There has been some stiff competition for the most inane, delusional analysis about the state of the war between Russia and Ukraine, but former Australian Army Major General Mick Ryan’s recent piece in Foreign Affairs qualifies him as one of the more incompetent “expert” pundits. Remind me, please. What was the last war won by an Australian General? It is a tragedy that Ryan did not have the humility to admit, “I’ve never fought in any war like the one that is unfolding in Ukraine and I have no good evidence to support my optimism.”
In lieu of selecting the title, “How Pigs Can Fly at Hypersonic Speeds”, Ryan opted for, How Ukraine Can Win a Long War. (My thanks to one of my Aussie readers, Gary, for directing me to this absurdity.) Evidence of Mick’s tenuous grip on reality is presented in his first paragraph:
The country’s (Ukraine) people, having fought and won three major offensive campaigns in 2022, are now using a mix of old Soviet and new Western equipment to fight a campaign in the south.
I can understand some 24 year old political science major working at the Institute for the Study of War writing something so absurd, but Mick Ryan was a Major General for God’s sake. Is he really this obtuse? Apparently so. He believes that Ukraine’s failure to penetrate even the first line of Russia’s defenses in southern Ukraine is just an inconsequential blip and has parallels with the First and Second World Wars.
By way of comparison, 18 months into World War I, the allies had lost the campaign for Turkey’s eastern peninsula and the Battle of Verdun was still underway. And after the first 18 months of World War II, most of Europe was occupied by the Nazis, Singapore had fallen to Japan, and the United States was fighting on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines.
Hey Mick, ever heard of the Battle of Moscow or Stalingrad? How about the Battle of Kursk? By December 1942, Russia was closing the noose on the Nazi’s 6th Army at Stalingrad — that was 12 months into WW II. And in month 20 of that Global conflagration, the Soviets triumphed over Germany at Kursk (Putin recently commemorated that victory 80 years ago). Ryan, as is typical of many uneducated Western military leaders, does not understand the critical role the Soviet Union played in sending Germany on the road to ruin and defeat.
At the outset of World War II, the United States’ military was neither trained nor equipped to fight a combined arms war on two fronts. But it had a massive industrial base, an ample supply of men to fill the Army, Marine Corps and Navy and the protection of two oceans that permitted the United States to train millions of new personnel without fear of being attacked. That is not Ukraine today. Its industrial base is ravaged, its number of military-aged males is being rapidly depleted and Ukrainian military bases are vulnerable to attacks by Russian missiles. Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor, as Japanese Admiral Yamamoto noted, awakened a sleeping giant. The Ukrainians, by contrast, are sleep deprived and without good shelter for rest. You cannot awaken a corpse.
So what is Magical Mick’s prescription for Ukraine’s victory?
To that end, the United States and NATO need to make clear that their explicit goal is for Ukraine to defeat Russia’s forces in Ukraine—and to silence Russia’s global narrative. They then need to provide Ukraine with standardized equipment and enhanced individual and collective training. They need to give Kyiv more mine-clearing equipment and help it develop new tactics to push through Russian defenses. Doing so is the best way of ensuring that Ukraine’s fight for freedom ends with an unambiguous victory.
Mick neglected to address one, teeny tiny issue — where in the hell is Ukraine going to get the trained personnel to operate that equipment and those weapons? In 2021 Ukraine’s population hovered around 40 million. Estimate now put that number at 27 million. I don’t care how much enthusiasm or desire Ukrainian recruits possess. Good morale does not compensate for the lack of able bodied, trained men to fill the ranks of ravaged Ukrainian brigades. Ryan blithely ignores this critical factor.
Ryan makes a number of absurd, contradictory claims. This is one of my favorites regarding Ukraine’s prospects for victory:
And they are no longer fighting Wagner convicts, as they were earlier in the summer. The Russian troops around Bakhmut are higher quality, regular forces, and their attrition will degrade Russia’s future offensive options.
Let me get this straight. The rag tag group of Wagnerian convicts kicked Ukraine’s ass at Bakhmut. Now Ukraine is facing “higher quality, regular forces” and that means that Ukraine’s chances of victory are better? If Ryan ever took a course on critical thinking, my guess is he failed.
The most astonishing delusional statement by Ryan is this:
Both the Ukrainians and the Russians possess the resources and the will for an extended war.
I suppose Ryan is spending way too much time watching Ghost of Kiev videos and believing those are real. Ukraine does not possess the resources for “an extended war.” Ukraine is totally, utterly dependent on Western financial and military aid. Without Western support Ukraine would not last a month. What resources is he talking about? Russia, on the other hand, remains the number one country in the world in terms of natural resources. It has mobilized rapidly its massive defense industry, which is churning out a steady supply of artillery shells, tanks, drones, missiles, vehicles, etc. Mick Ryan is not the only one embracing the myth that Russia is an industrial weakling, scavenging for compute chips in washing machines and refrigerators.
This kind of thinking, if you can call it that, is still prevalent throughout most of the Washington think tanks and the military/intelligence bureaucracy. That is dangerous because it increases the likelihood that Biden and his National Security team will make a rash, stupid decision and plunge the United States and Europe into a hot war with Russia. The West continues to behave like a degenerate gambler who depleted his bank account, is borrowing house money at exorbitant rates, and betting that he will draw a Royal Flush. Those are terrible odds. We can only pray that Western leaders wake up and realize they are playing a losing hand.