US’ Afghanistan playbook bodes ill for Ukraine
Published: Dec 26, 2022 09:07 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Just before disbanding for the Christmas holidays, the US Congress passed a $45 billion "aid" package for Ukraine. 

Before Zelensky's speech on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden announced another $2.2 billion that will immediately go to Kiev, mainly as weapons and ammunition. This includes a single battery of "Patriot" air defense missiles, the latest Western "wonder weapon" that's somehow supposed to turn the tide of the war. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a damning admission on Thursday, saying that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan - in August 2021 - made it easier to aid Ukraine. The head of the Russian Duma's foreign relations committee, Konstantin Kosachev, took this to mean that the US "fled Afghanistan to free its hand to prepare for war" in Ukraine, thanking Blinken for his sincerity. 

None of this would matter much if the Western strategy actually worked. But facts and numbers indicate that it is not. Quite the opposite, actually. The sanctions have not had the desired effect on Russia, but ended up weakening the economies of America's allies in Europe. The billions burned to bankroll Kiev may have lined the pockets of a few military contractors, but they ultimately harmed the overall American economy from which they were extracted.

Nor has Western military industries proven capable of dealing with a sustained conventional war. If the numbers recently reported in US media are correct, the West can make up to 40,000 artillery rounds for 155mm howitzers a month - the amount the Ukrainians expend in about a week.

Many NATO militaries are almost out of resources to spare. Setting up new production lines is easier said than done. 

It is said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  The US has, in fact, adopted the same approach to Kiev as it did to Kabul: pay for the entire military and most of the government and prop them up as proxies. Except this conflict is far more intense. Washington has already committed more money to Ukraine just this year than it had spent on the Afghan army over 20 years. 

The idea here may have been to mortally wound Russia by fighting "to the last Ukrainian," but it certainly looks like it's someone else bleeding out to death here.

"The only way to understand the reception of Zelensky in Congress is to recognize that American leaders wanted war against Russia and this is the perfect one because America can wage one and wear Russia down without even suffering the domestic costs of losing American soldiers," international security professor Max Abrahms commented.

Many US officials have openly admitted this. Their reasoning is based on a narrative of how the US "won" the Cold War that took root in the 1990s: namely, that president Ronald Reagan bankrupted the Soviet Union by forcing them to engage in a costly arms race. 

To sum up Washington's view, cutting off Russia from the West with sanctions while stuffing Ukraine with weapons and ammunition will ensure Moscow loses the war and push "liberal" Russians to overthrow current regime  - so the West can then focus on confronting China.

This reality has not been lost on Moscow. By estimates from the Russian Defense Ministry, the US and its allies have so far sent $97 billion worth of weapons, equipment and ammunition to the government in Kiev. Basically, only Russia's agreement to the increasingly implausible fiction that the US and NATO are not parties to the conflict stands between the planet and a broader war.

In reality, the US has been "investing" in making Ukraine into an anti-Russian platform since the 1990s. The 2004 "Orange Revolution" resulted in a government so corrupt, the Ukrainians voted it out the first chance they got. It took the 2014 Maidan coup, and Victoria Nuland's personal "midwifing" of the new government - with Biden's participation - to set Ukraine on this new course. The US has been supplying Kiev with weapons and training ever since, and ramped this up after Biden was sworn in as president - long before the so called "unprovoked invasion."

The author is a Serbian-American journalist. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn