Thirty years after achieving total dominance, the Ukraine conflict has exposed the limits of American power. The failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive has highlighted the challenges that the United States faces when waging a large-scale war against a modern enemy.
This realization may come as a surprise to some, but it has been noted by both Russian officials and Western media and experts. It is not a new revelation, as various analytical reports have warned about the limitations of American power when confronting a major power. These reports have emphasized that the US may not have superiority in terms of precision weapons, intelligence, and targeting when facing a formidable enemy.
For a long time, these warnings were overlooked and the US overestimated its own capabilities while underestimating the power of its adversaries. The insufficient assistance provided to Ukraine demonstrates this miscalculation. Furthermore, the US and its NATO allies are hesitant to provide more aid as it would weaken their own military power.
To understand how the US military machine found itself in this situation, it is necessary to examine its evolution. After World War II, the US military focused on preparations for a potential World War III, with the Soviet Union as the main enemy. However, the realization of mutually assured destruction made a large-scale war between the two nuclear powers meaningless. As a result, military strategies shifted towards localized conflicts and the need for equipment that could operate for longer periods and be easily modernized.
These changes became more apparent after 1991 when local conflicts became the main scenario in military planning. The US military believed its superiority in intelligence, management, targeting, and ability to act in any weather and at any time would give it an advantage over any enemy. The victories in Iraq and Yugoslavia seemed to confirm this belief. However, the operation in Somalia revealed that this superiority did not guarantee victory.
The downsizing of the US Army was accompanied by a reduction in weapons and equipment, as there were no significant political or military threats at the time. The US military and its closest allies did not foresee any potential rivals emerging in the near future. However, warnings about the possibility of Russia and China becoming competitors were expressed as early as 1997.
The problems of the US Army and Air Force became evident in the early ’90s. The military industry slowed down, combat training was reduced, and there were changes in military statutes. Maneuvers with large ground forces against an equivalent enemy were eliminated, along with the downsizing of reserve formations and reductions in equipment and ammunition stocks. These changes resulted in a smaller army and a loss of the ability to quickly accumulate sufficient forces.
The Air Force and Navy also faced challenges in supplying high-precision long-range weapons to all types of troops. While these weapons may be effective in a local conflict, they are insufficient for a war with a major power. The US Air Force would need to strike a large number of targets in a clash with Russia or China, and the current capabilities may not be enough.
In conclusion, the Ukraine conflict has exposed the limits of American power when facing a modern enemy. The US military underestimated its adversaries and overestimated its own capabilities. The downsizing of the military and reduction in weapons and equipment stocks, along with changes in combat training, have contributed to these limitations. Further assessments and adjustments will be necessary to address these challenges and ensure the effectiveness of American power in the future.