From Bloomberg via American Enterprise Institute Hal Brands outlines a strategy for a longer war in Ukraine:
Even now, the peace Putin wants would leave Ukraine indefensible and dismembered. So unless the US opts for disengagement — tantamount to Ukrainian defeat — it needs to start addressing the problems a longer war will confront.
The first involves assessing, and perhaps adapting, military strategy. Ukraine’s current offensive initially struggled because the country sought to mimic Western tactics without the advantages, such as air superiority, Western militaries have come to expect.
The US and its allies need to start equipping Ukraine now for operations in 2024 and after. The question is whether they should be preparing Ukraine for a similar offensive next year, or perhaps helping it employ a more familiar, if less ambitious, strategy of attrition. This would involve localized offensives combined with ramping up long-range strikes meant to sever Russia’s supply lines and gradually make its military position unsustainable.
Second, a longer war may require accepting higher risks of escalation. At the outset, Washington stepped across Putin’s red lines gingerly. More recently, the US has committed to provide sophisticated capabilities such as Abrams tanks and F-16 fighter jets.
These commitments are meant to show that Putin can’t simply outwait the West. But if a new theory of victory involves coercing, rather than directly evicting, Russian forces, Ukraine will need longer-range ATACMS missiles and other systems to vastly increase the pain it inflicts by targeting Putin’s forces wherever they occupy Ukrainian soil.
Third, Washington must tighten the economic squeeze. Sanctions have injured but not crippled Putin’s economy, which continues to churn out weapons for the war. The Treasury and State Departments are already cracking down on sanctions evasion, with the announcement last week of further penalties on 150 individuals and entities. The next step might be lowering the price cap the Group of 7 imposed on Russian oil sales, to reduce Putin’s revenue without throwing global energy markets into chaos.
Fourth, Washington must prevent a long war from becoming a source of weakness and distraction. The record to date is encouraging: Since February 2022, the US has dialed up production of artillery shells and other weapons, while expanding and strengthening its global alliance network.
There are several points missing from Mr. Brands’s outline. Most critical is who will be fighting the war in Ukraine? We don’t actually know what Ukraine’s casualty rate has been. We can assume that the figures we’re receiving from both the Ukrainian and Russian governments are lies. Is the plan to add NATO regulars in addition to the irregulars who are already fighting? How can that be accomplished without the conflict turning into a nuclear exchange?
At this point Ukraine is using the annual U. S. production of artillery shells in a matter of days. In order to supply Ukraine with the munitions it needs to fight a long war of attrition, we will need to produce many more faster and to do that we must increase our base of heavy industry and the high-density energy that requires. We can support Ukraine or decarbonize our economy. We cannot do both.