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The Art of War

The U.S. is spending $14 billion to assist Ukraine, but Russia's military strategy may be to stiff the American economy.

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President Biden approved a dramatic expansion in the scope of weapons being provided to Ukraine this week — sending $800 million in ammunitions to NATO allies in Poland and Slovakia from where they’ll be convoyed to Ukraine.

Russia accused the United States and NATO allies on Tuesday of “violating rigorous principles governing the transfer of weapons to conflict zones,” and of being “oblivious to the threat of high-precision weapons falling into the hands of radical nationalists, extremists and bandit forces in Ukraine.”

On Wednesday the Russia Embassy warned the United States, in particular. “We call on the United States to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security.”

Moreover, President Vladimir Putin in a speech on Friday morning said, “western nations will soon face consequences greater than any they have faced in history.”

Russian Roulette

The exchange of comments refer as much to conventional warfare as to the belligerent’s economies. Congress quietly passed two bipartisan bills last week that suspended trade relations, energy exports and sanctioned Russia’s financial institutions. They also tacked onto the bill a $14 billion spending allowance including; $6.5 billion to the Defense Department, $3.9 billion to humanitarian assistance, and nearly $3 billion to U.S. troops defending NATO in Europe.

While Ukraine is not a NATO alley, it is a former Soviet Republic, and the United States and Russia share the same concern. If Russia can retake its 15 former Soviet bloc countries, the balance of world power will effectively shift from west to east.

Brave New World

NATO is the largest, most powerful military alliance in the world and since 1949 has kept the balance of power in the west. In fact, Article Five of this 30-member alliance states “if an armed attack occurs against one of the member states, it shall be considered an attack against all members, and other members shall assist the attacked member, with armed forces if necessary.”

Following World War II, NATO has navigated and survived the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the post-9/11 era. Yet the world has changed since 1949 and so must NATO.

NATO 2030 — The Secretary General’s Strategic Concept for the next decade — is a diverse, multigenerational group of policymakers and academics from across Europe and the United States who've provided new insights about NATO’s changing threat landscape, its shifting internal dynamics, and the evolution of warfare. The policymakers tackle a wide range of issues including; Russia and China, democratic backsliding, burden sharing, warfare to space and cyberspace.

“I’m one of those people who over the years has been saying the next war would be cyber,” says Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe. “Instead Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been almost medieval.”

Russia’s Long Game

Russia’s political objective appears to be to “exhaust U.S. coffers through military spending, spike inflation from an energy embargo, and ultimately to retake its soviet republics thereby shifting the balance of power to the east” says, Hodges, citing U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. “The U.S. won neither, ultimately withdrew from both, and left the region and their people where they found them — in the hands of Islamic extremists.”

“The United States cannot influence the Russo-Ukraine War,” adds former Secretary of State Colin Powell. “At best, our power and influence reside in understanding history. I’ve watched other countries loathe America, admire America, and fear America,” the former Four-Star General continues. “But pitying America? That one is new.”

America’s decline is the idea that the United States of America is diminishing in power geopolitically, militarily, socially, culturally, financially and economically.

The United States is no longer the only uncontested superpower of the world. China, in particular, is challenging the United States for global dominance. According to the 2021 Asia Power Index, the United States still takes the lead on military capacity, cultural influence, resilience, future resources, diplomatic influence, and defense networks. But it fails and falls far behind China in two specific parameters: economic capability and economic relationships.

Shrinking military advantages, deficit spending, geopolitical overreach, and a shift in moral, social and behavioral conditions have been associated with America’s decline and Putin seems to be goading her over the edge. Powell warns “continued deficit spending, especially on military build-up, is the single most important reason for decline of any great power.”

The former Joint Chiefs of Staff continues. “The costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated at $4.4 trillion, a major victory for Osama bin Laden, whose announced goal was to humiliate America’s economy by showcasing its casualty to long term conflict.”

The federal budget deficit was $667 billion in the first six months of fiscal year 2022 (from October 2021 through March 2022) according to the Congressional Budget Office, and when asked about that statistic a survey of 1,019 Americans said, “America is falling apart.” Conversely, that same proportion of survey respondents said they were "proud to be an American."

“Any woman who understands the problems of running a home,” wrote former Prime Minister Margret Thatcher, “is nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.” Russia’s General Secretary famously called her the “Iron Lady” to which she replied, “The problem, Mr. Gorbachev, with spending is that eventually you run out of other people’s money." Of the Soviet Union’s deficit she explained, “Pennies do not come from heaven. They must be earned here on earth.”

In fact, spending led to the financial collapse of the Soviet Union — whose budget deficit reached 150 billion rubles in 1991 — and is considered by its current president to be “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” A lesson from history not lost on a young Mr. Putin, once forced to moonlight as a taxi driver, in the days and insipid months following its collapse.

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