Ukraine – ‘Game Changing’ Policy Moves That Ain’t Game Changing

Saturday, 27 August 2022 — Moon of Alabama

When politicians throw around big numbers or plans one should always look at the details to see what they really entail.

In May Biden announced and Congress passed a $40 billion package ‘for Ukraine’.

The former U.S. Marines intelligence officer Scott Ritter was very impressed with it. On May 22 he went on a talk show with Garland Nixon and Ray McGovern and claimed that Russia would have to change its special operation to counter all the new weapons. Ritter was very agitated (47:55 min). A few days later, in an email-interview with Sputnik, he called the $40 billion package a “game changer”:

Sputnik: On 21 May, Biden signed a $40 billion military aid package to Ukraine. Could the provision of new weapons become a game-changer for Kiev?

Scott Ritter: It’s not could, it is a game changer. That doesn’t mean that Ukraine wins the game. But Russia started the special military operation with a limited number of troops and with clearly stated objectives that were designed to be achieved with this limited number of troops.

Today, Russia still has the same number of troops and the same objectives. But instead of going up against the Ukrainian military as it existed at the start of the conflict, it’s now going up against a Ukrainian military that is supported by a weapons package that by itself nearly matches the defence budget for Russia in all of one year. I think the defence budget for Russia in 2021 was around $43 billion.

This package that was just provided nearly matches that and when you add it to what has already been provided during the first five months of 2022, that’s $53 billion. That’s nearly $10 billion more than Russia spends on the totality of its military in one year. That changes the game. Again, the $40 billion package is not all weapons. A lot of it is humanitarian support and then some other financial support. But it’s still… The amount of money it’s provided through in terms of weapons, it’s a lot.

The United States and NATO are also providing real time intelligence support to the Ukrainians. That’s a game changer. And NATO’s countries have now provided Ukraine with strategic depth going back through Poland and Germany, where bases are being used to train Ukrainian forces on the new weapons that are being provided.

However, as Larry Johnson and others pointed out to him, the $40 billion was just a talking point and the real sum was much smaller:

Mark Cancian at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (aka CSIS) provides an excellent breakdown of what was actually appropriated. Here is a quick summary:

  • $19 billion for immediate military support to Ukraine
  • $3.9 billion to sustain U.S. forces deployed to Europe
  • $16 billion for economic support to Ukraine and global humanitarian relief
  • $2 billion for long-term support to NATO allies and DOD modernization programs

Right off the bat, you can see that Ukraine is not getting $40 billion dollars worth of military goodies to whack Russians. They are not even getting $19 billion. The $19 billion is carved up into smaller packages:

  • $6 billion for training, equipment, weapons, logistic support, supplies and services, salaries and stipends and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine (and the specifics of the expenditures remain to be determined).
  • $9 billion to replenish U.S. weapons stocks already sent to Ukraine.
  • $4 billion for the Foreign Military Financing Program (this allows a foreign country like Ukraine to buy brand new weapon systems).

New weapon systems must first be build which takes quite some time, often years, to do.

Last week the Biden administration made another announcement:

Biden announces $3 billion in additional aid to Ukraine

President Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. is sending its largest security package to Ukraine to date, valued at $3 billion. The announcement coincided with the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The package will come from the Ukraine Security Assistance (USAI) funds process, which means the U.S. will buy the weapons through contracts instead of drawing from existing Defense Department inventory and sending them immediately.

People got the impression that this was additional money on top of the previous announced numbers. But, as Politico detailed, this spending is part of the previously announced $40 billion package. More specific it comes out of the $6 billion for training, equipment, weapons, etc. It also only means that the Pentagon will start issuing contracts to manufacturers to produce the weapons and ammunition. The Ukraine is unlikely to receive any of them over the next months:

The Biden administration announced a new $3 billion package on Wednesday that will directly fund contracts with the U.S. defense industry for artillery rounds, mortar rounds, surface-to-air missile systems; a new counter-drone capability; additional drones; and 24 counter-battery radars. The move marks a major shift in how the U.S. has supplied Ukraine, from pulling existing weapons off of shelves to awarding contracts to defense firms for weapons that need to be built.

None of that equipment will arrive for months, if not years. But officials say the investment will allow Kyiv to begin planning for its own future defense. The hope is that other wealthy European nations, which have at times lagged in their support for Ukraine, might follow suit in the coming months.

In all, Congress has set aside $6.3 billion for the Pentagon-administered effort: $6 billion as part of May’s $40 billion supplemental assistance legislation and $300 million in a government-wide funding package that passed in March. As of Aug. 1, just $1.8 billion of that cash had been used, according to Pentagon documentation seen by POLITICO. Wednesday’s announcement leaves roughly $1.5 billion left to be spent.

U.S. weapons are notoriously expensive. A billion or three will not buy much.

A similar misinterpretation of a government announcements as Scott Ritter has made is now playing out on the other side. As the New York Times today headlines:

Putin Orders a Sharp Expansion of Russia’s Hard-Hit Armed Forces

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday ordered a sharp increase in the size of Russia’s armed forces, a reversal of years of efforts by the Kremlin to slim down a bloated military and the latest sign that he is bracing for a long war in Ukraine, where Russia has suffered heavy losses.

The decree, stamped by the president’s office and posted on the Kremlin website, raised the target number of active-duty service members by about 137,000, to 1.15 million, as of January of next year, and ordered the government to set aside money to pay for the increase.

In yesterday’s analysis Dima of the Military Summary Channel debunked that announcement as a repeat of orders that had already be given months ago.

The Russian Federation consists of 85 federal subjects which are federal cities, oblast, republics or autonomous ethnic regions. In June the Kremlin asked the governors of each of these subjects to set up one or more volunteer battalions of former soldiers who are no longer active reservists. The bigger federal subjects, like Moscow and St.Petersburg, will set up multiple units. On August 8 Kommersant reported (in Russian) that some 20 federal subjects had already set up 40 battalions and that more will become available (machine translation):

In the Perm Territory, a motorized rifle company “Parma” of 90 people and a tank battalion “Molot” (about 160 people) are being formed. Another tank battalion named after Kuzma Minin is being created in the Nizhny Novgorod region. The Amur region, as reported in mid-July by local media, is gathering the Amursky motorized rifle battalion, which is expected to consist of 400-500 people. On the website of the government of the Leningrad Region, an announcement appeared about the recruitment to the artillery battalions “Nevsky” and “Ladoga”. And in the Tyumen region, they announced the formation of three units at once with different specializations: the Tobol sapper battalion, the Taiga sniper company and the Siberia artillery battalion. According to the official version, Tobol was formed on the initiative of veterans of the Tyumen Higher Military Engineering Command School. The first groups of volunteers from these units went to the NWO at the end of July.

The people in these units have signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense. They will be equipped with refurbished weapons out of Russia’s endless depot reserves that are left from earlier downsizing. These are now full times soldiers for which the Ministry of Defense had yet to have a budget. All that Putin’s new order does is to arrange the funding for those new volunteer units.

To form military units, named after local heroes, from men who come from the same region has some advantages. These people will not feel like  strangers to each other which gives them some extra cohesion.The Chechen units which are already operating in Ukraine have shown that such an approach can be very successful. The regional approach has also the advantage of involving every part of Russia in the endeavor. It makes the ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine a national project.

While the men in these units will be older than fresh recruits they will also have valuable life and work experience. These new units will probably not be the most agile but they will certainly be able to do a decent job. Moreover these are trained soldiers who will have the standard tanks and other equipment for combined arms operations. Their units will be way more powerful than the drafted Territorial Defense and Jager Infantry Brigades that now make up the bulk of the Ukrainian forces. Currently the new units are training at various facilities throughout Russia. When they are ready they will start their rotation into Ukraine.

Likes Biden’s ‘new’ announcement of the $3 billion ‘additional’ aid, Putin’s decree is only a detail of a previously announced policy.

But neither of those announcements, nor the HIMARS systems, are ‘game changers’.

Big Serge ☦️🇺🇸🇷🇺 @witte_sergei – 13:27 UTC · Aug 27, 2022

Ukrainian channels are reporting that at least 60% of the HIMARS have been destroyed, and they are doubtful of the attempts to destroy the bridge in Kherson. Another wonder weapon gone bust.

First saw this on Legitimniy, repeated by Rezident. Both reliably optimistic Ukrainian insider channels. HIMARS activity has definitely dropped off, so there isn’t any particular reason to assume they’re lying.

The thing about the HIMARS isn’t that there’s something particularly wrong with it. It’s a fine system. It’s just meant to function as part of a competent combined arms force. It has a specific role, and can’t single-handedly prop up a defeated army.

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