Why the United States Military is Clueless When it Comes to Ukraine

by | Dec 11, 2023

The two-part Washington Post report on the failed Ukraine counter offensive was written primarily to blame Ukraine for the debacle and exonerate the United States. My analysis of those articles (here and here) highlighted astounding miscalculations and malpractice by U.S. and NATO advisors. The fundamental flaw is the U.S. military personnel are pretending to have experience that they do not have. The U.S. military is like a Driver’s Education school. They are qualified and competent to teach students how to drive a car on city streets. They can teach how to drive in reverse, how to parallel park and how to navigate getting on to a super highway. But they are not qualified to teach GT race car drivers how to be competitive at the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Indianapolis 500.

The Ukrainian counter offensive required having trained soldiers with a mix of skill and competence similar to that required of professional race car drivers. But they were not properly trained. They got the equivalent of a driver’s education class. Guess what happens when you put those “students” in a race with professional drivers? Yep. Massive car wreck.

To extend the race car metaphor, professional drivers also have the best equipment and crew teams ready to service those vehicles if there is a problem. Ukraine was given a patchwork system of NATO tanks and personnel carriers that lacked standardization (several of us wrote about this earlier this year, including Brian Berletic, Doug MacGregor, Scott Ritter and me) and proved unreliable in combat conditions.

Another major flaw that sabotaged the Ukrainian attack at the outset was the lack of air power. No NATO army in history has successfully attacked a heavily defended position without the benefit of fixed and rotary wing aircraft providing close air support to troops on the ground. Russia controlled the air, not Ukraine and certainly not NATO. And Russia had something critical that Ukraine did not — first-class air defense and drone capabilities.

I also want to re-visit a point I raised about the intelligence failure on the part of Ukraine. Where did they get the information that indicated the Russian armed forces were weak, poorly trained, weighted down with lousy morale, and lacking in adequate supplies of artillery shells and ammunition? My initial assumption was that this was a fabricated information op by Western intelligence. But I am now inclined to believe this was a Russian deception operation — Maskirovka. Given the robust NATO ISR capabilities that were shared freely with Ukraine, it would be virtually impossible for Russia to mask its troop and vehicle movements. Did the Russian General Staff feed the West bogus intelligence about the quality and competence of Russian forces in order to lull them into a false sense of security? That may be a more accurate explanation for the gross miscalculation of Western planners.

When the post-mortem is written on the defeat of Ukraine, those tasked with that mission need only by the books written by Andrei Martyanov since 2017. He predicted all of this. The biggest problem is the self-delusion of the United States. The American people have been bamboozled into believing that our multi-billion dollar military is the best in the world. It is not. It is the most expensive, but well shy of being the best. For the last 60 years the United States has wasted money and the blood of its youth in fighting guerrillas, insurgents, goat herder and camel jockeys.

At no time has the West squared up against a peer military with comparable, if not superior, air power, electronic warfare and combined arms experience, until now. The United States and its NATO partners created a de facto NATO army in Ukraine and naively assumed they could go toe-to-toe with Russia. I fear that the U.S. politicians and military leaders still fail to grasp that the “war” in Ukraine really was a special military operation. Russia did not unleash its full capabilities. The Russian General Staff, following the guidance received from President Putin, took great pains to avoid massive civilian casualties. Russia left a majority of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure in place. Russia declined to destroy Ukraine and the West’s ISR platforms and satellite systems. Those actions are what you would see if Russia went on a total war footing.

The fellow who runs the History Legends podcast provided a great summary of the new Russian offensive that is underway. I recommend you watch it.

Brian Berletic, a lowly Marine enlisted guy in his previous life, has outshined every four star General in his analysis of Ukraine’s military prospects. Generals Petraeus and Hodges, along with the Institute for the Study of War, should have the grace to apologize for their repeated claims of imminent victory by Ukraine. Berletic’s latest also is worth you time.

Reprinted with permission from Sonar21.com.


  • Larry C. Johnson

    Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group).

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