‘More ugliness’ to come for Ukraine, says former top NATO commander

A street in Mariupol Ukraine from the 36th Marine Brigade Facebook page on April 7, 2022.

“Much more ugliness” for the Ukrainian people and countryside is likely to unfold over the coming weeks as Moscow concentrates its forces and long-range artillery in the Donbass and near the Sea of ​​Azov and the Sea Noire, said a former NATO commander-in-chief. Monday.

Retired Air Force General Philip Breedlove said “there can be no rush to do business as usual with Russia” in light of its continued attacks on Ukraine and new threats against its neighbors – including NATO members.

Despite suffering “a badly crippled force” after two months of fighting, the Kremlin is not withdrawing from Ukraine, Breedlove said.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council eventMichael Kofman, director of CNA’s Russian Studies research program, said it’s “not clear that Russia can succeed” militarily in Donbass. The Kremlin has been actively supporting separatists since 2014 in this region.

While the ‘costs are going to be high’ in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, there are ‘no signs that Russian political leaders are abandoning’ their political goals of forcibly bringing kyiv into their sphere of power. influence or any willingness to give away territory they already control, Kofman said. .

One option for the Kremlin would be to mobilize reservists to achieve its ends, he added, but that decision still does not guarantee success on the battlefield.

Kofman said “we don’t make nuances” at the Pentagon when we learn from conflicts like Ukraine. He jokingly added that before the February invasion, the modernized Russian army was considered “12 feet tall”, but now, after months of fighting, it is considered “4 feet tall”. Neither is correct, he said.

Prior to the February 24 invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of two breakaway provinces in the region. The Kremlin seized control of Crimea, which is also part of Ukraine, in 2014 under the guise of defending Russian-speaking residents there and protecting its Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol. Moscow used forces in Crimea to open another front early in the invasion.

To help Ukraine now, Alexander Vershbow, former assistant secretary general of NATO, said: “we have to keep these weapons flowing”.

During the morning forum, panelists cited air and missile defense systems, long-range artillery and a steady flow of munitions as important in this phase of the conflict. Resilience is needed not just in Ukraine’s fighting forces, but in US and NATO defense industrial bases to support Kyiv, he said, as more war stocks are shipped to Ukraine. .

Kofman said the defense industrial base must address questions of the ability to provide both short- and long-term “replaceability” of weapons and systems, as modern wars can shift from rapid strikes to those of attrition.

“Autocrats should note that NATO is all-out” in Ukraine’s defense, Koffman said. But Europe “must take over” to meet its military commitments in the Baltic and also help the United States in the Middle East so that Washington continues to remain a power in the Indo-Pacific. Vershbow called on Canada and the Europeans to “fulfill half of NATO’s military commitment by the end of the decade.”

As Breedlove called for the “permanent” rotation of more US forces in Eastern Europe, retired Marine Corps General James Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said these forces “are still bound” by agreements with host nations.

Mara Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, said about half of the $33 billion extra spending bill President Joe Biden requested last week will help rebuild stocks. and systems in the United States that were used in Ukraine and assisting Kyiv forces.

She added: “we know the landscape has changed” in Europe with Swedish and Finnish parliaments considering joining NATO. She pointed out that the steps taken by the alliance after 2014 to build up pre-positioned stockpiles of weapons to deal with a crisis on the continent were useful now.

At the same time, she added, the Ukrainian Defense Initiative was supplying weapons and systems to Kyiv, training its forces and revamping its military structure to better withstand Russian aggression.

Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel conduct Freedom of Movement Detachment training at Camp Novo, Oct. 7, 2021. U.S. Army Photo

For the United States and its allies, the objective of integrated deterrence and security can involve a global reflection on gray area activities, cyber, long-range strikes that “give [leaders] in-depth capabilities to minimize risk,” Cartwright said. It’s not about working with allies who may not be able to afford the costs of maintaining advanced weapon systems.

Instead, Cartwright saw great value in moving away from large depots to store weapons and equipment that are vulnerable to a single strike towards a localized armory approach. A decision that “will give resilience to indigenous forces” until outside help arrives, he said.

He later pointed to the commercial sector for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and command and control as models that the department could adapt to his use.

“The most sophisticated [electronic warfare] country [Russia] was beaten by a company [SpaceX]when Moscow attempted to bring down its communications network in Ukraine.

Cartwright added, “We should explore more” dual-use technologies.
“We don’t want to learn the wrong lessons” as if the days of armor and surface fighters are over based on Russian casualties.

“The big lessons” to take away are the value of fundamentals like logistics, manpower and training, Kofman said.

To its June meetingVershbow called on NATO to consider a “secure neighborhood initiative” to protect Moldova and Georgia, formerly members of the Soviet Union but non-NATO members, from Russian subversion or attack.

Breedlove added without clear direction from the alliance, “what do we do if Mr. Putin comes out with nuclear chemical and biological weapons” if not in Ukraine in the future. “We have to make these decisions immediately.”

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