Ihor Cap: Commentary on the Russia-Ukraine War
When Ukraine asked for tanks and weapons back in September 2022, the Russians only started to build their fortifications. Ukraine got its tanks six months later, but by January 25, 2023, the well-armed and well-supplied Russians had hundreds of miles of well-built fortifications and minefields, not to mention even more mobilized troops. It is little wonder why the Ukrainians are slower in their counterattack. The relatively quick Ukrainian successes in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions did not face well-entrenched Russian troops. Casualties were still high on both sides.
Now that Ukraine is asking for air support, air defence systems, and more tanks in addition to longer-range artillery weapons, the West is still befuddled and slow to respond, at the cost of more Ukrainian lives. After all, it’s not their lives at stake here.
The weapons to mitigate Ukrainian suffering are assuaged by a long list of lamentable regrets. These may include: we can’t give you these weapons; we don’t have enough artillery; we cannot produce them fast enough; let’s not escalate matters; or you can’t use these weapons in certain situations while the morally deficient Russians continue to bomb civilian populations, food storage facilities, infrastructure, and revel in their genocidal acts. You wonder if the NATO countries were even ready to fight Russia after 80 years of preparation.
Yet, the Western countries would not even dream of counterattacking anyone without proper air support and sufficient artillery firepower. Name one NATO country. The Americans, for comparison, had serious and immediate firepower available when they first faced the Russians in February 2018.
500 Syrian government and Wagner (read Russian) forces were successfully repelled in the Battle of Kasham (aka the Battle of Conoco Fields) by a very small number of elite American forces who fought with incredible air support and artillery guns. Forty American troops—I emphasize only 40 soldiers—had at their disposal the following military support:
F-22 fighter jets, F-15E fighter jets, B-52 bombers, AC-130 gunships, AH-65 Apache attack helicopters, an MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial systems, M777 howitzer artillery, and M142 HIMARS rocket artillery firepower. The Syrian and Russian forces lost up to 100 men, and several hundred were wounded. The Americans had no casualties, and only one Syrian Democratic Forces fighter was wounded. Wow!
The West is not only slow in the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, it is also delivering them partially and incrementally. Ukraine is scheduled to receive some 30 M1A2 Abrams tanks while thousands of them are gathering mold in NATO storage facilities. Ukraine is very grateful for whatever they get but the Defense Department could do better.
Russia’s economy fits into two European nations, the Netherlands and Belgium. Its population is one-half that of the United States, its military expenditure amounts to roughly 10% of what the USA spends on the military, yet Russia manages to keep the power of all of the democratic, law-abiding nations of the West in check. Where is our dignity? I’m sure we can do better.
The Budapest Memorandum is moribund. Economically, Russia is successfully bypassing the sanctions because your kitchen strainer has less holes in it than the penalties enforced on it. Politically, the West is irrationally anxious that Russia will disintegrate into several states each having a nuclear weapon. Militarily, the West provides Ukraine with enough weapons to defend itself but not enough to secure a quick win.
The Ukrainian gladiators are fighting one of the largest and best equipped armies in the world as best they can with the resources at their disposal. After it's all over, Ukraine will remain a powerful, independent nation that commands respect from the civilized world. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the irresolute NATO countries, who will have to endure the humiliation and guilt of their indecisions and sometimes demeaning suggestions for many years to come.