Dissonance in Discourse: The US-Ukraine Relationship

Does the US not know what Ukraine is doing?

Dissonance in Discourse: The US-Ukraine Relationship
Photo by Marek Studzinski / Unsplash

Ukraine steps up its attacks in Russian territory. The US and the West aren't pleased. However, both dynamics have been well known. President Biden’s “difficult decision” to send Ukraine cluster munitions—notorious for potential misuse—shows public caution and personal indifference. Kyiv’s communication with Washington about their usage remains cloudy, yet the US insists that Ukraine needs more. Something’s got to give.

The narratives spun by the major outlets remains baffling. With years’ long publications about Russia’s ongoing defeat and continuously uncritical support of Washington arms escalation, the press is giving Washington the same pass as the past 25 years. The insistence on Russia’s collapse is puzzling, considering that the sophistication and lethality of the weaponry that the U.S. continues to funnel into the conflict are anything but indicative of a waning adversary. If Putin is perpetually on the brink of failure, then why does the resistance need tanks, then planes, then cluster munitions? If we reject such faulty reasoning, the question then is, why does this dissonance exist? Could it be that we are spectators to yet another illusion, crafted to manage public sentiment when Biden and the rest of the West have put their political lives on the line?

This narrative is not just an oversimplification; it thrives in the shadows of scant oversight and unverified reporting from Kyiv. It perpetuates a simplistic good-versus-evil dichotomy, brushing over the ugly details of war and its everlasting threats.

The April NATO leak revealed the bizarre calculations of American intelligence. The West seems to know every little detail about Russian positioning, though has enormous gaps in knowledge on Ukrainian positioning—positioning with American equipment. This is a comical portrayal of America’s ally relationships.

One of the most critical aspects of this scenario is the absence of information on the casualty ratios. For more than a year into the invasion, we have known little about the exchange rate of lives—how many Ukrainians fall for each Russian? In a war of attrition, this is the harsh currency of success, the number that lends credibility to claims of success.

Yet, this number is conspicuously absent. It remains unspoken, unpublished, providing pundits the leeway to claim a hollow victory, with no verifiable evidence. Many analysts have guessed, though the available information has been too piecemeal as to take any of it with any authority. More cynical critics would say that the West was actively keeping the ratio secret to hold up morale for the war effort.

The revelations from the NATO leak suggest a different but equally disconcerting reason. Washington might not know the true number of Ukrainian soldiers fighting or their casualty rates. For instance, one document reported Russian forces of ~23,250 on the Zaporizhzhia axis and ~15,650 men on the Kherson axis. Meanwhile on the Donetsk axis, NATO notes 10,000-20,000 Ukrainian forces—seemingly unable to tell if it’s one number, or double. While keeping a number secret from the public would be expected, abstract statistics in top secret documents indicates ignorance more than anything else. If that's the case, it begs the question of the nature of our involvement and the decisions shaping our foreign policy. (Not wont to republish the leaked documents, please confirm on your own the details above).

As the situation unfolds, the US continues to concern. As much as Biden has claimed hesitance (admittedly, the war could certainly be handled worse), Washington seems poised for unbridled escalation. With each weapons increment, we inch closer to an unimaginable brink. Nuclear weapons are still on the table and they will stay there for as long as this conflict lasts. I’m not sure when Washington lost its fear for mutually assured destruction, though I worry that it’s a fear lost to the Cold War.

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