Eighty percent of all Russian boys born in 1923 were dead by 1945, or so states a recent article. Although without citation, it’s a reasonable figure given the former Soviet Union’s total estimated losses of 27 million in the war with Nazi Germany. Nothing in the American experience—not even the Civil War—compares in magnitude to the horrific loss of life experienced by the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War.
Since February of last year, following nearly a decade of veritable genocide by the Ukrainian government against the Russian speaking population of the Donbas, Russia has again found itself engaged in an existential war against Nazis, this time their Ukrainian heirs, who astonishingly are supported at great expense by the United States and other NATO members.
Indeed, under the ruse of the Minsk accords which they never intended to honor, the West stood up the first of no less than three armies since defeated by the Russians.
The West’s stated objectives are to weaken Russia, topple the government of Vladimir Putin, and ultimately to carve up Russia and obtain access to its vast natural resources on concessionary terms. The stated Russian objectives are to denatzify and demilitarize the Ukraine, prevent its territory from ever hosting a NATO base, and ultimately to roll back NATO to its 1990 borders.
The genesis of the conflict lies in the Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO eastward contrary to the representations of the first Bush administration at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. When NATO’s expansion threatened to reach Russia’s border by the addition of Ukraine, the Western alliance crossed a long-stated and very bright Russian red line. See B. Schwarz et al., “Why Are We in Ukraine,” Harper’s (June 2023). It was a provocation that produced—intentionally—the very result long foreseen by knowledgeable experts on Russian foreign policy, including George F. Kennan (“Mr. X”), the late Prof. Stephen F. Cohen, Prof. John Mearsheimer, and current CIA director William J. Burns in 2008 while he was ambassador to Russia. For a detailed timeline, see J. D. Sachs, “The Real History of the War in Ukraine,” The Kennedy Beacon (July 17, 2023).
Prior to Ukraine’s long-advertised but catastrophically unsuccessful spring/summer counteroffensive, the history of the conflict was concisely reviewed in a sponsored ad in the New York Times: “The U.S. Should Be a Force for Peace in the World,” Eisenhower Media Network (May 2023). Signed by a number of former military officers as well as Jack Matlock, U.S. Ambassador to the U.S.S.R., 1987-91, and author of Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, and Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, the ad stated: “We cannot and will not endorse the strategy of fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.” Or as sometimes stated in Washington and other NATO capitals: “Whatever it takes, for as long as it takes.”
From the outset, mainstream media coverage of the war consisted almost entirely of regurgitated Western propaganda, much of it flagrantly inaccurate or just plain wrong. However, at the same time a number of highly credible military analysts, commentators and reporters in the alternate media were covering the war in depth and distressing detail.* In their virtually unanimous opinion, the mismatch in men and materiel was such that absent full scale intervention on the ground by NATO forces, Ukraine had no reasonable prospect of victory.
These sources were unanimous in describing the war as bloody mismatch, a “meat grinder” with Ukrainian casualties often running at five or more times those of the Russians, who had the reverse advantage in number of artillery shells fired, not to mention dominance in the air and overwhelming superiority in standoff weapons. Under these conditions, notwithstanding increased supplies of more potent but still inferior weapons by the West, the Ukrainian spring/summer counteroffensive was doomed to failure.
Indeed, even before that offensive began, Ukrainian losses were so high as to compel resort to impressing teenage boys and old men. With minimal if any training, their survival time at the front was frequently counted in hours, not days. Worse, if they retreated rather than engage in suicidal attacks, not infrequently they were shot in the back by Ukrainian “enforcers”—an undisputed war crime. Not surprisingly then, by the time of NATO’s July 2023 meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, the failure of the much heralded Ukrainian counteroffensive was as undeniable as its staggering cost in lost men and destroyed materiel.
What is more, the NATO nations themselves were reaching the limits of their ability to provide continued support. Indeed, unable to meet Ukraine’s need for artillery shells, the U.S. was reduced to sending internationally banned cluster munitions. According to the U.S. Secretary of State, Ukraine would have been “defenseless” without them. Elon Musk’s judgment was more damning: “…debasing ourselves with no change to the outcome.”
From the outset, full NATO intervention was rejected by President Biden. Nor did it have much support among other alliance members. In any event, it was beyond the physical capability of the West’s existing or readily available resources of men, materiel and productive capacity. The West’s other major “weapon” against Russia failed early in the conflict as its ill-considered economic sanctions boomeranged, inflicting far more damage on European economies than on Russia’s. Accordingly, short of escalation over the nuclear threshold, the West’s strategy never amounted to more than “to fight to last Ukrainian,” to try to weaken Russia as much as possible, and to leave Ukraine a broken, hardly viable state.
Indeed, the NATO nations were so determined to pursue this strategy at Ukraine’s expense that they demanded it withdraw from an early initialed peace treaty negotiated with the Russians. And later, doubling down on failure, they insisted that Ukraine carry out its spring/summer counteroffensive even as it became obvious that without air support that offensive could not succeed. By August, 18 months into the war and two into the offensive, an informed estimate based on figures from official Russian sources put Ukraine’s total KIAs at well over 300,000, implying total military casualties approaching one million.** See also video of Col. Douglas Macgregor (ret.) discussing situation of the Ukrainian army at end of July 2023.
This slaughter is the direct result of the West’s total failure to understand and appreciate not only the legitimate geopolitical interests of Russia but also that nation’s real underlying strengths in both the economic and the military spheres. Ironically, initiated as a war of choice by the West, the conflict has now become as existential for NATO as for Russia.
The leading advocates of the West’s strategy—“the pimps of war”—were and are well-known neocons in the Biden administration, former supporters of the forever wars in the Middle East, now paradoxically allied with Ukrainian neo-Nazis in a post-Holocaust vendetta driven by their mutual hatred of Russia. However, at the military level this strategy called for a full scale proxy war directed from the Pentagon, a war that quickly became by far Europe’s largest since World War II.
For the past four years, from October 1, 2019, until his term ends on September 30 of this year, General Mark A. Milley, BHS ‘76, Distinguished Alumni Award 2015, has served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking officer in the U.S. military. Prior to that he served four years as army chief of staff, making his time at the highest levels of the nation’s military coterminous with its involvement in the Russia-Ukraine-NATO war.
Gen. Milley’s tenure at the JCS has not been without controversies, to put it mildly. Some related to military readiness: vaccine mandates, woke training, recruitment shortfalls; others to his relationship with the president: participation in President Trump’s visit to St. John’s Church in Lafayette Park during the George Floyd protests, direct contact with his Chinese counterpart during the change in administrations, the ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan. As he fades into retirement in the wake of the Ukraine debacle, Gen. Milley will be remembered as among America’s losingest military commanders.
In a speech to the National Defense University, Gen. Milley apologized for his role in the Lafayette Park event. What is more, after that incident he drafted a scorching letter of resignation to President Trump, but a letter on which he never pulled the trigger. In the final paragraph he noted:
Between 1914 and 1945, 150 million people were slaughtered in the conduct of war. They were slaughtered because of tyrannies and dictatorships. [The Greatest Generation], like every generation, has fought against that, has fought against fascism, has fought against Nazism, has fought against extremism.
If there were ever occasion for sober appraisal of the national interest to trump extremism, for strong character to trump high position, for the bonds of humanity to trump the slaughter of innocents, Gen. Milley faced it almost daily as the West’s supreme commander in the Ukraine war. Yet if again he considered resignation, again he could not pull the trigger.
He never wrote and delivered the resignation letter that, while perhaps not ending or even curtailing the bloodshed, might at least have awakened the American people to the true facts and human costs of the war, information that—with his connivance—their government was actively concealing. Instead, he clung to his post as the West’s war strategy, grounded on mistaken policy and implemented by incompetent military thinking, dead-ended in shameful promotion of pointless slaughter, but yet flirting with Armageddon.
Serving closer to the center of national power than any Belmont Hill graduate before him, Gen. Milley failed the test of character for which the School had tried to prepare him. His Distinguished Alumni Award, like President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, anticipated what was fairly expected but never came.
*See, e.g., Col. Douglas Macgregor (ret.), former senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense; Larry Johnson, former CIA and Department of State official; Andrei Martyanov, author of several “must read” books on modern combined operations warfare; Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector; and widely respected war commentators at The Duran, The New Atlas and the Military Summary channel.
**For comparison, over the 20 years (1955-1975) of the Vietnam War, the U.S. lost almost 60,000 killed-in-action and over 150,000 wounded out of a then population at least four times greater than the population of Ukraine at the start of the current war.