Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro has warned publicly that the US will not be able to continue providing weapon and material support for Ukraine unless weapons manufacturers increase production in the next six months. SecNav’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question about remarks made by Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Caudle had said the US could be forced to decide later this year whether to arm itself or Ukraine. Doing both might not be possible.
This was bound to happen sooner or later. In all likelihood the warnings have been on the radar of the White House and Pentagon for some time. Now the time is approaching when action must be taken. Del Toro stated the US is not to that point yet, but the supply chain will be stressed if the war in Ukraine lasts another six months. To be fair, the estimate should be more along the lines of 4 months in expectation of a possible major offensive by Russian forces in the spring.
The Pentagon has been pressuring defense contractors to increase production for some time now but the shortages continue and by recent accounts seem to be worsening. Let’s be fair. Keeping Ukraine supplied in wartime is a task that is causing problems and concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. A number of European nations have practically emptied their ammunition and weapons lockers and sent everything they could spare east. And then some. The flow of weapons and material to Ukraine has slowed, due in part at least to the reality that many European nations can’t afford to part with additional weapons, ammunition and other wartime materials.
Now US commanders and Pentagon officials are hinting that a similar situation could loom ahead for the US military. Not surprising in the least. But in the face of promises to assist Taiwan’s military buildup and the prospect of a clash with Chinese forces being accepted as possible, this is not the time for the US to contend with weapon delivery delays and such. At the end of the day, US national security trumps that of Ukraine.
Nine months into the war finds Ukraine’s allies struggling to keep Ukraine supplied with arms and ammunition. As a rule, expenditure of ammunition and material in a war will exceed pre-war estimates. Ukraine is a classic example of this, requiring an almost constant resupply from the West to keep its armies fighting. Both Russia and Ukraine are burning through ammo and material at a pace not seen in Europe since World War II. This incessant demand for weapons, ammunition and other material is starting to wear down European, and even US supplies and war stocks. Armories in many NATO nations have been stripped of artillery, anti-tank missiles, ammunition and air defense missiles for Ukraine. There is dangerously little remaining in NATO stockpiles. Now, the West scrambles to continue supplying Ukraine while simultaneously replenishing its own stockpiles.
As Russian missile attacks against Ukraine’s power facilities increases, the Ukrainian government is considering a limited evacuation of Kiev residents to other areas where services have not been disrupted. The Russian attacks have brought on power outages and the water supply in much of Kiev has been disrupted. Kiev’s mayor, former heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko told the British Broadcasting Company, “This is a temporary relocation of certain categories of people to the suburbs, where there may be services.”
With damage caused by Russian attacks and winter weather setting in, the national power grid is going to be taxed immeasurably between December and late February in many areas of Ukraine. Emergency cut-offs of electricity will become more common as the days go by. It is almost assured that Ukraine will need assistance from abroad to prevent a collapse of its electrical grid.
Author’s Note: I apologize for the longer-than-expected delay. That bug was a little more resilient than expected. It would seem the end of 2022 is shaping up to be busy so I’m getting on the ball. China update tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.
On Saturday the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration is privately urging the Ukrainian government to indicate an openness to negotiations with Russia and downplay its refusal to hold peace talks unless Vladimir Putin is removed from power. According to the Post’s sources, the aim is not to force Kiev to enter negotiations, but to make certain Ukraine has the support of other partner nations, especially in Europe. As the war in Ukraine rages on it causes more damage to the world economy and there are growing signs that voters in Europe are souring on the prospect of supporting Ukraine’s war over a prolonged period. For that matter, there are signs in the United States that Ukraine Fatigue has established a beachhead. The midterm elections on Tuesday should prove to be an accurate barometer of the American public’s tolerance of Washington’s continuing blank check, no-holds-barred support of Ukraine.
This winter will likely provide the greatest gauge for Europe’s tolerance for future support of the Ukraine war. Despite assurances from the European Union and several Western European nations about national and continent-wide storage of natural gas, concern remains about the effects a particularly cold winter could have in store for Europe. Industrial output is an area of particular concern. A hypothetical energy shortage in Germany, for example, will force Berlin to put restrictions in place that could have long-term negative consequences on the German economy. Added to these concerns in Europe is the latest wave of Russian missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. These strikes have been quite effective, despite the Ukrainian government’s insistences otherwise. In fact, Kiev is warning of significant disruptions to power, heat and water services over the winter if the attacks continue. Many Europeans believe it will only be a matter of time before Kiev turns to Europe to provide the materials and finance to repair its energy infrastructure. Yet with much of Europe facing its own energy worries in the coming months, Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian government could find his benefactors on the continent to be in a reluctant mood to provide help.
With winter fast approaching, attention is shifting to Europe and its energy crisis. The primary question on the minds of geopolitical analysts, economists and politicians is: Can Europe avoid an energy disaster this coming winter? The continent has done everything possible to prepare for the coming season. According to the EU, natural gas storage stood at 93% among EU member-states as of 17 October. Whether this statistic is fact or hopeful thinking remains to be seen. Consumption has to remain moderate for Europe to make it through the winter season in good condition. But despite consumption reduction demands and measures, the most critical factor in natural gas and overall energy consumption and demand in Europe will be weather conditions. If the winter is a cold one, energy supplies will be hit hard and fast. A good number of European industries are already taking steps to contend with energy shortages.
Adding to the dilemma perhaps, is the attention Russia is paying to the Ukrainian power grid. Recently, cruise missile and suicide-drone strikes have been launched against Ukrainian energy facilities resulting in major blackouts across large parts of the country. If these conditions continue and worsen into the winter months, Ukraine could be in need of material and financial assistance to repair its energy facilities at a time when Europeans are dealing with their own energy shortages. As it stands right now, despite many European governments remaining enthusiastic about providing Ukraine with whatever it asks for, many EU citizens are growing weary of the sacrifices that people in Hamburg and Copenhagen are forced to make for people in Lviv and Kiev.
A scenario where Europeans are asked to conserve their own energy demands in order to benefit Ukraine could result in a wedge being driven between Europe and Kiev. Time will tell.
Great Britain is on the verge of a two-punch economic-political crisis which has put Liz Truss and her government on thin ice for the time being. Following the dismissal of Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng, there was some hope in 10 Downing Street that the Truss economic plan could somehow be salvaged. Kwarteng’s successor Jeremy Hunt practically atomized any hope that existed when he shredded Truss’s plan to avoid a possible economic disaster. Hunt’s replacement plan could very well prevent the worst-case scenario from occurring, however the tradeoff is a longer recovery period since the economy will likely decline over the next 3-4 quarters.
Today, the government officially took the hatchet to Truss’s economic plan and drastically cut back the planned energy subsidy. At Hunt’s pressing, these measures have come about in large part to restore confidence in the national economy as well as the sitting government. This will be a difficult task to accomplish. It will take a long time to undo the damage caused by the Truss-Kwarteng experiment.
Hunt has indicated deep spending cuts will be needed too. The Oct.31 budget statement is expected to present outlines for the greatest reductions. “There will be more difficult decisions, I’m afraid, on both tax and spending as we deliver our commitment to get debt falling as a share of the economy over the medium term,” Hunt said in a statement this morning.
In the weeks leading up to now Britain’s economic outlook has appeared bleak. Inflation is at its highest point in forty years, reducing confidence as well as spending. Outside analysts including a number at Goldman Sachs foresee a recession beginning by the end of 2022 and zero economic growth until the fourth quarter of 2023.
Then there is the matter of Liz Truss and her government. The honeymoon she enjoyed in the early days of her tenure are long past. Now she faces the very real prospect of losing her premiership before the end of 2022.