Tactics, Logistics, and Strategy

Speaking of tactical requirements Dimitri K. Simes makes a point at The National Interest:

NATO can undoubtedly strengthen Ukraine’s position by providing more arms and military training, enabling Kyiv to achieve limited tactical successes. But should these successes—contrary to current conventional wisdom—go beyond territories conquered by Russia after February 24 and start to look like a humiliating defeat for the Putin government, Moscow is more than capable of significant escalation, both through military mobilization and putting the economy on a war footing. Such a development might well force the United States to choose between suffering a major military setback in Ukraine or moving up the escalation ladder—closer and closer to the nuclear threshold. Those who dismiss Moscow’s ability to improve its military situation forget that Russia today is fighting not just a “special military operation” but indeed a limited war, one quite different from a full-scale war where Moscow would deploy all the resources it could muster—military, economic, and political—if absolutely necessary for the protection of the regime.

I’ve been questioning whether the tactics being proposed are actually logistically possible but Mr. Simes raises another point: do the tactics produce a good strategic outcome?

And some of the points made in his conclusion may sound familiar to you:

It is one thing to argue that there should be no settlement without the Ukrainian government’s involvement and agreement, but it is another thing entirely to outsource negotiations with another nuclear power to Kyiv. The most fundamental responsibility of the Biden administration is to assure the survival of the republic. The Ukrainians are entitled to wield veto power over any territorial arrangement with Russia, but they cannot—and should not—exercise a veto power over U.S. decisionmaking, including the types and quantities of weapons the United States provides to Ukraine, and even more so, what kind of general relationship (sanctions included) Washington chooses to adopt with the only other nation capable of destroying the United States. Putin has demonstrated that he is willing and able to make ruthless and daring military decisions. His strategic vision notwithstanding, he is also the product of a different political culture and has his own narrative of what has transpired between Russia and the West. That narrative is quite different from the one that prevails in Washington and can bring Putin to reach different conclusions than those widely held in the West. Assuming that Moscow will act upon American definitions of caution could lead to a fatal miscalculation.

Unless you believe that Ukraine’s tactics do not change in response to our actions, something I find incredible, we might want to consider that Ukraine’s strategic objectives are not synonymous with ours.

2 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    We arent fighting so I dont see why this would be a Unmilitary setback. I understand that for propaganda purposes it would be played that way, probably more in the US than anywhere else. Still, we should reject that. Support Ukraine as well as we can within reason and Ukraine has to decide what they want to do as does Russia.


  • bob sykes Link

    It most certainly would be a military set back and not mere propaganda.

    Russia has escalation dominance in Central Europe would win a conventional war as far west as the German and Austrian borders. Farther west is anyone’s guess, because it depends on the commitments of us and our allies, and had rapidly we can mobilize. The two Gulf wars required months of redeployments that went uncontested. That will not happen in a European/North American war. And yes Russia bombs and rockets will fall on the US and Canada.

    The US and NATO failed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria. The US hasn’t won a war since 1945, and those losses were inflicted by militaries that were supposedly inferior to ours. Napoleon is supposed to have said something like, “In war the ratio of the moral to the material is three to one.” Our often ragtag foes since 1945 certainly proved that true. Russia is not a ragtag militia; it is a full peer that actually has technological and doctrinal advantages over us. More importantly their determination to win vastly exceeds ours.

    A negotiated settlement (which would include annexation of parts of Ukraine by Russia and restrictions on the Ukrainian military and prohibition on NATO membership) is best for everyone, especially the US and EU.

    Unfortunately, the US will not let Zelenskii negotiate. We ran the coup that overthrew the legitimate Ukrainian government, and installed the current junta, and we prevented implementation of the Minsk I and II agreements. We certainly had a hand in the partial rail and road blockade set up by Lithuania. We also have pushed for admitting Sweden and Finland. That would put NATO troops and US nuclear weapons 40 miles or so from St. Petersburg and next door to Russias strategic assets.

    We are rather deep into a war with Russia, and our arrogance and delusions may well trigger a full blown, perhaps as soon as this fall.

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