Ukraine Fighting Proves the U.S. Needs to be Ready (and we’re not)

Ukraine Fighting Proves the U.S. Needs to be Ready


By Gregory Rohrbough 


A wise man once said that an army moves on its stomach. Without food, nobody can fight. The Russians’ victory over the German military during World War II was based on this principle when they cut off Nazi supply lines and deprived soldiers of not only food but also clothing, weapons, equipment, medical care and ammunition.


The Russians are now on the other side of this lesson against a Ukrainian military that has engaged in the 21st-century version of this strategy. Russia invaded with what it assumed would be an overwhelming force … but its tanks didn’t work well enough. It knocked out Ukrainian landlines … but Ukrainian forces pivoted to satellites, keeping their fight and cause alive. And while Russia went to war with the military that it had, Ukraine’s smart resistance has kept food, arms and equipment coming from Western allies … all while exhausting Russia’s limited resources.


There are many lessons we should take from Russia’s WWII success and Ukraine’s success. Unfortunately, we are not learning a critical, if not headline-grabbing lesson: having enough equipment. 


Russia is undoubtedly learning the lesson. “The U.K. Ministry of Defense said on Thursday that in the middle of October, Russian forces were losing more than 40 armored vehicles a day, which is roughly the equivalent of a battalion’s worth of equipment,” Newsweek reported last year. “Meanwhile, over recent weeks Russia has been forced to turn to Belarusian stocks to acquire at least 100 additional tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.” Russian forces are also running short on ammunition. 


At least Russia got to use its equipment. The United States has deprived itself of equipment through foolish mistakes, such as the massive number of military vehicles left behind in our disorganized retreat from Afghanistan. And almost two years ago, an explosion at a black powder facility in Louisiana took the factory offline, denying our military a critical supplier for the explosive used in U.S. bombs. 


The United States may also deprive itself of a strong national defense by, ironically, oversupplying Ukraine. “The U.S. alone has sent more than $24.9 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion,” Time magazine reports. “The Pentagon marked the first anniversary of the invasion with a $2 billion package of long-term security assistance for Ukraine that includes more rounds of ammunition and a variety of small, high-tech drones.”


That is taking a toll on our own military readiness. “After months of supplying Ukraine with Stingers, howitzers, anti-armor systems and artillery ammunition, stocks are low in the United States and its NATO allies, especially in 155mm howitzer shells, an ammunition that has been crucial to pushing back Russian forces,” The Wall Street Journal reported. We should be proud of how our weapons have allowed Ukrainians to prevail against an invasion, but defeating Russia is just one of the many fronts on which we may have to fight in the next few years.


Finally, in the greatest irony of all, we risk depriving some equipment of the fuel that brings the food, weapons and medical supplies troops need to win. The Air Force is in a political battle about whether to keep flying a fleet of 60 KC-46 tankers, which are cleared to refuel 97 percent of the Navy and Air Force fleet. Some lawmakers want to launch a competition for a second tanker, one that is larger, less agile and simply can’t hold as much fuel for mid-air refills. 


These politicians are making the same mistake as Hitler, who didn’t prepare his troops for Russian winters, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who didn’t prepare for unexpected Ukrainian resistance. They are not relying on the facts on the ground. “My job is to win tomorrow. Nobody’s going to care about my plans for the KC-46 or my fleet in 10 years if I lose tomorrow. I need it now,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.


A military moves on its stomach, but the food has to be moved to make it to the stomach. The same is true for medical supplies to heal and missiles and bullets to kill the enemy. The Pentagon should learn from history, not repeat it.



Gregory Rohrbough is a political commentator and former lobbyist. He wrote this for

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