Russia suffers a “catastrophic strategic catastrophe” in Ukraine

Russia suffers a “catastrophic strategic catastrophe” in Ukraine

Colin H. Cale, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, told Defense Writers Group yesterday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a “disastrous strategic disaster.”

He briefed the group on the national defense strategy and said the document identifies China as a rapid threat to the United States, but Russia as an acute threat. “This term is acute, it was chosen on purpose because it denotes both immediate and acute,” he said.

China has the will and resources to challenge the United States and the rules-based international order that has kept peace since the end of World War II. But Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine shows that it is a dangerous and reckless country.

Speaking on Election Day, reporters asked Cal if US support for Ukraine has bipartisan support. “I think there is widespread recognition that the stakes in Ukraine are greater than in Ukraine,” he said.

He said elected officials of both parties understand that Ukraine is not only fighting to defend its independence and democracy but also for principle. “We don’t want to live in a world where big countries think they can swallow their smaller neighbors,” Cal said. “This is a recipe for global turmoil and great nations are on the march. We’ve lived in a world like this before: it was called the 1930s. It ended with the largest catastrophic global conflict in human history.”

The rules-based system is in place to prevent this naked appropriation of resources and power. “We don’t want to live in a world where the rules of the international system are torn apart, because the strong do what they want, and the weak have to suffer what they have to do,” he said.

Cal chart the progress made by Ukraine. The Ukrainian army defeated the initial Russian campaign to capture the capital, Kyiv, and forced the Russians to retreat to the east.

Recently, the Ukrainian army launched a counterattack against Russian forces in the northeastern part of the country outside Kharkiv. The Ukrainian army also installed the lines in the Donbass and the army continues to make methodical advances around Kherson.

“There are some indications that the Russians intend to withdraw to the eastern bank of the Dnieper,” he said. “They are repositioning their forces in some way that can be interpreted as providing cover for an orderly withdrawal so that they don’t have the kind of unorganized withdrawal that happened in Kharkiv.”

He remains cautious, noting that there are still tens of thousands of Russian troops in Ukraine. “We have to see how that happens,” he said.

Winter may or may not end the fighting in the country. The “mud season” has already begun in Ukraine, which makes operations even more difficult.

“But I can say one thing with confidence: Russia has already suffered a massive strategic failure,” he said. “This will not change.”

The undersecretary said that Putin’s goal is to eliminate Ukraine as an independent and sovereign democracy. “He has failed and this will not change. A sovereign, independent and democratic Ukraine will continue,” he said.

Cal said Putin wanted to demonstrate that Russia remains a world power with an extraordinarily overwhelming military. Victory over Ukraine will allow Russia to coerce and intimidate its neighbors. “Putin has failed,” he said. “Russia will come out of this war weaker than it entered it.”

The Russian army lost tens of thousands of Ukrainian cannons and bombs. “They probably lost half of their main battle tanks,” he said.

The Russians expended the majority of their precision-guided munitions with no chance of replenishing their stockpiles due to the sanctions and export controls imposed on the nation for the invasion. “They will not come out of this war stronger; they will come out of this war much weaker than what they entered,” Cale said.

Putin also believed that war would divide the West. “It produced just the opposite,” he said. “NATO is more united than ever. We are on the edge of Sweden and Finland, and may even join the alliance, making the alliance much stronger against Russia.”

“I don’t know what winning looks like,” he said. “But I know that Russia will not achieve the goals set by Vladimir Putin. This is very much a guarantee.”

The United States and like-minded countries will continue to provide the appropriate level of assistance to Ukraine. The United States will also work with like-minded nations to confront and deter Russia.

“Whatever that appropriate level of assistance is, we are committed to making sure it continues, if for no other reason, because … Vladimir Putin has a theory of victory here,” Cale said. “And his theory of victory is that he will wait for all of us.”

Putin believes that the West will tire of war, war-induced inflation, and high energy prices. “I think it’s our duty to all tell him, it’s not going to work,” Cale said.

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