professional armed forces. However, now with full mobilization in Ukraine, they now outnumber Russian forces and will continue to grow numerically. Most of these people have next to no training and experience but with every passing day that changes a little at a time.

It seems harder to imagine a successful Russian popular mobilization effort like in the Great Patriotic War, for the current operation that Russia is leading in Ukraine.

So with the Lend-Lease Act, Russia will slowly become outgunned as well as outnumbered. My guess is that we shall start to see a small difference materially by the end of summer and a much bigger one by winter as trainers get qualified and more Ukrainians train on American equipment.

The Kremlin knows all of this already and wants a quick conclusive victory. Hence the race to send the exhausted soldiers from the Kiev front down to Ukraine's south and east before the Ukrainians can fully reinforce. Russia needs to destroy Ukraine's field army there before its new Western equipped conscripts are trained and it becomes too late to force terms on the Ukrainian president and parliament. That's one path to peace, but unlikely given the staunch Ukrainian resistance.

With each passing day as the death toll rises on both sides a negotiated settlement becomes less and less likely. Therefore, we can guess that if the operation continues and they become stronger the Ukrainians will accept nothing less than the complete restoration of their country, with the possible exception of Crimea if the Russian military performs well.

Vladimir Putin, of course, has the nuclear option. The callous genocide of a few million Ukrainians in their cities with the threat of more to come will most likely push the Ukrainian government and people to accept unfavorable terms, though at the cost of eternal enmity. 

Naturally, in a nuclear scenario even China would have to cave into pressure on isolating Russia, effectively turning the country into a very large North Korea. While NATO countries want to avoid an economic war with China, this scenario would force their hand. China for its part values economic growth and internal stability more than anything else. Therefore, China's friendship with Russia would have to be sacrificed if Europe and the U.S. get serious about barring trade.

Can you also imagine any country wanting to buy Russian exports after the use of nuclear weapons? All this without even considering the morality of using nuclear weapons or the radioactive fallout that will effect Ukraine, Russia and the rest of the planet.

The last option is for the Kremlin to somehow become satisfied with Crimea and unilaterally call an end to the military operation, giving up the territory it has won. Not gonna happen.

So to my mind, America's apparent assessment of this being a longer struggle, as indicated by the Lend-Lease Act, seems to be the most realistic scenario. As for the welfare and lives of the civilians in Ukraine and the soldiers on both sides, I am not optimistic.

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Author`s name Cyrus Parvin