I realize this is a bit of old news, but recent comments by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Richard Haass, long-term diplomat and former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, bear revisiting. Their remarks on the dire situation in Ukraine reflects a combination of delusion and magical thinking. They are not lying in the sense that they know they are saying something that is deliberately false. I think they genuinely believe what they are saying. The only way they will come to their senses is when Russia forces Ukraine to surrender. But when that happens, these guys will simply double-down on their conviction that Putin is an imperialist keen on conquering Europe and maybe the world.
Let’s start with Austin’s press conference earlier this week:
Q: Mr. Secretary, German Minister Boris Pistorius said that XX will be a game changer in Ukraine. Some are afraid of even F-16s won’t be a game changer. Given these statements, and what, in what in your opinion, can be a game changer or advantage in Ukraine?
SEC. AUSTIN: Well, that’s a great question. And you heard me say, you’ve heard us say a number of times that there is no silver bullet in a conflict like this. It really depends on providing the right capabilities and also integrating those capabilities in meaningful ways so that you can create the right effects on the battlefield.
And so whether it’s F-16s, whether it’s HIMARS, whether it’s something else, it’s the way that you go about utilizing those capabilities and integrating it, synchronizing the capabilities to produce the right effects on the battlefield.
Austin’s admission that there is no “game changing silver bullet” is not a concession that the U.S. is going to stop sending weapons to Ukraine. He leans on the psycho-babble that what Ukraine needs are the “right capabilities.” That statement demonstrates, in my view, that he does not have a damn clue about how Russia is fighting the war in Ukraine and how weak and incapable Ukraine now is to continue the battle.
Without trained soldiers operating under the command of experienced leaders, Ukraine lacks the knowledge and skill to employ effectively U.S. and NATO supplied weapons. In fact, even if Ukraine had capable troops and had ample supplies of those weapon systems, they lack the military power to defeat Russia on the battlefield. Austin demonstrates his abject ignorance about the respective military capabilities of Ukraine and Russia in this next response to a question about Ukraine’s failed counter offensive:
SEC. AUSTIN: Well, let’s take stock of what the Ukrainians have actually done.
They’ve take back half the prog- — half the — the ground that the Russians originally occupied. I think that’s a pretty big deal.
I think if you look at what they’ve accomplished here at the — with the Black Sea Fleet, they have inflicted significant pain on the — on that fleet and actually caused them to reposition a bit.
If you look at the damage that they’ve created the Russians land forces overall, it’s significant, and it will take Russia quite a while to recover from that in order to create the kind of force that it had before this began.
So, we have to give credit where credit is due. I mean, we said it was going to be a tough fight. It’s a grinding fight, and I think we’ll continue to see that in the future.
Now, what’s important, as you’ve pointed out in your earlier part of the question, is that they learned from, you know, operations in the past and that they’d make the right adjustments, and that they anticipate that the enemy will also adjust as they are adjusting.
Lord have mercy!!! Austin is either stupid or lying (or perhaps both). He knows beyond any doubt that the Russian withdrawal from those portions of Ukraine it initially occupied was because the United States sabotaged a peace agreement between Kiev and Moscow and that Russia invaded Ukraine with a force three times smaller than Ukraine’s. He refuses to admit that Putin quickly corrected that mistake a mobilized more than 300,000 soldiers (mostly reservists). Austin is lying when he claims Russian land forces have been significantly harms. Zero evidence for that. Zilch!
Austin pretends that the United States has an unlimited supply of M777 howitzers, artillery shells, HIMARS and Patriot air defense systems. It does not. And he adamantly refuses to acknowledge the catastrophic casualties Ukraine incurred during its failed counter-offensive. As Sonny and Cher sang, “the beat goes on.” The Russians continue to pulverize Ukrainian forces and General Winter has arrived in force.
Richard Haass is a more intelligent, experienced man than Austin. He does have moments of lucidity and admits that Ukraine has no chance of taking Crimea or the Donbass from Russia:
RICHARD HAASS: The White House is managing two wars, but in both of them, I would say we’re increasingly at odds with our allies and partners. We just talked the previous hour about differences with Israel about how the war is being fought and about what comes after. In Ukraine, I think we’ve got a real problem where there’s simply an enormous gap between what the goals are of the policy and what the realities are. The idea that Ukraine is going to militarily liberate all the land that Russia occupies, approximately 20% of their territory, it’s laudable. I support it. It’s just not going to happen.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: And, Richard, the White House, I mean, the Pentagon a year ago, in February, was saying pretty much the same thing. I mean, we heard about a spring offensive. They were very, very concerned in February, in February of this year, that these lines were going to be frozen in place, much like world war lines throughout Europe. The question is, with wars on two fronts, how long do we, how long do our allies in Europe, who have all done, I think, together, NATO has done an extraordinary job, how much longer do we continue pushing I think, what many people in the Pentagon would think is the unrealistic goal of Ukraine driving every last Russian out of their country?
RICHARD HAASS: That’s exactly the right question, Joe. What concerns me is when people get disillusioned and increasingly come to the — where you and I are, that as desirable as it is, it’s simply not feasible. They’re going to increasingly say, and we’re hearing it in the House, we’re hearing it in parts of Europe, why should we keep doing this? We’re alrady stressed. We’re trying to support Israel. We’re worried about Taiwan. Even if we give everything we need to give or want to give to Ukraine, it still won’t lead to success.
What I argue, therefore, is the United States needs to have some very direct conversations with Ukraine, with President Zelensky. Talk about reducing their emphasis on liberating land and put emphasis onto holding what they’ve got. In the long run, diplomatically through sanctions, yes, we can try to see the rest of their territory returned.
For right now, let’s have 80% of this country saved, 80% of this country rebuilt. I would actually propose a cease-fire as an interim arrangement to expose the Russians for what they are, so we can rebuild support for Ukraine in this country.
When I heard Haass say that we need to persuade Zelensky to hold on to “what they’ve got”, I figured he must have consulted with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons in coming up with his plan to save Ukraine:
All joking aside, what Haass proposes is utter nonsense. Haass’s plan assumes that Ukraine has sufficient military forces to keep the Russians from taking Ukraine and that Putin is growing weary of the war and is looking for a way out. Wrong on both points. While Ukraine is struggling to keep its soldiers in the field supplied with ammunition, equipment and food, Russia is employing its built up reserves all along the line of conflict.
Russia is showing no indication of hunkering down in winter quarters and waiting for warmer weather. Worth recalling one bit of history. In December of 1944, as the U.S. fought to survive the Battle of the Bulge, the Soviets launched the Dnieper–Carpathian offensive, which destroyed a German Army and resulted in securing territory west of Kiev. I am not suggesting that Russia will pursue the same strategy. I am simply noting that the Russians have a history and military doctrine of being able to fight in winter, particularly when they have the enemy on the run. Only now, instead of relying solely on troops and armor, Russia has ample supplies of suicide drones, artillery and missiles. They have the means to continue attacking Ukrainian positions. Ukraine does not. Magical thinking does not alter this reality.