I have had several people flag a recent article in 1945 by Daniel Davis. I do not know the man but one friend, who fought alongside Davis, credits him as a brave man under fire. So this is not an attack on his character. But as I said to my knowledgeable friend, “Bravery under combat does not mean one is qualified to do analysis.” I think the article by Davis is a benchmark of sorts because it signals that someone who in previous articles was a strong supporter of the Ukraine narrative (i.e., Ukraine is winning) is having some serious second thoughts. Let me break it down.
Davis’ opening observation qualifies as “No Shit Analysis.”
The unchallenged assumption among the majority of senior U.S. and NATO officials is that for as long as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues, one of the West’s most preferred policy outcomes of the war will be perpetually met: weakening Russia. Going unnoticed by most Western leaders, however, there is an emerging risk that the longer the war continues, Russia will grow stronger, not weaker.
Risk? With all due respect Colonel Davis, we’re already there. Even the New York Times conceded last week that Russia is producing double the artillery shells in one year (two million) that the U.S. hopes to produce in the next two years. Russia’s economy is doing just fine and its defense industry has shifted into overdrive.
Who is being weakened? Well, Ukraine for starters. It is losing population through emigration. Its industrial based is being steadily whittled away by Russian missiles and bombs. And its army is suffering catastrophic casualties and there is no solution on the horizon for replacing those loses with trained troops. But it is not just Ukraine. NATO also is being weakened. None of its previous supplies of tanks, M777s, Himars, ATGMs and Bradley fighting vehicles have worked as hoped. Those are being destroyed on a regular basis and there are dwindling supplies in Western warehouses.
As bitter a pill as it would be to swallow, such consideration may reveal that pursuing a negotiated end to the war, with the best deal for Kyiv as possible, could be the path that best secures American and NATO interests.
Davis is right that negotiations are the only hope of staunching the damage NATO is suffering, but he is making a faulty assumption — i.e., that Russia is willing to entertain such negotiations. I am not privy to the conversations between Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov, but I am confident that nobody in a position of power in Russia trusts the United States or NATO to deal honestly. Russia realizes that the West is scrambling to buy time to figure out a way to re-arm Ukraine and train up a new army. Why would Russia entertain such a crazy proposal?
Colonel Davis demonstrates a complete ignorance of Russia’s capabilities and what has happened during the past year. He writes:
Russia’s air force, despite its technological and numerical superiority over Ukraine, had suffered loss and was unable to achieve air supremacy over its foe. Moscow’s ground forces continued to make grave tactical blunders that exposed significant weaknesses in the very formation of their army. It’s logistics system was dysfunctional. It suffered two major battlefield losses in Kharkiv and Kherson regions in late 2022, forcing Putin to order an emergency mobilization of 300,000 men – who proved to be of very low quality.
By the end of the summer of 2023, Russia had been reported to have lost half its tanks and a staggering 300,000 troops reported to have been killed and wounded. By any objective measure, Austin’s goal of weakening Russia was being graphically accomplished.
This is abject nonsense. Russia has achieved air supremacy, it’s logistics system is doing better than the West predicted and the mobilized Russian forces, unlike their Ukrainian counterparts, have been well trained and are on par, if not superior, to anything the West could put on the front. Moreover, there is no credible evidence that Russia lost “half its tanks.” Just the opposite. Russia suffered minimal losses but has expanded significantly its production of tanks. And what is the West doing? Husbanding tanks that it can no longer produce on a mass scale and watching them being blown up by Russia. If Russia really is weakened, as Davis claims, then why in the hell would the West push for negotiations. We got Putin on the ropes.
Davis concedes that Russia’s situation is far from dire:
The Washington Post on Friday published an analysis of Ukraine’s offensive and found that Russia had “learned from its mistakes” and was performing in an improved and professional way in its “well-ordered defense” system. A recent CNBC report found that “Russia’s tactical adaptation” from its disastrous start, have resulted in the emergency of a “coordinated and reactive armed force…and one that’s particularly strong on the defensive.”
Davis is still hostage to the West’s propaganda narrative. He insists:
While Putin’s troops are reported to have suffered even more casualties than Ukraine, there is a math problem for Kyiv: Russia has millions more military-aged males available to be mobilized than does Ukraine.
Those reports are wrong Daniel. Ukraine’s casualties exceed Russia’s by a factor of 10 and, as I have written repeatedly, the social media accounts and even Ukrainian officials tell a different story. But you are right, even if Russia had suffered the losses you claimed, they can absorb those losses. Ukraine cannot.
Daniel Davis’ is besotted with the Western fantasy that what is unfolding in Ukraine is a “stalemate.” Davis and others in the Pentagon fail to understand the Russian strategy underlying the Special Military Operation — i.e., attrit the Ukrainian military to the point that it can no longer fight:
Thus, at this moment nearing the end of the UAF’s summer offensive, after a year and a half of inconclusive war, the war’s outcome cannot be predicted with any certainty. It remains at least conceivable that either Ukraine or Russia could prevail.
Nope. There are two ways Ukraine “can prevail” — No Way and No Way in Hell. Ain’t going to happen. The West no longer has the ability or the will to flood Ukraine with modern weapon systems and tanks. More importantly, Ukraine does not have the trained troops required to operate those weapons even if they could be provided.
Colonel Davis is detached from reality. He posits as a possibility something that is already a reality:
Faced with an existential threat, nuclear-armed Russia, with its vast natural resources, could muster the necessary focus to improve its army to the point Ukraine will eventually be unable to keep pace, and therefore it is not out of the realm of possibility Russia could win this war.
Russia has the requisite forces and Ukraine already is demonstrating it cannot keep pace.
Maybe Daniel Davis actually knows that the jig is up but, fearing being ostracized if he admits the truth, is playing the game of “what if.”
It is crucial, therefore, that the Administration establish a set of criteria whereby we would have strong indications, well before a collapse occurs, that an irrevocable point has been reached. If such a point-of-no-return moment is reached, the U.S. will have no choice but to change policies and put as much energy as possible behind finding a diplomatic path to a negotiated end.
Word to the good Colonel — we have reached that irrevocable point. Like a chicken without a head, Ukraine is running frantically in circles not realizing it is dying.
Davis believes that American leadership can still salvage the impending debacle:
Ultimately, the American government’s number one obligation (not merely responsibility) is to the people of the United States. We must not allow the situation to deteriorate to the point we have a repeat of the debacle that we passively watched unfold in Afghanistan for years. The Administration must at least actively prepare and consider the possibility that our preferred outcome may not come to pass, and should take steps to guard against it.
Colonel Davis, I speak to you directly, there is nothing the U.S. can do at this point to alter the outcome short of starting a nuclear war. Russia is no longer fighting this war alone. It has the backing of China and many nation’s in the Global South. America’s economic dominance is being carved up and our foreign policy influence is in tatters. Previous allies, like Saudi Arabia, have turned their back on America. The Saudis have re-established diplomatic relations with Iran, welcomed Syria back into the Arab league, ended the American-backed war in Yemen and is working with Russia to counter America’s feckless attempt to put a cap on oil prices.
Like the Titantic, America’s foolish venture to fracture Russia is sinking. They only thing left to do is find a life boat and pray that we don’t drown. The following scene from Titanic is an apt methapor: