The Russia-Ukraine War 2022 – Part I
First, some general facts. Ukraine covers an area of about 595,000 km2, excluding the rebel “republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk. Its population is about 40-million excluding the rebel areas. It has an army – at this time – of 236,000 including 36,000 recalled reservists. It has about 850,000 other reservists, including some 400,000 veterans of the Donbas war. This “first reserve” last saw fighting in 2015.
It can be reasonably concluded that Russia cannot possibly conquer Ukraine with less than 500,000 troops, larger than its present armies. That means a total of 1-million troops, which requires a substantial mobilization/expansion of the Russian Army. Even then, the Russian Army will be confined to largely controlling the cities, with the Ukraine Army and guerrillas holding the rest. Because Ukraine has the backing of NATO for arms and money, and land borders with four NATO countries – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Russia cannot possibly strike these “sanctuaries” without provoking a general war. It also follows that no possible Russian objective can be served by a widespread Ukraine war that can go on for decades.
So what was Mr. Putin thinking when he invaded Ukraine? To quickly seize Kiev, install a puppet government, and end the war. This could have meant a reunification of Ukraine with Russia, or at the least a Ukraine as a satellite of Russia. Mr. Putin assumed the decadent and paralyzed west would be forced to accept the loss of Ukraine to the west. Though some have said this thinking is too much a US hypothetical, it’s difficult to believe he planned a prolonged war.
Now, while many have wondered if Mr. Putin is insane, this is not helpful. Insane or sane, he has to be dealt with. And claiming insanity is an easy way for the West to escape its own complicity in creating a situation which led Mr. Putin to conclude the West is impotent.
The reality is that after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the west – and particularly the Europeans – thought they could disarm and enjoy the fruits of peace. The west forgot that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. There is no proof that Jefferson said this, but it can be taken as a guiding principle for democracies. While American triumphalism was understandable, it turned out to be false. As a conservative hawk, I believe Western Europe should look after itself and the US should be focusing on China. Regardless, Washington does not believe it should leave the West Europeans to their own devices. As such, the withdrawal of US Forces Europe was a big mistake, and the failure to get the West Europeans to fund their own defense had a price.
A further error was geo-strategical. The US told Gorbachev it would not militarily expand into the former satellite states, and it got Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a security guarantee. Now, some have argued that the US made no such promise to Gorbachev, but Gorbachev himself and multiple Americans have said so. And certainly if US did not give Ukraine a security guarantee, there was no reason for Ukraine to unilaterally give up its arsenal.
Further, if you are Putin in the Kremlin, you see ample evidence of a US decline. Look at the wars we have not won, our cowardly withdrawal from Somalia, and our subsequent insistence that our wars be fought with zero dead. Look further at the enormous disintegration at home of the American social consensus that allowed America to become the leading world power. Look at the constant US internal fighting on issues such as race, gender, crime, the economy, policing, abortion, political correctness, and so on. To a foreign leader who regards the US an enemy, this all likely encouraged the conclusion America is internally in disarray. Conservatives sounded the alarm, but the liberals decided that this was just a ruse for white Americans to maintain domestic power. While undoubtedly the liberals have a point, the motives of many conservatives are quite irrelevant to the world’s perception of the decline of American power.
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