What Will the Next Excuse Be?

Now that the House has passed a Ukraine aid bill and its passage in the Senate seems assured, it appears that the insufficiency of U. S. aid will decline as a likely excuse for Ukraine’s ability to retake territory that Russia has seized from it over the course of their now two year war. However, as Robert Clarke observes at RealClearDefense:

While complex and advanced systems like tanks, armored personnel carriers, and sophisticated anti-air weapons are important for Ukraine’s ability to fight back, the United States is struggling just to produce enough of the relatively simple artillery ammunition that Kyiv relies on to push back Russian front lines. In early 2023, American factories were producing just over 3,000 155mm artillery shells a month. As Ukraine’s needs became more apparent, factories surged production — working overtime to up production to 28,000 a month, or 336,000 a year. Ukraine fired 6,000 shells a day during its counteroffensive, and could need over 2,100,000 shells a year to maintain the kind of high intensity effort that failed to push back Russian forces last year. These hard realities lead many to question the feasibility of Ukraine retaking the rest of their territory from Russia.

Taking old inventories of munitions off the shelf is one thing. Producing new munitions at the enormous pace at which Ukraine is expending them is something else again. That doesn’t simply require funding. It requires entire supply chains.

Deindustrialization, demilitarization, and consolidation have their costs. We could transition to a wartime footing and start rebuilding our capacity but that, too, would take time and would entail such pain that it’s unlikely to happen in an election year.

I wonder what excuse we’ll use now?

8 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    When all else fails; you can pin it on Trump. In fact; that is going to happen.

    This is talking about munitions. But it’s only part of the bigger problem. Ukraine (and by extension NATO / US) is fighting the war on Russia’s terms. It is fighting where Russia wants it to fight (in the most Russophillic areas of Ukraine, close to the border and Russian logistics), in the style Russians designed their doctrines around (heavy on artillery and attrition). Basically the war being fought negates 2 traditional strengths (air and navy) of the US way of war, and 1 potential edge of the Ukrainians (ability to conduct insurgency or guerilla warfare).

  • Andy Link

    Ultimately, it’s Ukraine’s fight. What no-nothing pundits in the West say really doesn’t matter much.

    I think Ukrainians now—or are coming to—understand their limitations. They understand this is the only injection of support they are likely to get from the US this year. They certainly understand that offensive operations require manpower, and manpower is fundamentally a very difficult problem for Ukraine for demographic and political reasons. And there won’t be additional manpower until the end of this year at the earliest.

  • Ultimately, it’s Ukraine’s fight.

    That’s akin to steve’s mantra, that the Ukrainians (or Russians) have agency.

    However, decisions and the courses of action they promote aren’t arrived at in a vacuum. We can’t escape our responsibility for fomenting this debacle by saying “it’s the Ukrainians’ fight”. What would have happened if we didn’t encourage Ukrainian nationalists to overthrow the Yanukovich government? Or if we hadn’t expanded NATO? Or if the president weren’t still declaiming that we will support the Ukrainians right to the end?

    The Ukrainians signalled they were willing to accept terms significantly less expansive than the maximalist ones they now say they demand two years ago in the Istanbul communique. Would they be demanding their maximalist terms without us?

  • bob sykes Link

    Stop the nonsense that the current war in Ukraine started in 2022. It started in 2014, when the US overthrew the democratically elected Yanukovych government and installed the current neo-nazi junta. The junta spent the next 10 years bombarding civilians in the Donbas.

    The SMO was intended to stop the war, and it succeeded. Diplomats from Kiev and Moscow initialed a ceasefire in Istanbul that would have implemented the Minsk accords, and kept the Donbas in Ukraine, albeit with some sort of autonomy.

    The ceasefire failed, because the US intervened to squelch it. This war was started by the US, and the US insists on continuing it. Zelensky and the junta have NO agency, and merely carry out the demands of Washington.

    The scene in the House last week, when the combined war packages were passed is the most disgusting expression of anti-Americanism and open contempt for the American people from the neocons and Deep State that I have ever seen. Democrats and Republicans gave the American people the big finger over Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, and most especially over the American border. One of our comprador enemies in the House actually said the Ukrainian border is the American border.

    Also, stop the nonsense that we are merely providing the junta the means to fight. All of the high tech weapons, like HIMARS and ATTACM, are being operated by NATO troops. Most of the decisions about when and where to fight are being made by NATO “advisors.” Last year’s disastrous counter offensive was conceived by the NATO advisors. If the F-16’s ever arrive, they will be flown by NATO pilots.

    What the theater in the House showed is that it is the American people who lack agency, who lack representation in Congress, and who have lost a country.

  • Drew Link

    “I think Ukrainians now—or are coming to—understand their limitations.”

    From your lips to God’s ears, Andy. The last rally speech I heard from Zalensky he was talking total repatriation of Ukraine territory prior to Crimea.

    To Dave’s point. Here is a prime example of an issue wrt our deindustrialization, the diversion of US production capabilities to non-national interests, and the error of current policy. If we were a sensible society we would demand less jawboning of Israel, and more to Ukraine to accept the reality of their situation and support a defensible ongoing Ukraine. But what was it Gates said of Biden??

  • steve Link

    As I like to remind people, the Ukrainians know what it is like to live under Russian rule. That appears to make them willing to fight more than makes sense to a lot of Americans, largely the same ones who fail to notice that an awful lot of Russia’s neighbors who also suffered under Russian rule really wanted to join NATO. Maybe there’s a reason all of those countries want to join NATO. Eventually Ukraine may decide they have had enough and settle for losing a big chunk of territory, but they would do so knowing 2 things.

    First, it’s just a matter of time until Russia goes after the rest of the country. NATO rules wont let them join so they will be fair game. Some mayor in some city will say something bad about Russians so Putin or his successor will need to rescue the ethnic Russians in the area. You know, the ones Russia sent there to repopulate after killing and deporting millions of Ukrainians.

    Second, they will know that US is not dependable. Even when 75% of Congress supports providing aid a small group of radicals can stop aid for months and come close to stopping it entirely.


  • Andy Link

    “However, decisions and the courses of action they promote aren’t arrived at in a vacuum. We can’t escape our responsibility for fomenting this debacle by saying “it’s the Ukrainians’ fight”. ”

    Of course, but no country exists in a vacuum. All countries make decisions based on their strategic situation, which is inevitably driven by what other countries are doing. Ukraine isn’t unique in this regard.

    We can also play coulda-woulda-shoulda all day, and you should well know my arguments about the poor US policy choices in the past, but there isn’t much that can be done about that now.

    My position is that we have to be realistic with Ukraine about what support we can give and give them realistic advice.

    I don’t know what we’ve told them in private up to this point, but I have been on record as saying that I think people in the West – mostly advocates and pundits – have been far too rosy about Ukraine’s prospects in this war from the beginning, and I have been right about that. I hope that our private advice was similarly more realistic – I think some of it has and I do know that we’ve had some disagreements and that Ukraine has fought in ways that we thought weren’t very smart. And that’s their choice. They are the ones fighting, and there’s a limit to our influence.

    ” The last rally speech I heard from Zalensky he was talking total repatriation of Ukraine territory prior to Crimea. ”

    Look, there’s public messaging and private reality. Consider the last 20 years in the US – politicians were constantly trying to shine the turd of lost and failing US conflicts. That’s just the reality of domestic politics. Zelensky isn’t going to give a speech where he walks back Ukraine’s goals, even if they aren’t achievable.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    “I hope that our private advice was similarly more realistic”

    There’s about 0 percent that this has happened. There’s no shortage of policy makers / think tanks here that advocate for the aim of total victory, that it is possible, and schemes to bring it about.

    Its also likely if anybody has tendered contrary advice, Ukraine wouldn’t listen (its human nature that we hear what we want to hear; especially if on things as serious as the course of a war).

    The only figure of note who suggested the Ukrainians be more realistic was Milley in Nov 2022….. and he retired within a year.

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