USA, TUESDAY 19 JULY 2022 07:00
The following discussion covers why NATO should directly intervene in the Russian-Ukraine War, the threat of a global nuclear conflict and the possibility of defeating Russia in a year – in an interview with RBC-Ukraine, a retired American Brigadier General, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mark Arnold shares his views.
It will soon be five months since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. So far, there is no end in sight to the fighting. Kremlin is going to continue the occupation of the Ukrainian Donbass and annex part of the already occupied territories.
Ukraine is accumulating forces and weapons in preparation for a large-scale counteroffensive and the liberation of its entire territory, and the West promises to help us in this as much as possible.
But the retired US Army Brigadier General Mark Arnold believes that it is still too early to talk about transition to the “war of attrition” stage. At the same time, in his opinion, Ukraine and the West should aim to defeat Russia by military means within a year.
And this is quite realistic – but on the condition that NATO or a smaller coalition led by the United States will be directly involved in the war, in its air component. This is necessary to show Russia, and indeed any other nuclear state, that they cannot even conduct conventional warfare against their neighbors, while hiding behind nuclear weapons as a shield.
Mark Arnold served in the US Army for 37 years, mainly in the Special Forces (“Green Berets”), participated in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, served as the top manager of a number of large companies in the United States, currently is on the supervisory boards and boards of directors of a number NGOs and Universities.
– The resistance of the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian society has been going on for a period of five months. In general, observing this war from a professional point of view, how do you assess the actions of the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian military leadership?
– The Ukrainian Army, all of the Ukrainian military performed brilliantly. Obviously, this exceeded all expectations of the Western countries.
The Ukrainian army is flexible and allows its junior commanders to make personal decisions and take the initiative when they see opportunities. The top military leadership balances well with the limited number of troops it has between threats emanating from Belarus in the north, threats to Kharkov, Donbass and the southern regions of Ukraine. Your top military leadership has been excellent in its operational decisions.
– As you said, few people in the world expected that our army and the country as a whole could be so resilient. Was this the reason why Ukraine did not receive enough military assistance in the first weeks of war? After all, many analysts predicted the imminent defeat of Ukraine – therefore, they did not see the any point in giving us anything.
– This is probably the most significant reason why Ukraine was not armed properly. But frankly speaking, arming Ukraine in the first weeks of the war was not the biggest mistake.
Have NATO and Western countries really worked closely enough with Ukraine over the past eight years to build a credible military deterrent in Ukraine? This perhaps, could of prevented the war in the first place.
– Does Ukraine currently receive enough weapons that it needs?
– Ukraine is already receiving some of the best weapons from the West. Much more is needed but the problem is that the production capacity of Western countries to manufacture weapons and improve ammunitions, it is at the level of peacetime, not wartime. Until February of this year, the West did not create its own stocks of conventional weapons and ammunitions with the purpose of withstanding a protracted war.
– So you see the problem in the fact that many Western countries continue to think the way they thought in peacetime, they have not transformed and have not understood that we are now in a different world, after 24th of February?
– NATO and other Western countries that support Ukraine see this as a completely different world. We can also talk about how quickly NATO has changed over the past three months.
But there is a problem with the supply of high-tech weapons that Ukraine needs, as well as simple supplies of low-tech weapons and vehicles from the West. After all, it is very difficult for the West to quickly increase its ability to repair preposition stocks of military equipment for delivery to Ukraine, and to produce more advanced weapons and ammunition. It’s a long and complex supply chain. And it will not be possible to quickly increase these production capacities.
– Does this mean that in some foreseeable future Ukraine should not hope for a rapid increase in these deliveries because it is technically impossible?
– I think that there can definitely be an increase in supplies to Ukraine. What will be difficult is to supply Ukraine on a long-term basis.
– Let’s move on to more specific types of weapons. What Ukraine needs most now?
– Ukraine’s path to victory in this war begins now with what is called a “deep operation.” And a deep operation is the destruction of Russian fuel supplies, transport hubs, command centers, ammunition depots, and Russia’s production capacity of fuel within Russia itself. Therefore, Ukraine needs modern long-range and medium-range weapons to fight this battle.
Ukraine needs to have enough conventional equipment and weapons, professionally trained military to force the Russians out of Ukraine, including Crimea. I can’t give exact numbers but this requires more advanced shock drones.
Aviation of all types is needed, including the special operations. We need ground personnel and infrastructure for it as well. This can be achieved within one year if the West allocates enough resources to repair and modernize its prepositioned stocks of military equipment and supplies to Ukraine, and also continue to train Ukrainians with complex equipment like aviation.
– A clear military victory over Russia – the return of control over our entire territory, including Crimea, by military means – is it practically possible?
– I think that this is possible because the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian soldiers have the motivation to achieve this. While the West has the ability to provide Ukraine with weapons to defeat Russia within one year.
– But I want to go further. In the West, I will be in the minority (with my own opinion – ed.). I believe that Ukraine needs Western air power to defeat Russia in the next few months, within the next year.
– You are talking about NATO’s more direct military involvement in the war, right?
– Yes, I believe that NATO or a smaller coalition led by the United States should set the goal of defeating Russia in Ukraine – with the help of their air force and use of Ukrainian land, naval and air forces.
– I believe that Russia should not be permitted to use nuclear threats as a shield. This type of shield could be used by any nuclear power that realizes its evil goals via the means of using its conventional military forces. I believe that the West only encourages more aggression by giving in to these threats.
– From your perspective direct participation of NATO or a smaller coalition forces in the war could be feasible in practice? Does this mean some kind of no-fly zone over Ukraine? Seeing Americans, Poles or Lithuanians fly their fighter jets over Ukraine and shooting directly at the Russians?
– All of it is very difficult, that is why almost all analysts and political leaders would like to avoid it. It will take months to implement this. Air Force and Air Defense in Poland, in areas bordering Ukraine, coalition and command structure – are able to do this. At the same time, Ukraine is a key partner in this coalition.
We ourselves have brave men who will provide close air support and rescue our pilots when they are shot at and some of them will definitely be shot down.
– Talking about the possibility of direct participation in the war, Western political leaders say that they must do something to reduce the damage from this war, but not to increase its scale. This is a popular argument that has been made thousands and thousands of times. You do not see the risk of turning this war into a real global third world war, with the use of nuclear weapons?
– It’s possible. But in every war there is a threat of escalation, including this one. I believe that the forces within Russia, the political forces within it, would prevent Russia from initiating a nuclear war.
I believe that the threat to Russia in form of overwhelming power, nuclear power of the West and overwhelming conventional military power of the West should be used to support Ukraine. Setting an example that nuclear powers cannot use their conventional forces to attack innocent democracies while threatening to use their nuclear weapons. Refusal to use NATO Forces or coalition aviation is a strategic mistake for us.
– But so far, you are seeing signs that this war is turning into a war of attrition and could drag on for years, and are Ukraine and Russia really fully prepared for such a long, protracted war?
– I don’t think the war has already turned into a war of attrition. We are not at this stage yet. Yes, the war can drag on for years. Russia could mobilize its reserves, significantly increase its military conscription and its production capacity for low-tech armored vehicles, weapons and ammunition for a long war.
Russia under Putin will not stop. Even a negotiated ceasefire will only be temporary. Putin does not want a democratic Ukraine strengthened by modern weapons with a large and professionally trained army. That is why I believe that Ukraine must end this war by military means and it begins with that “deep operation” that I spoke about.
It is vital that this happens because it will destroy Putin’s credibility and ultimately Putin’s power in Russia.
– Is it correct to say that Russia has already lost this war on a strategic level? Even if Russia can still win some small victories, it can capture another city, but at the strategic level, Russia has already lost this war, given the global coalition around Ukraine, assistance to Ukraine and sanctions against the Russian Federation?
– Yes, I agree that Russia lost the war on a strategic level, because the West and NATO are more determined than ever to build a conventional deterrence system and NATO’s main threat has been declared to be Russia.
Unfortunately, I believe that the time is favorable for Russia in this war. Russia under Putin is in an endless war with Ukraine. As I said before, Ukraine has the resilience of its people, its soldiers and the motivation to defeat Russia. Ukraine can win.
But the West may get tired of supporting a protracted war. Ukraine needs over $5 billion every month to keep its economy going. And the West will not pull it out economically. Therefore, I believe that Ukraine must win, and it must win within the next year.
– You have already said that NATO has changed a lot in the last few months. Can you explain the essence of these changes?
– We see news that Sweden and Finland will join NATO before the end of this year. NATO member countries have now decided to finally invest more in their conventional armed forces. The increase in the rapid reaction force to 300,000 people is big news. These are just some of the illustrations of how NATO has changed.
– In your opinion, what is the real goal of the West, in particular the United States, in this war? There is an opinion that the total defeat of Russia, with its probable disintegration into several formations, is not considered the best option in the West, because then a war between these formations is possible, as well as uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons. Instead, the West would very much like to see a weakened Russia as much as possible, but still not disintegrated. Do you agree with this opinion?
– Leaders and analysts in the West simply don’t see the collapse of the Russian Federation as a likely possibility, no matter how this war ends. What is probable with a weakened Russia are reforms in Russia, while maintaining its current federation. Reforms in Russia are possible only when Ukraine wins.
– The war in Ukraine is at the top of all American Mass Media. In your opinion, as an American, how does the current war in Ukraine differ from other wars, such as Iraq, Afghan, in which the United States was directly involved, in the perception of the general public?
– Attacks against terrorism have been at the root of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then those wars also became focused on trying to create democratic societies while continuing to fight terrorist organizations. These are concepts that the Americans have supported, but not the protracted wars.
The vast majority of Americans see the Russian-Ukrainian war very differently. They see a nuclear-armed nation as a military dictatorship relentlessly attacking its innocent democratic neighbor. Americans love democratic underdog nations. In my city (Columbus, Ohio), many people hung the Ukrainian flag on their homes.
– Can the world community do something to make such war crimes, crimes against the civilian population, against humanity, which were committed by the Russians in Bucha, in Irpen and in many other cities of Ukraine, become impossible in the future, so that this would never happen again in the 21st century?
– Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to make future massive war crimes impossible. The prevention of war and war crimes is one of the goals of the United Nations. The way to avoid war with a military dictatorship like Russia is through conventional military deterrence.
This war must be ended as soon as possible, because otherwise there will be more Russian war crimes and Ukrainians will continue to suffer. Putin wants to grind Ukraine into fine ashes and is ready to spend many years on this. That’s why I believe we need to end this war as soon as possible.
It is also clear to me that Russia threatens the security of NATO. And some part of NATO will become the next target of Russian aggression. It will start slowly, in an unconventional manner, with cyber-attacks, political interference through information operations, and attempts to spark civil wars in Western countries. And this will likely be followed by a Russian attempt to annex territories in Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. NATO can avoid this by continuing to isolate Russia, by supporting NATO’s democratic systems, and by strengthening its conventional military deterrence.