War is an extremely expensive business

Irina Alksnis

On Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the importance of strengthening military assistance to Ukraine.
This statement is notable for two reasons. Firstly, it was made at the time of the liberation of Soledar by Russian troops, and Stoltenberg emphasized the importance of Western support for Ukraine against the backdrop of these events. And secondly, the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance said these words before the start of the joint meeting with the European Commission.
It is worth recalling that the day before, on Tuesday, the leadership of NATO and the EU signed a declaration on cooperation. On behalf of Europe, European Co-uncil President Charles Mi-chel and European Comm-ission President Ursula von der Leyen put their signatures. In the light of the Ukrainian events, which are highlighted in the document, the process of corralling Europe into the stall of American military plans is in full swing.
However, when taking into account the events at the front, a number of questions arise both for tactics and for the strategy of the West.
Opinions of experts and officials regarding the military significance of Soledar and Artemovsk (Kyiv uses the old name of the city – Bakhmut) differ. Some argue that the liberation of Soledar hacked into the most important line of defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – and this significantly changes the situation in the liberation of the territory of the DPR. Others believe that the significance of this event should not be exaggerated – this is a fairly local victory. Still others even try to pretend that these settlements have no special significance. For example, Vladimir Zelensky called the Russian assault on Soledar “madness”, implying that there is nothing there for which it would be worth doing: “And that Russiawanted to get there? Everything is completely destroyed, there is almost no life left.”
True, the question immediately arises: why did the Armed Forces of Ukraine put so many lives in Soledar then? Because if observers agree on one thing, it is in the assessment of Ukrainian losses, which are unanimously characterized as catastrophic. And the Kiev command was transferring everything and transferring reserves there, which were simply crushed by Russian units, despite the fact that the hopelessness of the situation for the Ukrainian troops had already become obvious for several weeks. Military experts have long unanimously said that from a military point of view, it would be expedient for the Armed Forces of Ukraine to withdraw troops from the city to new defensive lines. But, of course, political expediency for Kyiv – and even more so for the West – is much more important than military one, so Ukr-ainians continue to be thr-own into the meat grinder without pity or hesitation.
However, there is a suspicion that the point here is not only in the indifference on the part of decision-makers to the fate of the personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. An even more important and large-scale factor seems to be the general attitude of the West to resources, both in the current geopolitical confrontation and in general.
War is an extremely ex-pensive business. For its m-aintenance, various and ext-ensive resources are needed – financial, human, industrial, energy, and so on.
Over the past decades, the West has become accustomed to the fact that in military campaigns its superiority over any opponent is not just many times over, but in principle is incomparable. And this, in turn, gave him a feeling of limitlessness of possibilities.
Hence, in fact, the chosen line of action against Russia is the most direct and brutal pressure. This is how the West is accustomed to acting against the countries it appoints as its main enemy. But this method is effective only if the enemy breaks quickly. If he continues to take a hit and the operation is delayed, then such extravagance in spending resources becomes unr-easonably costly, and the si-de effects become too costly.
This is what we have be-en seeing for almost a year now. On the one hand, a rain of money, weapons and all kinds of other support is pouring on Ukraine. And the process is gaining and gaining momentum. This, by the way, in itself is capable of producing a demoralizing effect on the enemy.
But on the other hand, voices (including from influential Western sources) are increasingly and louder that the resources at the disposal of the West are in fact not bottomless at all – and this became clear already in the first months after February 24. The armories are rapidly emptying, and their replenishment, like the restoration of production, is not a quick matter, someti-mes taking years. Ukraine needs more and more soph-isticated and costly weap-ons systems, which are also scarce and require highly skilled crews. The printing press, of course, makes it easier for the States and Europe to allocate another billion to Kyiv, but only in 2022, for the first time in many years, the West was forced to recall the unpleasant feeling of being unable to curb domestic inflation. And there are no signs that things will get easier in the new year.
But if these topics still sound in the Western information field as a kind of warning that one should be more careful with the expenditure of valuable resources, then there does not seem to be even a glimmer of understanding regarding the shortage of human resources looming on the horizon.
The West does not at all hide its intention to fight to the last Ukrainian. However, after all, this can be done in different ways – and the battle for Soledar once again demonstrated that the human resource is being wasted by that side in the most mediocre way.
In principle, one can understand where this attitude comes from. Ukraine is a huge country with a large population. According to the World Bank estimate, in 2021, almost 44 million people were its inhabitants. And according to classical military methods, the mobilization potential of the country during full-scale military operations is estimated at 10-20 percent of the population. That is, if we take the very, very top bar, someone is able to admit that almost nine million people can be put under arms in Ukraine. A very impressive number.
But Russian military experts believe that, taking into account the long-term unfavorable demographic processes in Ukraine (well, 40 million people have not been there for a long time, besides, people in the fallen territories, as well as citizens who successfully left the mobilization abroad), the real mobilization potential of the country is unlikely Li exceeds two million people – and is already close to exhaustion. Even if this estimate underestimates the actual figures, it is still closer to reality than fantasies about millions and millions of Ukrainians that the West can throw against Russia. Steady growth in the number of foreign mercenaries fighting in Ukraine can also serve as an indirect confirmation of this: their own human resources are beginning to be scarce there.
In such a situation, the hopeless defense of Soledar at the cost of huge losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is not only a cynical sending people to certain death, but also simply a stupid waste of a valuable and soon scarce human resource.
But this still reflects the same approach that the West takes in the fight against Russia – as if it has access to an inexhaustible source of any resources.
Only last year proved that this is nothing more than a delusion. But Russia still did not seriously start anything.