New RAND Study Breaks From US Hawks, Warns Against "Protracted Conflict" In Ukraine
The famous Pentagon and US government-linked think tank RAND Corporation has finally attempted to inject some rare realism into the Washington establishment's thinking and planning regarding the Ukraine war. So far throughout eleven months of conflict which remains largely stalemated, though the last few days have seen Russian military momentum and advance grow in the Bakhmut offensive, US and NATO officials have unhesitatingly and enthusiastically cheered on every major escalation of the West's involvement.
But the new 32-page RAND document has sounded the alarm over the dangers of this approach, which is unusual given the think tank is notorious for being the hawkish academic arm of the military-industrial complex. This was especially the case in the Vietnam war era, when RAND became infamous for its fueling the policy behind various insurgency and counterinsurgency fiascos in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.
RAND now argues that in Ukraine "US interests would be best served by avoiding a protracted conflict," and that "costs and risks of a long war...outweigh the possible benefits."
The policy document lays out that allowing the conflict extend longer, which we should note the Biden administration has almost guaranteed with its decision this past week to supply advanced battle tanks, is itself a severe danger.
The abstract on the introductory page reads as follows:
The authors argue that, in addition to minimizing the risks of major escalation, U.S. interests would be best served by avoiding a protracted conflict. The costs and risks of a long war in Ukraine are significant and outweigh the possible benefits of such a trajectory for the United States. Although Washington cannot by itself determine the war's duration, it can take steps that make an eventual negotiated end to the conflict more likely.
Ultimately the study (pdf) explains why from a strategic point of view based on real US interests, there's little benefit for Washington in rolling back Russia's control of territory in east; however, there remains immense risk and high costs that would be attached to it.
The study additionally concludes of ongoing efforts to punish Russia economically and militarily that
"further incremental weakening [of Russia] is arguably no longer as significant a benefit for US interests." Alternately it warns that the impact on energy markets and food in the at-all-costs drive of "keeping the Ukrainian state economically solvent" may not be worth it, given these costs will only "multiply over time."
Similar to some recent media reports based on the reluctant acknowledgement of US officials, RAND also points out that continuing NATO military aid to Ukraine "could also become unsustainable after a certain period," given the likelihood that Russia may "reverse Ukrainian battlefield gains."
Another crucial admission in the document is that the Ukraine war distracts and wastes precious defense resources away from another important theatre of operations: China and east Asia. It states:
Beyond the potential for Russian gains and the economic consequences for Ukraine, Europe, and the world, a long war would also have on sequences for U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. ability to focus on its other global priorities —particularly, competition with China— will remain constrained as long as the war is absorbing senior policymakers’ time and U.S. military resources.
And although Russia will be more dependent on China regardless of when the war ends, Washington does have a long-term interest in ensuring that Moscow does not become completely subordinated to Beijing. A longer war that increases Russia’s dependence could provide China advantages in its competition with the United States.
Thus open-ended and deepened Pentagon involvement in helping Ukraine to push back Russia ultimately benefits Beijing.
But at this point, the authors ask, what can be done? RAND recommends the following course to be put into action immediately:
A dramatic, overnight shift in U.S. policy is politically impossible—both domestically and with allies—and would be unwise in any case. But developing these instruments now and socializing them with Ukraine and with U.S. allies might help catalyze the eventual start of a process that could bring this war to a negotiated end in a time frame that would serve U.S. interests. The alternative is a long war that poses major challenges for the United States, Ukraine, and the rest of the world.
...So even RAND is sane enough to see that the Western world is headed for disaster if it keeps up this jingoistic push to support Kiev at all costs and with no off-ramp.
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Meanwhile, most top decision-makers and commanders are unlikely to heed the memo...
🇺🇸🇪🇺🇷🇺Journalist(1:05 of the video):"We are ready to a direct confrontation with Russia?"— AZ 🛰🌏🌍🌎 (@AZgeopolitics) January 28, 2023
"We are" - Chair of the NATO Military Committee Rob Bauer pic.twitter.com/GbrzgYzMN4