February 6, 2023
Vladimir Putin’s horrific invasion a year ago took the world by surprise and another attack is expected around its first anniversary. Plans are to throw 200,000 more Russian soldiers into the battle underway in Ukraine’s east in an attempt to overwhelm Ukraine, create a stalemate, whittle down its manpower, and wear down the resolve of its allies. But this Stalinist “human wave” strategy won’t work if the West abandons its “mission creep” strategy, or incremental escalation, and matches Russia’s firepower. This means hundreds more main battle tanks to break through Russian front lines, dozens of fighter jets, and thousands of long-range rockets to wreak havoc behind enemy lines. There is no more time for half measures or delays because Russia theoretically has millions more hapless young men to throw into this “meat grinder” warfare. Brutality must be matched with brutality. As Shakespeare wrote in 1623: “Govern the motion of a kingly eye; Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire; Threaten the threatener and outface the brow of bragging horror.”
This conflict won’t end with negotiations. Someone must win and someone must lose and only defeat will erase Putin from Ukraine. “We don’t see any signs” that Vladimir Putin is “preparing for peace,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in South Korea in early February. “We see the opposite.” Now is the time when the wealthy and powerful Western alliance behind Ukraine must stop asking Ukrainians to fight with one hand tied behind their backs. Russia uses its latest technologies; Ukraine must use the West’s latest and superior technologies. If supplies in Western arsenals run low, then America and Europe must ship their mothballed jets, guns and drones to stop Putin’s genocide, war crimes, and devastation. If not now, when?
Russia’s assets are only a fraction of what is contained in the central bank vaults and military arsenals of Ukraine’s alliance. Putin’s bluffs about red lines, and nuclear threats, should continue to be ignored. He has been weakened in the past year. His horrors have not captured much land and have alienated his allies China and India. European nations are starting to pull their weight, Washington remains resolute, and this week mighty Israel joined the alliance by attacking Iranian drone and rocket factories that supply Russia. It also contemplates sending its Iron Dome technology to close Ukraine’s skies.
Another positive development is that Russia is expected to run out of missiles in three months, due to production problems. Unfortunately, it won’t run out of soldiers anytime soon even though casualties pile up. Estimates now are that 200,000 Russian soldiers, 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 30,000 Ukrainian civilians have died. This is why, paradoxically, the only way to save lives is to dramatically escalate in order to obliterate as many Russian armed forces and facilities as quickly as possible.
Foot-dragging costs lives. Last month, America and NATO responded with 300 main battle tank allocations after months of pleas by Kyiv. Washington recently agreed to send a Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb that will cause catastrophic damage at targets twice the distance
now reachable by Ukraine’s current arsenal of rockets, or 94 miles. This places all of Russia’s supply lines within reach, as well as much of Crimea’s. But the West must do more. It must go all in.
Pressure to give Ukraine jets immediately must be applied to France, a laggard in terms of providing military support, and Netherlands who’s outdone most. Both are considering doing so even after the U.S. and Germany declined. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly came out in support of providing U.S. jets, as did The Wall Street Journal in an editorial: “President Biden is saying the U.S. won’t supply F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but anyone following the war in the past year knows what that means – ask again later. The Biden team hems and haws on every new weapon request for Ukraine before it later comes around, and let’s hope the President changes again and offers more military support that helps Ukraine immediately on the battlefield and after the war ends. The Army tactical missile system, known as ATACMS, has a 185-mile range to help push the Russians out of their dug-in positions. These missiles could make a fast difference on the battlefield and give the Ukrainians a fighting chance of putting Crimea in play.”
Underscoring the need for full-on mobilization, and to end mission creep, was included in a report by the Institute for the Study of War. “Western reluctance to begin supplying Ukraine with higher-end Western weapons systems, particularly tanks, long-range strike systems, and air defense systems, has limited Ukraine’s ability to initiate and continue large-scale counter-offensive operations,” it wrote.
“The way this new military assistance is announced also matters,” wrote former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. “Rather than providing ATACMs in March, Reapers in June, and jets in September, NATO should go for a Big Bang. Plans to provide all these systems should be announced on February 24, 2023, the first anniversary of Putin’s invasion. An announcement of this size will produce an important psychological effect inside the Kremlin and Russian society, signalling that the West is committed to Ukraine’s ambition to liberate all occupied territories.”
The Institute for the Study of War also noted that more of Russia’s suppressed people may be voting against the war with their feet. “The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that it issued over 5.4 million passports in 2022, 40 percent more than in the previous year. The increase in passport applications indicates that social conditioning efforts to bring the ‘special military operation’ home to Russia and reinvigorate patriotic fervor are not having the desired effect. The Kremlin need not look further than passport statistics to poll domestic attitudes on the Russian population’s desire to fight Putin’s war.”
Ukraine is concerned that the invasion will turn into a lengthy stalemate. One diplomat told a newspaper “if Moscow can create the illusion that we can’t win on the battlefield, then some of our ‘friends’ in the West will start losing their enthusiasm and start pushing us to cut a deal, a bad deal, with the occupiers.” Victory is the only option, as President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized on British television this week, when he said Putin “doesn’t want negotiations because he doesn’t want peace”.
Unable to gobble up Ukraine this year, Putin plays a passive-aggressive game to perpetuate a grinding “stalemate” by throwing untrained bodies at Ukrainian guns. He remains indifferent to the damage inflicted on his country’s economy or reputation or prospects or people. This is why pressure must be increased to prevent a stalemate. Ukraine has brought a knife to a gunfight but cannot continue to do so, now or ever. Its military must become the most lethal in Europe to expel Putin and to protect itself and Europe from another future incursion. Now a year into this catastrophe, it’s obvious that Putin’s end game is not triumph but simply to not lose and to destroy as much of Ukraine as he possibly can. This means the West’s end game must be to demolish his army and regime as quickly and as efficiently as possible.