US Brigadier Gen. Mark Kimmitt: It's time to take off the gloves and show strength

"Opponents such as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un note the US's reluctance to support friends and allies such as Ukraine — a sentiment echoed by China as it surveys the Taiwan Strait"

by Sededin Dedovic
US Brigadier Gen. Mark Kimmitt: It's time to take off the gloves and show strength
© Bloomberg Television / Youtube channel

After six months of debate, the US finally adopted an additional aid package for Ukraine a few weeks ago. But while ammunition may soon reach troops on the front lines, the truth is that if the US and its allies don't change the way they support the war, it will likely be too little, too late, writes retired US General Mark T.

Kimmitt in an analysis for Politico. Two years ago, respected military analyst Seth Jones noticed that the Russian army was crumbling. But in a sharp reversal of fortune, he now expresses a far more worrying opinion that the Ukrainian army is "in an increasingly dangerous position against its Russian invaders." And while it's still too early to talk about defeat, Jones correctly noted that "without a clear American strategy and continuous supply of Western weapons, intelligence, and training, Putin could win." Such a strategy would require at least three elements to slow and reverse Russia's advance: first, the US administration and its NATO allies would have to loosen the restrictive rules of engagement they have set on equipment supplied by the West, allowing Ukraine to use said equipment to its full potential.

Britain has already relaxed engagement rules, but restrictions imposed by others, preventing Ukraine from conducting cross-border attacks and targeting key Russian deployment assets, such as the Black Sea Fleet, must cease.

Concerns about Russian escalation have led to Western inaction. But if Israel's response to last month's Iranian drone and missile attack showed anything, it's that a strong response — not self-deterrence — is the best way to counter totalitarian threats.

Autocrats see restraint and caution as signs of weakness; they see strength in resolve.

3: British troops stand by a Abram battle tank as they wait for Polands Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, NATO Secretary General, Jen© Omar Marques / Getty Images

Second, it's time to take greater risks with American and Western military actions.

While the supplement allows US President Joe Biden to dip into existing stocks of weapons and ammunition, a vast amount of ready and lethal equipment remains reserved for other emergencies worldwide, training, and testing.

This accumulation of resources is entirely understandable, as commanders worldwide want to ensure that they are, as General Paul LaCamera – the US commander in South Korea – always reminds his troops: "ready to fight, tonight." However, failure in Ukraine could trigger the very wars our soldiers in places like Korea are prepared to fight.

Adversaries like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un notice US hesitancy to support friends and allies – so does China as it looks across the Taiwan Strait. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky needs more ammunition, and commanders like LaCamera should see the implications for their missions if Ukraine falls into Russian hands – even if it comes at the expense of their stocks.

Overall, US military officials note that the current risk in supporting Ukraine is "manageable," but it's time to take a little more risk and delve deeper into those stocks to prevent potential defeat. Winning wars is costly, but nowhere near as costly as losing.

Additionally, while delving into these stocks should be a temporary expedience, war has revealed a major problem in the logistics of warfare. Even if the supplement was adopted in October last year, we now know that the US military production base – and that of its European allies — is too small to support even a medium-sized conventional war like Ukraine's.

Another war would be catastrophic. For example, although Herculean efforts have doubled US artillery shell production to 28,000 per month, Russia is firing an average of 10,000 shells per day. Russian units on the Ukrainian front lines may be suffering horrific casualty rates, but that's not due to a lack of logistics.

Finally, the US administration needs to provide much more leadership to inspire the West to stay in this fight. Democracies are impatient, and other global events often shift focus. Already, Gaza and the potential for a regional war in the Middle East, upcoming US presidential elections, and trials of former President Donald Trump are diverting attention from the worsening situation in Ukraine.

The Biden administration must remind the American people, at every opportunity, of the cost of failure in Ukraine. And that focus must also include a major public awareness campaign to address the serious manpower imbalance in this war — Russia currently has a three-to-one advantage in available military forces.

So, while Ukrainians know they face an existential threat, Russia does not face such a dilemma. The West has been subjected to Russian propaganda and psychological warfare for years, but we have an equally robust set of tools – and it's time to fully utilize them.

The congressional addition was necessary but not sufficient to reverse the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. It's time to loosen the handcuffs we put on Zelenskiy and allow him to use the weapons and equipment we provide.

Ukraine China