May 3, 2024

Washington Post’s David Ignatius Declares Victory in Ukraine…Once Again!

Army Tactical Missile System. Photo: Lockheed.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, the mainstream media’s leading apologist for the Pentagon’s use of force and the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert action, has done it once again.  For the past two years, he has regularly predicted victory for Ukraine because the United States or the European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have delivered one particular weapons system or another.  This time around, Ignatius’ oped argues that the “game changer” in the war is the “newly arriving ATACM-300 long-range missile.”

According to Ignatius, the precision weapons of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACM) will allow Ukraine to “strike deep into Russian-occupied territory” and “will degrade Russian logistics inside Ukraine in the near term.”  As a result, the arrival of the ATACM “might eventually open the way for a just negotiated peace.”  Ignatius enthusiastically concludes  that the “survival of an independent Ukraine looks more certain today than it did a week ago.”

If this sounds familiar to readers of the Washington Post, it is because Ignatius and others such as former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor Jr. have argued this before.  Last year, it was the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) missiles that were supposed to make a difference, but they haven’t.  Russian electronic warfare capabilities neutralized the HIMARS threat; previously these capabilities neutralized the threat from Western drones.  As long as the Russians have the capability to interfere with the guidance systems of these weapons (and they do), it will be difficult for Ukraine to reverse the recent setbacks on the battlefield.  Last month, for example, Russian forces seized an additional 35 square miles of Ukrainian territory while the Ukrainians took back 2 square miles.

There is important military information that Ignatius ignores in his writing.  For example, the entire spectrum of Russian air defense systems, ranging from the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft missile-gun system to the S-400 air defense system, is well-equipped to intercept ATACM missiles.  Each ATACM systems costs over $1.5 billion; each Pantsir anti-missile system is much less expensive, about $15 million.  The Russians can also intercept and destroy HIMARS missiles in a similarly cost effective manner.  The recent delays in U.S. weapons transfers exhausted Ukraine’s U.S.-provided air defenses, which enabled significant Russian successes.

Last year, Ignatius informed us that the provision of modern U.S. and German tanks, the Abrams and the Leopold respectively, would make a difference.  The U.S. and German decisions reversed their longstanding trepidation to provide powerful new tools for Ukraine’s efforts to retake territory seized by Russia.  The provision of modern tanks was a landmark moment that followed weeks of intense pressure on Washington and Berlin from various NATO countries.  The tanks were not a game changer.  Meanwhile, Russia forces are advancing toward Ukraine’s military logistic facilities.

The sad reality is that Russia has significant advantages in terms of forces and weaponry, and that the possibility of a Ukrainian “victory“ is extremely unlikely.  At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to accept the price and pain of avoiding a military setback.  Russia is now committing more than a third of its national budget to funding its military and the war effort, and will raise individual and corporate taxes to increase funding.

Russia seems prepared to pay the strategic economic cost of the war.  It is falling behind in key areas of technology and artificial intelligence, and it is suffering from sanctions and limits on technology transfer.  Putin has accepted a vassal-like relationship with China to ensure his relations with Xi Jinping as well as access to Chinese manufacturing.  Russian exports from its energy sector, particularly to China and India, fund more than a third of the Russian budget.  These exports of oil and gas will fund the war at current levels.

Nevertheless, U.S. cold warriors are arguing that U.S. military aid will allow Ukraine to stabilize the front lines near the current locations.  Conversely, they argue that, if we fail to provide such aid, Russian forces will defeat the Ukrainian military and will drive toward NATO borders from the Black Sea to central Poland.  At the same time, the cold warriors are arguing that the United States must pursue “victory” with China, including preparing for 2027 when Xi will unleash Chinese forces in order to attack Taiwan.  The Cold War language is sounding very similar to the Eisenhower 1950s and the Kennedy-Johnson 1960s.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme-chose.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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