Washington’s Carthaginian Peace
Collides With Reality
Col. Douglas Macgregor (US Army Ret.) / The American Conservative
(November 29, 2022) — The national political and military leaders who committed America to wars of choice in Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, did so as a rule because they were convinced the fighting would be short and decisive. American presidents, presidential advisors, and senior military leaders never stopped to consider that national strategy, if it exists at all, consists of avoiding conflict unless the nation is attacked and compelled to fight.
The latest victim of this mentality is Ukraine. In the absence of a critical root-and-branch analysis of Russia’s national power and strategic interests, American senior military leaders and their political bosses viewed Russia through a narrowly focused lens that magnified US and Ukrainian strengths but ignored Russia’s strategic advantages — geographic depth, almost limitless natural resources, high social cohesion, and the military-industrial capacity to rapidly scale up its military power.
Ukraine is now a war zone subject to the same treatment the US armed forces inflicted on Germany and Japan during the Second World War, on Vietnam in the 1960s, and on Iraq over decades. Power grids, transportation networks, communications infrastructure, fuel production, and ammunition storage sites are being systematically destroyed. Millions of Ukrainians continue to flee the war zone in pursuit of safety, with ominous consequences for Europe’s societies and economies.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration repeatedly commits the unpardonable sin in a democratic society of refusing to tell the American people the truth: contrary to the Western media’s popular “Ukrainian victory” narrative, which blocks any information that contradicts it, Ukraine is not winning and will not win this war. Months of heavy Ukrainian casualties, resulting from an endless series of pointless attacks against Russian defenses in Southern Ukraine, have dangerously weakened Ukrainian forces.
Predictably, NATO’s European members, which bear the brunt of the war’s impact on their societies and economies, are growing more disenchanted with Washington’s Ukrainian proxy war. European populations are openly questioning the veracity of claims in the press about the Russian state and American aims in Europe.
The influx of millions of refugees from Ukraine, along with a combination of trade disputes, profiteering from US arms sales, and high energy prices risks turning European public opinion against both Washington’s war and NATO.
Russia has also undergone a transformation. In the opening years of President Putin’s term of office, the Russian Armed Forces were organized, trained, and equipped for exclusively national territorial defense. But the conduct of the Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine has demonstrated the inadequacy of this approach for Russia’s National Security in the 21st century.
The opening phase of the SMO was a limited operation with a narrow purpose and restricted goals. The critical point is that Moscow never intended to do more than persuade Kiev and Washington that Moscow would fight to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, as well as the further mistreatment of Russians in Ukraine.
The SMO was, however, based on invalid assumptions and was terminated. As it turned out, the limited nature of the SMO achieved the opposite of the outcome that Moscow desired, conveying the impression of weakness, rather than strength.
Washington’s Ukrainian proxy war is destablizing Europe.
After concluding that the underpinning assumptions regarding Washington’s readiness to negotiate and compromise were invalid, Putin directed the STAVKA to develop new operational plans with new goals: first, to crush the Ukrainian enemy; second, to remove any doubt in Washington and European capitols that Russia will establish victory on its own terms; and, third, to create a new territorial status quo commensurate with Russia’s national security needs.
Once the new plan was submitted and approved, President Putin agreed to an economy of force operation to defend Russian territorial gains with minimal forces until the required resources, capabilities, and manpower were assembled for decisive operations. Putin also appointed a new theater commander, General Sergei Surovikin, a senior officer who understands the mission and possesses the mindset to deliver success.
The coming offensive phase of the conflict will provide a glimpse of the new Russian force that is emerging and its future capabilities. At this writing, 540,000 Russian combat forces are assembled in Southern Ukraine, Western Russia, and Belarus.
The numbers continue to grow, but the numbers already include 1,000 rocket artillery systems, thousands of tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones, plus 5,000 armored fighting vehicles, including at least 1,500 tanks, hundreds of manned fixed-wing attack aircraft, helicopters, and bombers. This new force has little in common with the Russian army that intervened 9 months ago on February 24, 2022.
It is now possible to project that the new Russian armed forces that will evolve from the crucible of war in Ukraine will be designed to execute strategically decisive operations. The resulting Russian force will likely take its inspiration from the force design and operational framework recommended in Colonel General Makhmut Gareev’s work, If War Comes Tomorrow? The Contours of Future Armed Conflict. The new military establishment will consist of much larger forces-in-being that can conduct decisive operations on relatively short notice with minimal reinforcement and preparation.
Put differently, by the time the conflict ends, it appears Washington will have prompted the Russian State to build up its military power, the very opposite of the fatal weakening that Washington intended when it embarked on its course of military confrontation with Moscow.
But none of these developments should surprise anyone in Washington, D.C. Beginning with Biden’s speech in Warsaw effectively demanding regime change in Moscow, the Biden administration refused to see foreign policy in terms of strategy.
Like a stupid general who insists on defending every inch of ground to the last man, President Biden confirmed the United States’s commitment to oppose Russia and, potentially, any nation state that fails to measure up to globalism’s hypocritical democratic standards, regardless of the cost to the American people, whether in terms of their security or prosperity.
Biden’s speech in Warsaw was hot with emotion and mired in the ideology of moralizing globalism that is popular in Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin. But for Moscow, the speech was tantamount to a Carthaginian Peace plan.
Biden’s “take no prisoners” conduct of US foreign policy means the outcome of the next phase of the Ukrainian War will not only destroy the Ukrainian state. It will also demolish the last vestiges of the postwar liberal order and produce a dramatic shift in power and influence across Europe, especially in Berlin, away from Washington to Moscow and, to a limited extent, to Beijing.
Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.) is a senior fellow with The American Conservative, the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, a decorated combat veteran, and the author of five books.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.