The Other McCain

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Pentagon Leak Confirms Ukraine Suffering Shortage of Trained Manpower

Posted on | April 12, 2023 | 1 Comment

Forget the media coverage focused on how the leak of classified material happened and speculation on who might be responsible for that leak. I’m sure the FBI will figure that out, just as soon as they’re finished prosecuting people for “parading” in the Capitol and posting funny memes on Twitter. What’s really important is the contents of the leak, as it pertains to the war in Ukraine. When last I updated the Ukraine situation in February, I remarked:

Once the Russians evacuated Kherson and retreated to the south (or east) bank of the Dnieper River, that front stabilized, as the Ukrainians apparently are unwilling and/or unable to mount an offensive across the river. Meanwhile, to the northeast, the Ukrainian offensive east of Kharkiv ground to a halt in October, after driving the Russians back across the Oskil River toward Svatove and Kreminna. At the time, I had hoped that Ukraine would be able to sustain the momentum of its offensive, but once they’d captured Lyman and Kupiansk, they seemed content to hold what they’d gotten, rather than push for a further advance. And thus the situation seemed to settle down into a winter stalemate, as neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians had the wherewithal to mount any major offensives.

After Ukraine’s success last fall, I was perplexed by their lack of further advances, as maintaining momentum in such an offensive is crucial. Once you score a breakthrough, the opposing forces become disordered and demoralized if the pursuit continues; however, if the attack is paused, the opposing force can rally, establishing new defensive positions and reinforcing with fresh troops. Or to quote Stonewall Jackson:

“Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken, and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail, and repeated victory will make it invincible.”

The failure of the Ukrainians to maintain the offensive after their September breakthrough around Kherson was perplexing, and what I deduced was that there must be a manpower shortage. Despite the obvious urgency of the situation, Ukraine was failing to recruit, train and equip forces in sufficient numbers to establish reserves that could be used as reinforcements for further offensive operations.

The leaked Pentagon documents confirm my deduction:

US intelligence reportedly warned in February that Ukraine might fail to amass sufficient troops and weaponry for its planned spring counter-offensive, and might fall “well short” of Kyiv’s goals for recapturing territory seized by Russia, according to one of a trove of leaked defence documents.
A document tagged as “top secret” quoted by the Washington Post said that Kyiv was facing significant “force generation and sustainment shortfalls” and was therefore only likely to achieve “modest territorial gains”. The document is a snapshot of the situation in early February, and it is unclear how far Ukraine, with the support of NATO member states, has been able to make up the shortfalls since then.
Another document, dated 23 February and seen by the Guardian, gives an overview of the progress of building 12 “combat credible” new brigades to lead the counter-offensive, equipped with a target of 253 tanks and about 1,500 other armoured vehicles of different kinds. Three brigades were to be generated by the Ukrainians alone, while the remaining nine were to be established with the help of the US, allies and partners.
The planned brigades were a long way from readiness at the time of the documents, with five yet to begin their training. Six of the brigades had half or less the equipment they needed to hand.

What has the Biden administration bought with the billions of dollars of aid it has shipped to Ukraine? Talk of equipment shortages is one thing, if we’re talking about heavy equipment like tanks, artillery, etc., but surely there can be no shortage of basic infantry gear — rifles and bullets and such — to explain the inability of Ukraine to assemble and train “combat credible” brigades, can there? Whatever the difficulty NATO may have in providing Ukraine with heavy armament, there ought to be plenty enough equipment available to outfit troops as light infantry, and if shoving lightly-armed troops into a combat meat-grinder is a less-than-ideal tactical situation, the Russians have clearly been willing to do so at Bakhmut and other places, so what’s the problem in Kyiv?

And, while we’re asking questions, what’s the problem in Washington? Jim Geraghty is blunt about what the leaks reveal about Biden:

President Biden’s rhetoric regarding Ukrainian resistance to the invasion increasingly appears to be wildly overoptimistic happy talk, designed to assure Americans that he’s managing the NATO coalition just fine, the military aid to Kyiv is arriving in a timely fashion, and Russia really is diplomatically and economically isolated. . . .
It is bad that this assessment leaked; it is bad that this assessment of Ukraine’s abilities in the spring offensive are so modest or grim; it is bad that apparently lots of foreign-policy experts have doubts about the administration’s approach but are afraid to say so publicly; and it is bad that Biden’s public assessment of the war in Ukraine is the same rosy-eyed, unrealistic optimism that characterized his assessment of Afghanistan, inflation, migrants crossing the border, and the Chinese spy balloon. The president is always telling us that things are going great and that we have nothing to worry about, and a little later, we learn that the truth is the opposite.

You don’t have to be a “foreign-policy expert” to have doubts about Biden, who has “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates once remarked. And as Obama said, never underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up.




One Response to “Pentagon Leak Confirms Ukraine Suffering Shortage of Trained Manpower”

  1. The Unprincipled and Unhinged Left: Marcy Wheeler as Case Study : The Other McCain
    April 14th, 2023 @ 6:57 pm

    […] by Massachusetts Air National Guard private Jack Teixeira included useful information — e.g., Ukraine’s manpower shortage, which Biden has concealed with a lot of unrealistic happy talk — nevertheless, I believe […]