This hit me today as I watched a post Zelensky speech segment on MSNBC that dealt with just how much support the US has been providing to Ukraine for quite a while now. And Democratic Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia really broke it down.
In the last 3 years, we have provided Ukraine with $7 billion in defensive aid, including $1 billion this year already. President Biden just announced today that another billion is being shipped this week, and congress just approved another $6 billion to start being delivered. As long as Ukraine continues to fight, they will have all the arms and equipment they need in order to do so.
Wow! That’s impressive. But you know, when you cover or even follow politics, you tend to get numb to numbers with an insane vapor trail of zeroes’ trailing behind it. Which can tend to mask just how impressive the accomplishment of the actual equipment behind the number really is. In other words, don’t just look at the price tag, look in the shopping bag.
In Biden’s announcement today of another measly billion in aid to Ukraine, and this is not complete, my memory ain’t that good, but it will give the gist. Just in this billion we’re supplying Ukraine with thousands of Stinger missiles, ground to ground missiles to take out tanks, armor, and artillery. Thousands more in Javelin missiles, shoulder fired to take out Russian aircraft and helicopters. About 900 anti air defense batteries used to knock down Russian aircraft and missiles. Some trucks and even 6 patrol boats. Tens of thousands of small arms, including rifles, mortars, grenades, and rocket launchers, as well as 20 million rounds of ammunition. Oh yeah, and for dessert? A hundred or so suicide drones that can be carried in a backpack, fired from a modified mortar tube, travel and circle more than 100 miles for hours, and explode on impact with its target. And we’ve been doing this for three years now!
Pop Quiz! Cast your mind back 3 years, and think forward. With all of the aid that we have sent to Ukraine, can you think of a single news story or article about the American military armaments complex having to ramp up to meet the supply needs for shipment to Ukraine? No? Me either, cuz there weren’t any! The Pentagon literally had all of this shit sitting around in warehouses, literally begging to be crated up and sent somewhere to be used. When you spend $700 billion a year on your military, $7 billion in 3 years doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Here’s why this is important. It has been 3 weeks since Putin launched his cluster fuck in Ukraine. And how has he done? Let’s start here. Most reports confirm that all 200,000 Russian troops originally massed at the border are now physically in Ukraine itself. And one military analyst I heard today said that current estimated are that as much as 10% of Russian ground troops have been lost. Sweet Jesus!, that’s 20,000 Russian casualties. There was no breakdown as to how many were casualties and how many were deserters. But that still leaves Putin with a hefty 180,000 soldiers in the field.
More damaging, estimates are that Ukraine has already shot down somewhere between 60-90 Russian attack aircraft and attack helicopters. But worse, it has been estimated that Putin’s armies have lost about 20% of their supply capacity, and more than 500 tanks, armored vehicles and trucks. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of vehicles that were abandoned by Russian troops, only to be repaired and restarted by the Ukrainians, who then drove them off.
And Putin’s answer for this setback? Run hat in hand to Syria and the Middle East, trying to enlist mercenaries to go to Ukraine and commit slaughter. Running hat in hand to Belarus and Kazakhstan, both Putin friendly countries, to request troops and equipment, both of which turned him down flat. And reportedly going to China to request arms and military equipment. China also reportedly turned him down flat.
The question is why? Russia has one of the largest militaries in the world. True, it would take Putin time to stage the necessary equipment and manpower to the Ukraine border, but he has plenty of assets still remaining to throw into the fight. Or does he? If his Ukraine invasion has shown us one thing, it is that the largely conscript Russian is dis-spirited, and not ready for a fight with a well armed and trained opponent. Oh yeah, and despite his boasts, Russia’s vaunted weapons of war are for shit. Russian political and business corruption took care of that.
This is why Putin can’t afford a wider conflict with the US and NATO. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! He doesn’t even have sufficient reserves in order to move up more equipment and men to replace what he’s lost! If he expanded the conflict, the US could afford to almost completely supply NATO, and only have to crank up defense production by about 10-20% to restock and keep supplied. The Russian military industry is like a bunch of 10 years old playing around in their fathers garage workshop.
This is why Putin cannot afford to expand the conflict. He doesn’t have the men, he doesn’t have the arms and equipment, and his army doesn’t have the military skills and logistics to fight capable opponents. The very best he could hope for is that the US and NATO would follow the Operation Desert Storm playbook, and be content simply to push him back within his own borders. But no matter how you look at it, Putin is fucked.