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Lies and Allies

Lies and Allies

The Soviet T-64 tank, developed and produced by the Soviet Union at one of the largest armour manufacturing facilities in the Soviet Union, in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Now most T-64s are used by Ukraine’s Armed Forces.

The renewed assault by Russian forces on the Kharkiv region of Ukraine came as a surprise to many as it was thought that the resource depletion of both Ukraine’s and Russia’s forces had dwindled the ability to take large offenses after years of fighting. The motivation for such a large assault likely came about due to many decisions that should probably not have been committed to by Ukraine allies. Weakness in the coalition supporting not only Ukraine, but US and Western allies abroad will play into actions in Eastern Europe, even if taking place completely outside of the region.

In is likely the case that Russian military resources are depleted, but the attack was committed to due to circumstances. The motivation for such a move would reflect one seen during the Second World War. In the Battle of the Bulge, German forces used many of their reserves towards the end of the war to re-conquer parts of Belgium towards the shipping port of Antwerp with Germany’s remaining military strength. Taking one of the largest ports in Western Europe would have stunted the Allies advance on Germany, even if the end victory would still have been likely in the Allies’ favour. Kharkiv is important to Ukraine and the region for many reasons, and was always a logistical prize for Russia.

Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city and has historically been a central main city close to the front lines of many of the wars between the Soviet Union and Germany. During the Cold War period, Kharkiv was the base for many of the Soviet Union’s manufacturing and military industrial capabilities, producing many of the tanks currently being used on the battlefield by both Russia and Ukraine. Kharkiv is one of the main populations centres that would need to be encountered when approaching Moscow from the West, and during the Soviet era, was a strategic bulwark against foreign invasions from abroad.

One of the factors that may have encouraged a recent attack on Kharkiv and Sumy is the agreement to supply Ukraine with more advanced weapons from the US and other allies. While ATACMS had been supplied in silence towards Ukraine before any agreement was made in the US, it has been shown that assaulting a fortified Russian position has cost Ukraine many Western supplied Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks. If Russia can quickly take added territory and create barriers, they already know they will be met with some level of success in maintaining the territory, even against NATO weapons.

The use of drones, ATACAMS and long range missiles have targeted many oil and gas production facilities inside of Russia, with ATACAMS being used successfully along with anti-air assets to harass Russian forces and air capabilities. While attacks on Russian oil and gas may be an escalation that the Western allies did not want, Ukraine knows that it needs to affect Russian oil profits as there are still mechanisms where European countries and other allies are benefitting from Russian oil and gas. Despite sanctions, there is little movement in fully quelling the income Russia earns from these profits to fund their war effort. While assaults on Russian infrastructure are not the best tactic for the West or even Ukraine, the lack of de-escalatory policies limiting European use of Russian oil and gas have not been sufficient. As long as North American energy is being hamstrung to Europe and Asia, Ukraine is left on their own to implement an escalatory policy that will complicate the war and put more civilians at risk.

The lesson the US has taught its allies recently is that support may be fleeting, as limiting weapons to one ally sends a message to others. While Ukraine has received a great deal of support, putting the idea in the ether that domestic chaos may alter support for allies teaches all allies of the US to not depend on future support, even in the most dire of circumstances. Countries who are allies will always be independent and work for the betterment of their own citizens, and do not wish to take direction from abroad, only advice. The break in relations and treatment of allies as client states, as opposed to equals, is a victory for their adversaries in every sense of the word. The incentive for US adversaries to use domestic issues in the US and in the West to change foreign defence policy enables local chaos for strategic gain. Such policies create an economy and networks from abroad to alter and pressure local politicians to make decisions to weaken the West’s alliance in every region globally. The end result of making decisions in such an environment is to create weak policy, policies that give an opening to assaults like the one we see currently in the Kharkiv Oblast and surrounding regions. It is often the case that armies defeat themselves before the enemy defeats them. If weak policies dominate the alliance, there is no other outcome but more conflict and more loss of innocent lives.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration