Ukraine’s Manpower Crisis: No Amount of Money or Aid Can Solve It

March 5, 2024 (Brian Berletic - NEO) - Both Ukraine and its Western supporters are raising the alarm over Ukraine’s military manpower shortage and the difficult decisions facing the Ukrainian government in resolving it, if it can be resolved. Ukraine’s manpower crisis represents a growing problem that no amount of Western financial or military aid can remedy, and may represent a point of weakness nothing short of NATO resignation or intervention can address.

Ukrainian publications like the Kyiv Independent in its article“Ukraine struggles to ramp up mobilization as Russia’s war enters 3rd year,” and Western publications like the Washington Post in its article“Front-line Ukrainian infantry units report acute shortage of soldiers,” explain how a shortage of soldiers is accelerating the strain on Ukraine’s remaining forces, compounding their difficulties along the line of contact. The articles also note the difficulty of additional mobilizations, which would require calling up segments of the population previously exempted from military service, and the social and political divisions such a mobilization would create.

One of Many Growing Problems 

With the conflict in Ukraine entering its third year, Ukraine and its Western sponsors are increasingly admitting to shortcomings in terms of their support for Ukraine. This includes shipments of both arms and ammunition. While the collective West’s media insists these shortcomings are the result of political deadlock in the US Congress over funding, these shortcomings are the result of deeper problems much more difficult to address.

A US Department of Defense National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS) report not only admits that the US military industrial base is incapable of producing the amount of arms and ammunition Ukraine requires on the battlefield, but that systemic problems will prevent the US from doing so anytime in the foreseeable future.

The US Department of Defense also recently admitted that it failed to create a sustainment strategy for US weapon systems sent to Ukraine, including the Patriot air defense system, the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, the Stryker armored vehicle, and the M1 Abrams main battle tank. Without such a strategy, the press release admitted, “the Ukrainians would not be capable of maintaining these weapon systems.” 

Together, these factors constitute significant obstacles for Ukraine and its Western sponsors as the current conflict grinds on, the additional manpower crisis complicates matters even further.

The Challenge of Building Brigades 

Despite recent claims from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine has only lost 31,000 soldiers since February 2022 (the New York Times reports US officials placing the number closer to 70,000 and Russia’s Ministry of Defense places the number at 444,000), urgent efforts to mobilize hundreds of thousands of additional soldiers, as reported by Reuters, betray the true scope of Ukrainian losses.

Ukraine’s losses are so extensive that its problems go far beyond just mobilizing enough soldiers to maintain troop levels along the line of contact. Ukraine must reconstitute entire military units up to the brigade level.

Building or rebuilding brigades of around 4,000 soldiers each began in 2022 and continued into 2023 ahead of Ukraine’s failed summer-fall offensive. According to Reuters, up to 9 brigades were trained and armed by NATO for the offensive, all of them subsequently suffering catastrophic losses.

The brigades performed poorly during the 2023 offensive due primarily to the short period of training both individual soldiers received and the short period of time the individual brigades had to train for combined arms operations.

To successfully build a brigade, Ukraine would need to properly train individual soldiers for entry-level positions such as infantry, artillery, armor, and other supporting roles. They would also need to properly train these soldiers as part of the individual units they would be assigned to in order to build unit cohesion. These units would then need to train to work together as a brigade in combined arms warfare in which infantry, armor, artillery, and other types of units coordinate together on the battlefield.

Washington’s True Fear of China: An Obstacle to American Hegemony

February 28, 2024 (Brian Berletic - NEO) - A recent op-ed appearing in Foreign Affairs titled, “The Taiwan Catastrophe,” helps paint a clear picture of US motivations behind its growing confrontation with China and the increasingly unrealistic nature of Washington’s desired outcome.

The premise of the op-ed is built on a now declassified top-secret memo by US General Douglas MacArthur in 1950 describing Taiwan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” essential not to protect the continental United States, but to preserve US primacy over Asia-Pacific thousands of miles from US shores.

By retaining Taiwan and the US military presence it was a part of which included (and still includes) Japan and the Philippines, General MacArthur noted US forces could “interdict” the ability of regional powers (then the Soviet Union, now clearly China) to “exploit the natural resources of East and Southeast Asia.” 

The ability to contain China, this enables, remains Washington’s primary motivation to this day for maintaining a US military presence across East and Southeast Asia.

Containing China, Not Defending America 

The US National Defense Strategy (NDS) designates “out-competing China” as Washington’s top priority. The US NDS complains that China “harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit.”

The US NDS never mentions the “international order” China seeks to displace is one that had previously occupied Chinese territory before the World Wars, stationed thousands of troops on the shores of its island province of Taiwan until 1979, and continues to place US troops on Taiwan despite recognizing the island province as Chinese territory from 1979 onward under Washington’s “One China” policy.

The same US NDS claims the US seeks to “promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and more specifically, “open access to the South China Sea.” The report even points out that “nearly two-thirds of global maritime trade and a quarter of all global trade” pass through the South China Sea, while implying China threatens this trade.

However, the US government and US corporations, including from across America’s arms industry, fund foreign policy think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which publish analysis like a 2017 report titled, “How Much Trade Transits the South China Sea?” It admits the vast majority of trade passing through the South China Sea comes from and is going to China.

The report even admits:

China’s reliance on the South China Sea leaves it vulnerable to maritime trade disruptions. In 2003, then-President Hu Jintao drew attention to the potential threat posed by “certain major powers” aiming to control the Strait of Malacca, and highlighted the need for China to adopt new strategies to address this concern. 

Clearly, China has no intention of disrupting its own trade in the South China Sea. In reality, just as US General MacArthur pointed out in 1950, the US military presence in the region today is there not to protect maritime trade, but specifically to “interdict” it.

“Defending Democracy” = Maintaining US Client Regimes 

Just as the US creates the illusion of protecting maritime trade as a smokescreen for in fact preparing specifically to interdict it, the US also uses other smokescreens to justify its continuous interference within and along China’s borders. This includes the island province of Taiwan itself.

The Foreign Affairs op-ed claims that the US is “defending democracy.” Yet, the political administration on Taiwan and the policies it implements are not the product of democratic self-determination, but instead are determined on the other side of the planet in Washington.

Wikileaks Reveals Alexei Navalny’s US Funding as Washington Exploits His Death

February 24, 2024 (Brian Berletic - NEO) - News of the death of Alexei Navalny in a Russian prison very quickly spread across the Western media, while condemnation of Russia over his death emanated from behind the podiums of Western leaders. Before any investigation could possibly be mounted, the collective West concluded that the Russian state was responsible for Navalny’s death.

The disproportionate concern US President Joe Biden showed for a Russian citizen dying in a Russian prison versus President Biden’s silence over the death of American citizen Gonzalo Lira in a Ukrainian prison, raises questions over the motivation behind this “concern.”

Far beyond hypocrisy, the US and its allies are less concerned about Navalny’s death than they are about how it can be leveraged to advance their foreign policy objectives vis-à-vis Russia.

The New York Times, in an article titled, “Navalny’s Death Raises Tensions Between U.S. and Russia,” would claim:

President Biden blamed President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia personally on Friday for the reported death of the imprisoned Russian dissident Aleksei A. Navalny, and cited the case in pressing House Republicans to approve military aid to Ukraine in its war with Moscow.

As part of the process of exploiting Navalny’s death, not only are the circumstances surrounding it being distorted, so too are the events of Navalny’s life.

Many news articles ran with headlines like CNN’s article“Putin saw an existential threat in Navalny, the opposition leader whose name he dared not mention,” the BBC’s article“Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most vociferous Putin critic,” or Al Jazeera’s article“Alexey Navalny: An archenemy Putin wouldn’t name and Kremlin couldn’t scare.” These articles all contain different variations of virtually the same narrative that Navalny was a prominent opposition figure, a successful politician, and an “existential” threat to the current Russian administration.

Yet, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Despite being active in Russia, Navalny’s largest support base was actually located in Washington, D.C. And it is the Western media itself that has revealed this.

Even with Al Jazeera’s recent article attempting to convince readers Navalny was the “archenemy” of the Russian government, further down in the article it admits:

Only 19 percent of Russians approved of Navalny’s work and 56 percent disapproved of what he did, according to a February 2021 survey by the Moscow-based Levada Center polling organisation.

How does an opposition figure with only a 19% approval rating in any way threaten a government whose leader, President Vladimir Putin, enjoys an approval rating over 80%?

Some may question the polling data, after all, the Levada Center producing both numbers is based in Moscow. However, the Levada Center is actually funded by the US government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED*), according to the NED’s own website.

The US NED* funds political opposition groups around the globe with the ultimate objective of achieving regime change in targeted countries and producing resulting client regimes that pursue US interests, even at the cost of the targeted country’s own interests.

We know this because the Western media admitted this as well.

Russia’s “Aggressive Attrition” Cracks Fortress Avdeevka

February 20, 2024 (Brian Berletic - NEO) - The term “aggressive attrition,” coined by geopolitical analyst Alexander Mercouris, can be described as a strategy of deliberately and aggressively creating strategic and political dilemmas compelling an adversary to commit large amounts of manpower, equipment, and ammunition to well-prepared areas of operation.

Russia has employed this strategy successfully across the line of contact in Ukraine over the course of its Special Military Operation (SMO) following its beginning in February 2022.

The strategy is part of a long-term process of degrading Ukrainian military capabilities, fulfilling the “demilitarization” component of the SMO’s stated objectives.

Russia is successfully achieving this by leveraging its large advantage in military industrial production, creating larger amounts of long-range fire capabilities than Ukraine can field, and using it to target and degrade Ukrainian defenses.

Ukrainian forces are compelled to either suffer significant losses by maintaining these defenses, or withdraw. For mainly political reasons, Ukraine has consistently decided to hold defenses long after Russian forces have created effective areas of operation in which aggressive attrition unfolds.

Aggressive Attrition Cracks Fortress Avdeevka 

The most recent example of this is the Donetsk city of Avdeevka where Ukrainian forces constructed formidable defenses built up since 2014. Russian infantry, armor, and artillery have faced-off against Ukrainian forces there since the SMO began, but as Russian military capabilities grew in quantity and quality, these Ukrainian defenses were no longer viable.

Despite the extensive network of trenches, bunkers, tunnels, and the use of multi-storey concrete residential buildings as well as a large industrial zone to the north of the city, Ukrainian forces began suffering unsustainable losses.

When Ukrainian forces were finally ordered to fully withdraw, the BBC reported Russian forces outgunned their Ukrainian counterparts 10:1.

Russia did this by leveraging its greater number of infantry and armor, as well as its larger volumes of artillery fire. This includes 122 and 152 mm artillery pieces, as well as a variety of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) ranging from unguided area effect systems like the BM-21 Grad to satellite-guided rocket systems like the Tornado-S, Russia’s equivalent to the US-made HIMARS and M270 MLRSs.

While Ukraine has attempted to offset its growing disadvantage in artillery fire through the use of first-person-view (FPV) kamikaze drones, according to Ukrainian forces themselves, Russia enjoyed at least a 2:1 advantage in this capability in and around Avdeevka. In addition to FPV drones, Russia employs longer range kamikaze drones including the Lancet with a range up to 40 km, making it an effective counter-battery (anti-artillery) capability.

Russia is using other long-range fire capabilities Ukraine does not possess an equivalent to, like the Iskander short-range ballistic missile complex with a range of 500 km, further than the US Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) which has a range of approximately 300 km.

Fatal Flaws Undermine America’s Defense Industrial Base

February 19, 2024 (NEO - Brian Berletic) - The first-ever US Department of Defense National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS) confirms what many analysts have concluded in regard to the unsustainable nature of Washington’s global-spanning foreign policy objectives and its defense industrial base’s (DIB) inability to achieve them.

The report lays out a multitude of problems plaguing the US DIB including a lack of surge capacity, inadequate workforce, off-shore downstream suppliers, as well as insufficient “demand signals” to motivate private industry partners to produce what’s needed, in the quantities needed, when it is needed.

In fact, the majority of the problems identified by the report involved private industry and its unwillingness to meet national security requirements because they were not profitable.

For example, the report attempts to explain why many companies across the US DIB lack advanced manufacturing capabilities, claiming:

Many elements of the traditional DIB have yet to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies, as they struggle to develop business cases for needed capital investment.

In other words, while adopting advanced manufacturing technologies would fulfill the purpose of the US Department of Defense, it is not profitable for private industry to do so.

Despite virtually all the problems the report identifies stemming from private industry’s disproportionate influence over the US DIB, the report never identifies private industry itself as a problem.

If private industry and its prioritization of profits is the central problem inhibiting the DIB from fulfilling its purpose, the obvious solution is nationalizing the DIB by replacing private industry with state-owned enterprises. This allows the government to prioritize purpose over profits. Yet in the United States and across Europe, the so-called “military industrial complex” has grown to such proportions that it is no longer subordinated to the government and national interests, but rather the government and national interests are subordinated to it.

US Defense Industrial Strategy Built on a Flawed Premise 

Beyond private industry’s hold on the US DIB, the very premise the NDIS is built on is fundamentally flawed, deeply rooted in private industry’s profit-driven prioritization.

The report claims:

The purpose of this National Defense Industrial Strategy is to drive development of an industrial ecosystem that provides a sustained competitive advantage to the United States over its adversaries.

The notion of the United States perpetually expanding its wealth and power across the globe, unrivaled by its so-called “adversaries” is unrealistic.

China alone has a population 4-5 times greater than the US. China’s population is, in fact, larger than that of the G7 combined. China has a larger industrial base, economy, and education system than the US. China’s education system not only produces millions more graduates each year in essential fields like science, technology, and engineering than the US, the proportion of such graduates is higher in China than in the US.

China alone possesses the means to maintain a competitive advantage over the United States now and well into the foreseeable future. The US, attempting to draw up a strategy to maintain an advantage over China (not to mention over the rest of the world) regardless of these realities, borders on delusion.

Yet for 60 pages, US policymakers attempt to lay out a strategy to do just that.