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Aid won’t fix Ukraine’s recruitment crisis

A Ukrainian victory looks increasingly unlikely. Credit: Getty

April 22, 2024 - 7:00am

After weeks of politicking the Biden White House can breathe a sigh of relief, as an aid package that includes $60 billion in funding for Ukraine passed through the House of Representatives at the weekend. Supporters of the package in DC have had to move heaven and earth to get the aid through.

Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson was given the job by his GOP colleagues on the condition that he would push back on further aid for Ukraine. Now it looks like those same colleagues are turning on him, with a growing movement that aims to remove him after only six months in the role.

In fact, the Ukrainian aid package was not originally conceived for the purchase of military equipment. It was envisaged as a supplement to a European package that was aimed at propping up Ukraine’s enormous wartime deficit. Unable to get the package passed in the House as a funding programme for the Ukrainian government, its supporters have started saying that it is to finance bulking up Kyiv’s military.

Ukraine has two problems. The first is economic. The country runs an enormous trade deficit which needs to be financed with foreign capital inflows or else the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, will collapse, which could plunge the country into hyperinflation and political instability. The aid package, together with the European equivalent passed a few months ago, staves off this outcome for a few months.

The second problem is a military one. First of all, the Ukrainians are experiencing a personnel crisis. They have already sent much of their male population to be killed or injured on the frontline and they are now having trouble pressing more men into service. Obviously, an aid bill cannot help with this grim reality. Secondly, they have severe weapons and ammunition shortages. American lawmakers say that the aid package will solve this by providing more weapons, but the reality is that these weapons do not exist because the Western powers lack the industrial power to produce them.

This is where the potential for a legitimacy crisis comes in. Supporters of the package have now promised that it will keep the Russian army at bay. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that Ukrainian defence lines are buckling and there is even chatter that the city of Kharkiv might fall to the Russians in the coming weeks. Some are speculating that Russia might be gearing up for a major offensive either in spring or summer.

If Russia does start to take major amounts of territory — or, worse, if the Ukrainian frontline collapses altogether — then the American public will watch the promises used to justify the aid package collapse in real time.

The aid package also contains $26.4 billion in aid for Israel. Among DC policymakers this aid is less controversial, but the American public is becoming less and less keen on sending Israel military aid. A recent poll showed that 47% of Americans thought that more military aid should be sent to Israel and 48% thought that less should be. But perhaps former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley summarised it well when he said in an interview last month that: “Americans have kind of had it with wars.”

Given the current political temperature in America right now – with a man setting himself on fire outside Donald Trump’s trial last week — if this aid package fails to yield results, it could have major consequences for Joe Biden’s re-election prospects. Beyond this, it will raise serious questions about the foreign policy expertise in DC which seems to move from blunder to blunder in real time. Do American policymakers and politicians understand that they are playing with matches in a room full of gasoline? Every indication would suggest not.


Philip Pilkington is a macroeconomist and investment professional, and the author of The Reformation in Economics

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Edwin Blake
Edwin Blake
26 days ago

Or to put it differently, NATO has fought to the last (male) Ukrainian, what now? If nothing is done BlackRock might lose all it’s nice Ukrainian farmland.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
26 days ago
Reply to  Edwin Blake

The precedents from the early Cold War (Korea, IndoChina, Cuban crisis) suggest that almost the only way to secure a deal is to threaten significant escalation convincingly. Otherwise authoritarian powers tend to have greater staying power than democracies. This is not a happy thought.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Korea was a stalemate, Vietnam a total loss, and Cuba almost catastrophic but the “authoritarian” (and almost certainly popular at the time) government remained in place (and the USA withdrew missiles from Turkey so basically a Soviet win despite the Kennedy PR to the contrary).
In no case did escalation achieve a “deal” which was to the West’s advantage.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
26 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

In all three cases, the threat of escalation was necessary to secure a deal which America could live with. The Korean War was an increasingly unpopular war but the communists would not agree to a ceasefire until Eisenhower let it be known that he was contemplating using nuclear weapons. The IndoChina settlement I was referring to was the Geneva accord of 1954 which partitioned French IndoChina. Again Eisenhower had allowed the use of nuclear weapons to be threatened most notably by Admiral Radford, Chairman of the CoS. who wanted to relieve the siege of Dien Ben Phu with atom bombs. (The later Vietnam War starting ten years later is a separate story). The history of the Cuban missile crisis is well known. The deals may not have been advantageous “victories” but they did halt, pause or avoid disadvantageous hostilities. The “Brinkmanship” involved did, however, terrify observers.

A D Kent
A D Kent
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I take your point re Eisenhower and his threatening to use nuclear weapons, but as far as escalation was concerned he had already taken the (IMHO) equally grave escalatory step of deploying biological ones. They had a nice head-start in developing them as they had brought the war criminal Japanese scientists who had been trialling them on the Chinese in the Second World War to the US in the 40s. We now know pretty conclusively that they had been deployed as the CIA were monitoring Korean cables – in which the horrific effects were reported up the Korean chain in detail – those cables were only declassified recently

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Didn’t Attlee go to the USA to point out that use of nuclear weapons against an Asian people, again, was rather ill advised, to say the least and that Britain would not support it?
I’m not sure the French IndoChina war CAN be realistically differentiated from “Vietnam”; surely the latter was a continuation with a (slight) change of imperial adversary?
In respect of Cuba, surely the disadvantageous hostility which was avoided was the the Turkish missile problem for the Soviets…

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
26 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

Your memory is correct. Attlee did indeed visit Truman and latter did fire MacArthur for, amongst other offences, sounding too keen to bomb China. But, even after recognising that a stalemate had arisen, he was unable to secure a cease fire. He was followed by Eisenhower who was. IndoChina and Cuba? Moot.

Sayantani G
Sayantani G
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Rather a baffling parallel. The wars you cite were more Cold War era crises solved by diplomatic retreat rather than brinkmanship.
In this case NATO’s Eastward expansion and a unipolar U.S led alliance in Europe are hardly justifiable as comparisons.
If you are suggesting that the West threatens nuclear escalation to take on Russia, it is a grave miscalculation and can actually trigger catastrophe in a very volatile arena.
Pilkington is absolutely correct in detecting the near absence of diplomacy in today’s NeoCon inspired foreign policy apparatus. The farce of a peace ” conference” which excludes one of the warring parties is case in point.
The only thing this forever war is achieving is a deep schism between the West and the ” rest” apart from economic bankruptcy of many parts of the world.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
26 days ago
Reply to  Sayantani G

I am not disagreeing with you on the ineptitude of much American “diplomacy” since 2000. But we are where we are. My point is that the US will sooner or later probably be faced with either defeat or threatening escalation in the Ukraine (unless the Putin regime collapses for domestic reasons). As the recent Israeli / Iran exchange demonstrates the threat of escalation need not be nuclear to act as a deterrent. The current direction of travel may be towards acceptance of another US defeat – as Edwin Blake implies – but one cannot discount the possibility that the Americans will embrace escalation. I am not advocating either course merely analysing the situation.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
26 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

The problem is that if Russia begins to “lose” it will resort to the use of nuclear weapons. There is no doubt whatsoever about this. Most likely just one tactical weapon on Ukrainian territory (certainly not the territory it has annexed) and then what does the West do?
If the West responds in kind there will certainly be a full scale nuclear exchange with all the relevant consequences.
If there is no response the West is shown as the proverbial “paper tiger”.
A peace agreement is essential but there are no Western statesmen of any stature at all who would be able to achieve one. They are all frightened of looking “weak” when they should be concentrating on minimising losses.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
25 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

I accept your points but I do not think the aim is to make Russia “lose” but to accept a draw. This may require threats but is imo negotiable without triggering the scenario you suggest.

Sayantani G
Sayantani G
25 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I think you are being too sunny about the NeoCons. ” Draws” are far from their thoughts. Remember the ” C” in Eisenhower’s legendary description of the MICC.
The fact is that the chances of an honest brokering of peace are far more likely to emerge from the non Western world.
Globalist technocratic interest in the West and it’s Deep States are too heavily invested in the war industry now.
See the graphs of the major defence firms in the stock market to understand where the money goes, while common people suffer all over with skyrocketing inflation and costs of living.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
25 days ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

But the point most certainly was to make Russia “lose”…Brzezinski and Wolfowitz said so and their playbook is what has been used. Their followers still want it and believe it’s happening… ” cheapest war for the USA…” etc. It has had the added advantage of crippling Germany and the EU (although they were doing a good job themselves) and make them (more) dependent on the USA…trebles all round for the USA.
The reality is that Russia is now stronger both militarily and economically and has the tacit support of the non Western world.
Ukraine has lost the Donbas and Crimea ( never really part of Ukraine) for good, plus whatever else Russia takes in the meantime.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
26 days ago
Reply to  Edwin Blake

Or to ask another question, why aren’t the women being asked to step in, after decades of incessant whining about being as “strong” as men?

Like most men I would support equal rights, punishment for crimes against women, equal pay and right to work etc.

But my eyes were opened on feminism a decade back, after years of reading the Guardian coverage of “Asian” grooming gangs, and to see how “progressive” women reacted to genuine patriarchal cultures.

The last year was equally revealing. Both how feminists reacted to “trans”, and the utter silence and hypocrisy of women and feminists on gender “equality” when it comes to being slaughtered in war.

Pequay
Pequay
26 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

May it be that in general, Ukrainian women hold more traditional views, are less affected by the luxury beliefs that bedevil their sisters in more ‘progressive’ societies, and as such aren’t clamouring to serve on the frontlines?
Whichever way you look at it, war is hell- on all peoples.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
26 days ago
Reply to  Pequay

“Ukrainian women hold more traditional views”
Have you heard about Femen?
But then, the prospect of being treated as equals, taken off the streets, given two weeks training and flung into trench warfare, does seem to rekindle”traditional views” I suppose.

jane baker
jane baker
26 days ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

They get themselves preggers to get shipped home.

jane baker
jane baker
26 days ago
Reply to  Edwin Blake

Watch YouTube channel Pavlo from Ukraine. There are lots of men,the canny ones,the ones who know somebody,the ones who got the wherewithal to buy an Exemption Certificate. We’re not told the true story. Pavlo is getting jittery these days + I can see why. He’s often asked to show his papers and so far they’re valid but one day…… Pavlo LOVES America and all his USA + Canadian followers love him,his bird Luba and his laid back cottage lifestyle. None of them seem to realize that if USA “win” all that’ll go.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
26 days ago

The real problem is that there is NO foreign policy expertise in the US ruling class.
Kennan, Kissinger, Mearsheimer and others all warned against expanding NATO but it was still done.
The USA now has a war, economic if not military, on two fronts, Russia and China who are now allied, (and probably three with the Middle East). This is precisely the situation the USA had previously made huge efforts to avoid during the Cold War…successfully so.
As Milley said the American people will get tired of the endless wars, because they don’t benefit. There will be a slow return to isolationism. However as with all empires in retreat there is room for many disasters because an empire’s ruling class only slowly accepts that the game is over.

Talia Perkins
Talia Perkins
26 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

“Kennan, Kissinger, Mearsheimer” <– I am not aware of much applaudable expertise in any of those, but for how to lose more slowly.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
26 days ago
Reply to  Talia Perkins

Kennan beat the Soviets through his realistic policy of containment. A policy I might add that he emphasized was not a one size fits all policy but one tailored to the geopolitical realities of the time. One of the last things he ever did was warn against invading Iraq as part of the War on Terror. His arguments were almost prophetic. Learn some damn history.

j watson
j watson
26 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

US has 11 aircraft carrier flotillas, and another 9 smaller class Carrier flotillas. They don’t have all these to patrol up and down the Potomac. It also has land bases in most parts of the World and space technology where it sees and can respond much quicker and better than all others if needed. It’s cyber warfare technology will be immense but v sparingly deployed.
Nobody wants conflict on multiple fronts, but fact is US Policy prepared for it for many decades and still so. It has learnt hard lessons about the number of body bags public opinion can absorb, but in the age of the long range drone and spy satellite that’s much less of a requirement.
Point being it’s enemies remain exceptionally wary of it’s capability. They might poke a bit but that’s usually the limit. Deterrence counts if it’s maintained.

A D Kent
A D Kent
26 days ago

 One of the most important reasons – probably the most important one – why the Ukrainians are troubled with recruitment and mobilisation is that they were already suffering a demographic crisis. It is why the average age of their troops has usually been somewhere in the 40s – it’s the fact that they’ve not got that many twenty-somethings to recruit.

The problem arose from the chaos of the decade and a half following the collapse of the Soviet Union. As all the oligarchs were being enriched and their country looted with the connivance of the Bushes and Clintons the birth-rate collapsed, It is that generation who, under normal circumstances, be expected to form the bulk of any armed force. In Ukraine though, this diminished group are especially precious – they’ll be needed for any kind of reconstruction – they’ll be needed to lure back at least some of the millions of Ukrainian women who have fled westwards.

All this money will do is prolong the war to the extent that even this precious generation will be thrown in and slaughtered like their older compatriots. As long as the collapse is prolonged until after the November US Presidential election, no policy maker over there will give a flying toss about this.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
26 days ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Two millions fled to Russia from the east , many during the civil war. One million were already working in Poland, and more were lined up for casual labour.

j watson
j watson
26 days ago

Author not a military expert with inside info so one shouldn’t put too much stock in his battlefield conclusions. It is true Ukraine is war weary but the threat of further Bucha’s if they collapse will keep them fighting far longer than their adversaries.
Nonetheless realpolitik means a likely 38th parallel ceasefire and dividing line seems v likely. The chances of getting to that are strengthened if Ukraine can negotiate from a position of strength and has additional security guarantees.
As regards Israel – Author poorly cites a Poll from early March. Has he not grasped that Iran launching 300+ drones around a 180c arc of attack reminds many more why Israel acts like it does.
Demonstrating weakness is provocation in itself to Autocrats seeking to swallow near neighbours. Fortunately US and Allies gradually stirring like a sleeping giant in the direction needed.

John Tyler
John Tyler
26 days ago

Of course, ‘the Americans have kind of had it with wars’ was also the case before and after two world wars and further unresolved wars. Along with the rest of the West, they seem to have forgotten to learn from experience: appeasement is only a short-term solution which always results in the eventual far greater loss of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

William Amos
William Amos
26 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

In politics, as in life, all solutions are more or less short term. A reversion to disorder and chaos is the universal yearning of all created things. I believe that is the 3rd law of thermodynamics
But, with respect, there is a third option, an elternative both to appeasement and war and that is intelligent diplomacy. Something The Great Republic actually used to be very good at, indeed pioneered under Theodore Roosevelt of quiet-voice big-stick fame.

rob clark
rob clark
26 days ago

A truly disgraceful display by our MIC representatives on the House floor the other day when that “aid” package was voted through.

Nathan Ngumi
Nathan Ngumi
26 days ago

It is sad and unfortunate for people suffering in the wars in Ukraine, Gaza and other areas of conflict (Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, etc.) that the probability of these conflicts expanding and worsening is rising.
Peace will only become more elusive.
What will this portend for Pax Americana?

Hans Daoghn
Hans Daoghn
26 days ago

The silver lining to this cloud is that, by the U.S. election in November, Ukraine is unlikely to have stabilized the war.  It will still be short on munitions (the West simply does not have enough to sell) and even shorter on soldiers.  Expect Russia to escalate its offensive by May.  It is already grinding west at a quickening pace.  Hopefully “Biden’s War” will bring down Too Slow Joe. The tragedy is that tens of thousands more additional soldiers and civilians will die.  This is the West’s “fight to the last Ukrainian” policy.

Talia Perkins
Talia Perkins
26 days ago

The prospect of winning will fix it. They need enough aid fast enough they can overcome the Russian entrenchments, either by going over them by land, by air, or around by sea.

Wyatt W
Wyatt W
26 days ago
Reply to  Talia Perkins

That didn’t work so well last summer. They had many more men and munitions then, no way is a counter-offensive realistic right now or in the foreseeable future..

jane baker
jane baker
26 days ago
Reply to  Talia Perkins

We love fairy stories.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
26 days ago

This was ALWAYS going to end badly for Ukraine. I have visited Ukraine a great number of times, and have many friends still there, and some gone. The West was never going to go all in to support Ukraine. Putin knew it, the Ukrainians knew it, and so did the Western leaders. This is an “elite” game, and when it got too hard and became less sexy, it was time to move on to the next sexy thing. BlackRock did the algorithms and probably broke even very soon in the conflict and so they have made their haul. As always, it is the people that suffer, and will that will continue for families in both Russia and the Ukraine.

William Shaw
William Shaw
25 days ago

Ukraine could solve its recruitment problem immediately by putting women on the front lines.
Because
 equality.