Fragments from a War Diary, Part #32
There is a severe shortage of medical supplies, vehicles, military supplies and other essential equipment necessary for the Ukrainian Armed Forces to wage war and keep their soldiers as safe as possible while fighting off the unlawful invasion of their country by the Russian Armed Forces. We read in the newspapers and global media of the problems facing the Ukrainian military in terms of under-supply of ammunition, in particular medium to long-range missiles and surface to air missiles designed to counter Russian aerial attacks and place pressure upon Russian command and logistics centres in the midst of Russian occupied Ukrainian territory. Indeed at the time of writing, the United States has just committed to longer range (300km) ATACMS missiles to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, although there is an open question as to whether the quantity of these missiles will be sufficient for the Ukrainians to achieve a significant breakthrough in the remaining summer fighting season of the war that has perhaps only four to five weeks left before the autumn rains start to make ground advances very difficult.
However what I have noticed while being present in Ukrainian military theatre is that it is not just an absence of military equipment and ammunition that is hindering the Ukrainian war effort. There is a general shortage of all sorts of equipment essential both to preserve the welfare of soldiers fighting on the front line and to sustain the civilian population of Ukraine through its hardships while the war continues. The shops do have food in them in both the major cities and even in smaller population centres, but the shelves are somewhat bare. This is not because Ukraine lacks food (the country is one of the largest agricultural producers in Europe), but rather because the economy has ground to a halt and therefore nobody has any money.
This leads to the paradoxical situation that it is necessary for international NGO’s to import food and supply it to the Ukrainian population, particularly in rural areas, who are malnourished and in many cases even starving. This suggests that Ukraine is suffering from economic contractions causing her internal supply chains and natural internal markets to dry up; and what the country needs is economic stimulus, i.e. the development of public works projects in the Keynesian model that can employ and pay people who will then be able to buy their own food. Were that to take place, it would make more sense than aid organisations delivering food to people for free. If you have money in Ukraine, you can buy your own food of your own choosing and this lubricates the market. There can be nothing more effective in lifting Ukrainian civilians out of poverty than this.
Other grave areas in which the Ukrainian Armed Forces in particular need reinforced supplies are in the provision of medical equipment, vehicles, uniforms and other sundry items that every army requires beyond the provision of weapons and ammunition. Medical kits suitable for military purposes, that must be hard wearing, are often of poor quality. I have heard multiple accounts of malfunctioning tourniquets, medical kits with insufficient equipment in them, lack of essential battlefield medications (in particular a total absence of effective psychiatric medications to treat trauma), inadequate military ambulances, shortages of essential supplies in field hospitals, and shortages of armoured military vehicles for transporting troops to and from the front line. In addition to all these problems, Ukraine has very bad roads and could do with a massive road building redevelopment scheme.
The will is there - the road between Mykolaïv and Ukraine, heavily damaged in 2022 during the Russian occupation of Kherson and the Russian attempted invasion of Mykolaïv, has been comprehensively reconstructed and is now one of the best roads in the country. But a far more thorough revamping of the roads is necessary if elementary logistics supplies are to be provided to the various front lines around Ukraine. Ukraine’s roads are some of the worst in Europe, and the country needs highway reconstruction assistance just as has been received by a variety of EU member states early in their candidacy stages.
There is no reason why these funds should not be provided now, whether as part of an EU accession process or otherwise via international development banks. Yes these things cost money; but the West has committed to defending Ukraine and to providing military, training, logistical and financial support as part of the programme of defence of a European country subjected to a sustained unlawful invasion by a dangerous aggressor, and the West ought to fulfil its commitments both as a matter of honour and in pursuit of the greater good of preserving the European peace.
The lack of specialist vehicles needed for regular troop movements and similar has led to a variety of people importing vehicles into Ukraine to provide support of various kinds. This requires the use of a range of legal loopholes. In the United Kingdom, registered charities are prohibited from engaging in political activities and supporting a foreign military force very arguably is a political activity. Does this include providing civilian vehicles to military forces? Does it include providing medical kits? Do acts of this kind breach criminal sanctions that exist in a number of countries upon providing material support to foreign armies? None of these questions have clear-cut and obvious answers, although various people have offered opinions. In practice these sorts of restriction are being overlooked so as not to interfere with the actions of the brave people trying to help the Ukrainian Armed Forces dig themselves out of the logistical problems they have.
Nevertheless there is a case for Western law reform, and also for increased political emphasis upon supporting the multitude of back office activities necessary to sustain the Ukrainian Armed Forces. What the Ukrainian military has achieved in holding back the Russian Armed Forces who at one point sought to occupy Kyiv and the entirety of southern Ukraine as far as Odessa and Transnistria, is nothing short of miraculous given the minimal supplies they have. This lacuna is being filled by committed private individuals and organisations working around often cumbersome legislative provisions to work towards a key joint Western policy goal in international relations: support of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in resisting Russian aggression. Nevertheless it is really Western governments who should be funding and coordinating this work.
What the West seems not to have done - and what it should focus upon - is a comprehensive analysis of all the needs of both military personnel and suffering civilians in war-time free Ukraine, and develop a plan of action for supporting both these groups. Now that the Russian advance has been stopped; the Russians seem to have run out of their most accurate (and expensive) long-range ordnance, substantially hindering their ability to execute pinpoint attacks at long range; and the West is now supplying Ukraine with advanced technology, such as fighter jets and long-range missiles, assistance with vehicles, roads, infrastructure, reconstruction and hospitals are all appropriate. We can be reasonably confident that such assistance can be undertaken safely, because regions with frontline proximity aside, free Ukraine is now a tolerably safe place to be. However conditions are primitive and hence these secondary forms of support are ever more essential.
While there is a lull in the fighting in the 2023 / 2024 winter, the West might focus more on developing a coordinated policy for back door military and civilian assistance. The war will end more quickly if Ukraine is being rebuilt while the period of stalemate continues. It is hard to say with precision what the Russians are doing to reconstruct the parts of Ukraine they currently occupy; but the West should be doing far more for the rest of Ukraine that remains free.
Any views expressed herein are purely the private opinions of the author and should not be attributed to the Paladins Organisation or otherwise.