11 months into Ukraine war, spending over $105 billion, United States has accomplished little other than creating refugee crisis

11 months into Ukraine war, spending over $105 billion, United States has accomplished little other than creating refugee crisis

Image: Ukrainian soldiers prepare a U.S.-supplied M777 howitzer to fire at Russian positions in Kherson region, Ukraine, Jan. 9, 2023. (AP Photo)

The Golden Hammer Staff Reports

Bakhmut, Ukraine, January 11 – With the latest tranche of military and economic aid, the United States has spent $105.7 billion on Ukraine military and economic aid since February 24, 2022. In comparison, the United States annual budget for its border patrol through the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service is $8 billion.

Some major results of the United States’ investment in Ukraine has been incremental improvements in the defense of Ukraine against Russia’s special military operation, prolonging massive disruptions of grain supplies to Africa and the Middle East, disruption of oil shipping across the world, and a strong crystallization in the alliance of eastern European nations (Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Russia) with China, India, Turkey, and several nations in the Middle East. Even many South American nations have begun to look strongly to Beijing, rather than Washington, D.C., for world economic and political leadership. Russia has immensely fortified its economic trade with China since the beginning of the Ukraine war, while the two nations work closely together on military and security issues as well.

China’s “common development vision” for the Pacific region has rapidly gained strength during the past year with its treaties with the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The Chinese Foreign Ministry is in the midst of serious negotiations to bring the Cook Islands, Niue and the Federated States of Micronesia into its family of trading pacts.

After a bipolar Cold War from 1945 to 1991, many Americans, such as President George H.W. Bush and his son President George W. Bush, had worked towards a less dissident international community to bolster free trade and a global economy. The United States’ strong moves against Russia over Ukraine has polarized the world again only three decades after the end of the Cold War.

Is Russia to blame? In part, without question. Is Ukraine to blame? Very much so, because that nation’s violation of the Minsk Agreements of 2014 and 2015 largely drove Russian President Vladimir Putin that instability and warfare in Ukraine’s east presented a security threat to Russia, as did Ukraine’s open desire to join the American-controlled North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Ukraine’s treaty violations precipitated the war.

In diplomatic discussions with France’s President Emanuel Macron and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin made clear prior to the commencement of the Ukraine military operation that two concessions would have prevented war: (1) Ukrainian neutrality rather than NATO membership and (2) permitting the people of eastern Ukraine to determine their own political destiny, largely as the Minsk Agreements, which Ukraine had repeatedly abrogated, stipulated.

There was a diplomatic solution, but the United States, through Secretary of State Antony Blinken, summarily rejected both of those conditions for some reason, which the Biden administration has never disclosed.

Meanwhile, the refugees from Ukraine, who have fled to Europe, total 7,915,287, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It’s the largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II.

Russian forces are escalating their onslaught against Ukrainian positions around the wrecked city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian officials said, bringing new levels of death and devastation in the grinding, monthslong battle for control of eastern Ukraine.

“Everything is completely destroyed. There is almost no life left,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday of the scene around Bakhmut and the nearby Donetsk province city of Soledar. Nevertheless, Zelenskyy refuses even to discuss the possibility of direct negotiations with Russia to conclude the war.

After Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city of Kherson in November, the battle heated up around Bakhmut.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Malyar, said Russia has thrown “a large number of storm groups” into the fight for the city. “The enemy is advancing literally on the bodies of their own soldiers and is massively using artillery, rocket launchers and mortars, hitting their own troops,” she said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk region’s Kyiv-appointed governor, on Tuesday described the Russian attacks on Soledar and Bakhmut as relentless.

“The Russian army is reducing Ukrainian cities to rubble using all kinds of weapons in their scorched-earth tactics,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “Russia is waging a war without rules, resulting in civilian deaths and suffering.”

The Moscow-backed leader of the occupied areas of Donetsk said Tuesday that Russia’s forces were “very close” to taking over Soledar. But the gains were coming “at a very high price,” Denis Pushilin told Russian state TV.

Control over the city would create “good prospects” for taking over Bakhmut, Pushilin said, as well as for a further assault on Siversk, a town further north where Ukrainian fortifications “are also quite serious.”

The U.K. Defense Ministry concurred with that appraisal of the battle developments. Russian troops alongside soldiers from the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, have advanced in recent days in Soledar and “are likely in control of most of the settlement,” the ministry tweeted Tuesday.

It said that taking Soledar, which is located 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Bakhmut, was likely Moscow’s immediate military objective and part of a strategy to encircle Bakhmut.

An exceptional feature of the fighting near Bakhmut is that some of it has taken place around entrances to disused salt mine tunnels which run for some 200 kilometers (120 miles) underneath the area, the British intelligence report noted.

“Both sides are likely concerned that (the tunnels) could be used for infiltration behind their lines,” it said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whose performance has been fiercely criticized in some Russian circles but who has retained Russian President Vladimir Putin’s confidence, said Tuesday that his country’s military would use its experience in Ukraine to improve combat training. Military communications and control systems will be improved using artificial intelligence, Shoigu said, and troops will be given better tactical gear and equipment.

The Kremlin argues that it is not just fighting Ukraine but also its NATO allies. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that NATO’s members “have become a party to the conflict, pumping weapons, technology and intelligence data into Ukraine.”

Several front-line cities in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces have witnessed intense fighting in recent months.

Together, the provinces make up the Donbas, a broad industrial region bordering Russia that Russian President Vladimir Putin identified as a focus from the war’s outset and where anti-Kyiv separatists have fought since 2014.

Russia’s grinding eastern offensive captured almost all of Luhansk during the summer. Donetsk escaped the same fate, and the Russian military subsequently poured manpower and resources around Bakhmut.

Taking Bakhmut would disrupt Ukraine’s supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press on toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk. Like Mariupol and other contested cities, Bakhmut has endured a long siege, spending weeks without water and power even before Moscow launched massive strikes to take out public utilities across Ukraine.

Kyrylenko, the Donetsk region’s governor, estimated more than two months ago that 90% of Bakhmut’s prewar population of over 70,000 had fled since Moscow focused on seizing the entire Donbas.

Ukraine’s presidential office said at least four civilians were killed and another 30 wounded in Russian shelling between Monday and Tuesday.

Vitaliy Kim, the governor of the southern Mykolaiv region, said Russian forces shelled the port of Ochakiv and the area around it late Monday and then again early Tuesday. He said 15 people were wounded in Monday’s shelling.

Russia has largely attained its strategic objective of capturing eastern Ukraine. Russia has also opened water supplies to Crimea, which Ukraine had cut off in 2014. Russia has also obtained a Black Sea port.

Nevertheless, the huge strategic objective for the Kremlin remains: ensuring Ukraine does not join NATO. That is the issue on which peace negotiations would hinge. Russia presently is open to negotiations, as the Kremlin has made clear it would negotiate all along. Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has refused to negotiate with Russia and clearly expects the United States and western Europe to finance his war to victory.

The Associated Press contributed portions of this story, beginning with the paragraph discussing Hanna Malyar.

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