The exploitation of Ukraine The Excelsior 07 Dec 2022 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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The exploitation of Ukraine

The exploitation of Ukraine The Excelsior 07 Dec 2022

          In early November the US State Department, in a note, post Biden releasing an additional USD 400 Million for military assistance to Ukraine mentioned, ‘This will bring the total US military assistance for Ukraine to an unprecedented level of approximately USD 19.7 Billion since the beginning of this administration.’ Of this, 18.6 Billion has been since commencement of hostilities. The EU has thus far provided Ukraine with Euro 9 Billion in ‘exceptional loans’ to help the country support its 2022 budget. European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, stated in Oct, post a two-day meeting of EU leaders, that the organization will provide €18 billion in financial assistance throughout 2023 to cover the basic budgetary needs of the war-torn country.

          A UK government press release states that UK has provided 2.3 Billion pounds of military assistance to Ukraine. Details of assistance given by other NATO members is unknown though would be substantial as these have enabled the Ukrainian military to sustain operations since Feb. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, had mentioned in Oct that Ukraine would require USD 55 Billion for funding next year’s budget as also repair of its infrastructure. Ukraine expects the west to fund its reconstruction. All this while Ukrainians suffer their worst winter in decades.

Zelensky claims ‘the Kremlin wants to transform the cold this winter into a weapon of mass destruction.’ Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed by mentioning, ‘We disable energy facilities (in Ukraine) that allow you (the West) to pump lethal weapons into Ukraine to kill Russians.’ Over 10 million Ukrainians are without power while smaller towns and villages are facing blackouts. The west is providing generators as an alternative.  

Zelensky meanwhile continues to display bravado. He recently stated in a video address, ‘We can be left without money. Without gasoline. Without hot water. Without light. But not without freedom.’ Refusing negotiations to end the war is solely on account of western pressure. If he accepts Russian offer for talks, without US approval, aid may cease to flow. Thus, Ukrainians continue to fight a war which the west is pushing it into.

The US is aware of capability limitations of the Ukrainian military. It knows that it can never force Russia out. It is Russia which can exploit winters to punish Ukrainians, never the reverse. Putin’s warning that the war will solely be fought on Ukrainian soil, has been heeded to. Russia is strategically conducting a battle of attrition. It has resources to continue the war while Ukraine survives on west’s military supplies. The US knows that it can never compel Russia to agree to Ukrainian terms as Russia holds the cards.

Within the US, resistance has begun to rise against funding the war. The Republicans are insisting that its ‘time to end this war and demand peace.’ The US economy is moving downhill and continued financial support to Ukraine could be in jeopardy. Rallies in Europe against rising gas and oil prices are on the rise. The common European belief is that they are paying the cost because the US seeks to interfere in Russia. European public demands peace and restoration of Russian gas supplies. In case the war continues to drag current governments may face defeat in elections. Inflation is currently over 11% in most parts of Europe and over 7% in the US, hurting individual budgets.

The reason why western governments are funding the war despite strong public opinion as also added financial burden was summed up by Anthony Cordesman in an article in the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. He states, ‘the war in Ukraine has become the equivalent of a proxy war with Russia, and a war that can be fought without any US military casualties, that unites most of the world’s democracies behind a common cause, that deeply punishes Russia for its act of aggression and strengthens every aspect of deterrence.’ In comparative terms the cost is lower than what the US spent in Afghanistan on an annual basis. However, attempts to create a global anti-Russia coalition has failed as nations like India refuse to be drawn into US’s strategic defence plans for Europe.

In the long term, damage to Russian military equipment will impact its capabilities as also conventional threat to Europe would recede. The Russian economy will be severely dented. Already Russia is requesting India for spare parts for cars, aircraft and trains. A weakened Russia will not be a strong partner to China, enabling the US to concentrate on containing China. Simplistically, Ukrainians are being killed to fulfil the American strategy of weakening Russia.

The war has also made Europe dependent on the US. European military capability enhancement results in increased orders to US defence concerns. US gas and oil supplies to Europe are boosting the US economy while bleeding Europe. The German Economy Minister Robert Habeck stated, ‘Some countries, including friendly ones, sometimes achieve astronomical prices (for their gas).’

Russia’s current degradation of Ukrainian infrastructure strategy is adding to the west’s discomfort. The greater the degradation, the higher the cost of reconstruction to be borne by them. Ukraine is amongst the most corrupt nations in Europe, hence how much would truly go towards reconstruction is unknown.

Finally is the catch 22 situation for the US. Stalling aid would signal victory for Russia and another example of the US commencing a proxy war and abandoning its ally. It had done so in Syria where it dumped the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in 2019 as also in Afghanistan where it discarded its Afghan allies when it withdrew post-haste. Similar was the story in Vietnam. Thus, the US will be compelled to continue backing Ukraine till talks commence and a ceasefire is arrived at.

It is in this scenario that the US is pushing Zelensky to display willingness for talks. General Mark Miley, the US Joint Chief’s of Staff stated, ‘if there’s a slowdown in the actual tactical fighting, then that may become a window, possibly for a political solution, or at least the beginnings of talks to initiate a political solution.’ Ultimately the US will seek talks. Zelensky will be compelled to accept Russian occupied territory. There are no other options. The only sufferers will be Ukrainians who, apart from dying for US interests, will be ignored and left to fend for themselves.