U.S. Military Expert Shoots Down Washington’s Weapons-to-Ukraine Argument

Eric Zuesse

Michael Kofman isn’t just a defense expert; he’s specialized in the precise region where Ukraine is located. He spent years managing professional military education programs and military-to-military engagements for senior officers at National Defense University.  There he served as a subject matter expert and adviser to military and government officials on issues in Russia/Eurasia. And, now, he is telling the Brookings Institution war-hawks, and its insider ‘experts’ whose expertise is about getting America into invasions but not getting us out, and is certainly not about “winning” anything more than defense contracts — he is telling them that their arguments for getting us into sending weapons to Ukraine as our “proxy” against Russia, is a shockingly stupid and counterproductive idea for everyone but America’s armaments-makers.

America’s weapons makers won’t like what he has to say, because he’s not selling their products into Ukraine’s civil war (a huge and wholly taxpayer-funded market), like President Obama’s advisors, and John McCain and other Republicans, definitely are. (They’re such fine salesmen.)

In the February issue of National Interest journal, he headlines, “How to Start a Proxy War with Russia” (with Ukraine being the “Proxy”), and he subheads, with remarkable (even courageous) directness: “Arming the Ukrainian government would be a bad idea, no matter what the next defense secretary says.” He opens by taking on not only the new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, but the Brookings ‘experts’ who are looking to become hired by President Hillary Clinton (all war-hawks not much different from G.W. Bush’s Paul Wolfowitz and other such ‘defense experts’).

He says:


Sending a mix of weapons to Ukraine is unlikely to improve the situation, given the overwhelming force-on-force mismatch the country faces against Russia, but it could add fuel to a fire that is steadily consuming the country’s chances of emerging as a new nation on a European path. … [The Brookings report] does not offer recommendations on a path to peace, and no explanation of how weapons shipments could result in a political settlement to the war. … The [Brookings] report is intended to press the reluctant president into changing his course in Ukraine [so as to send lethal weapons]. … 

Its core premise is that by giving Ukraine the ability to kill more Russian soldiers, sending weapons would raise the costs of war for Moscow to an unacceptable level, thus forcing Russia to abandon its existing policy and thus deterring further aggression. The weakness in the armaments proposal is that it offers no vision for what a new political settlement to the current conflict might look like. … This [Brookings] document advocates in no subtle terms for the United States to undertake a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, and to supply the country with weapons equivalent to half of its [Ukraine’s] current defense budget. … 

One of the problems in the report’s argumentation is that it lists a series of fears and anxieties regarding Russia’s territorial ambitions. … [However,] analysis of Russia’s annexation of Crimea has shown that the operation was inherently unique and could not be repeated elsewhere in Europe, while Moscow has demonstrated little interest in spontaneously invading NATO countries. On the contrary, previous references regarding the Russian world, or Novorossiya, have already been eliminated from official rhetoric. Real ultranationalists in Russia are suppressed by the government, which does not plan to realize their ambitions.

Russia has shown no desire for a broader invasion of Ukraine, either, although it has the means, and the report confirms that Ukrainian officials believe a large-scale attack to create a land corridor to Crimea is highly unlikely. … 

In reality, the United States has absolutely no obligations to Ukraine’s security under any type of accord or framework. … American credibility is not on the line in what is first and foremost a European effort, especially when Berlin refuses to see such policies as viable. … 

Experts familiar with the reasons for Ukraine’s military defeat understand that it is … because its army as a whole is not a capable force. It lacks logistics, training, commanders with experience at maneuvering brigade- or battalion-sized elements, any coordination between volunteer battalions and regular forces, along with independent military analysis of the problems. There is no intelligence, no mobile reserves, no unified command and a political leadership that often seems disconnected from the facts on the ground. Dumping weapons into this operating environment is unlikely to prove a solution to the problems, all of which are fundamental and structural. …

[Furthermore, despite Washington’s assumption to the contrary,] the overwhelming majority of fighters [on the rebel side] are locals and likely Ukrainian citizens, which completely undermines the premise of the entire [Brookings] report that Russian forces are the key participants and their casualties will prove a deterrent. …

NATO’s estimates [of Russian involvement] … are so fantastical in range, that they suggest there is an entire Russian armored division fighting in Ukraine, perhaps even two, that have gone unnoticed by U.S. satellites. …

The [Brookings] authors also advocate for strategic air defense, even though one of the few areas where Ukraine’s military remains effective is precisely in air defense. … [and] no airpower has been used by Russia in this war [so that’s useless anyway]. …

The real problem is that many of Ukraine’s munitions are long past their service lives, the United States has no replacements for them or a quick fix for the lack of training and experience amongst Ukraine’s soldiers. The administration was right in arguing that any weapon we provide will be matched by Russia, escalating the conflict with no advantage gained for Ukraine. …

The [Brookings] authors keenly argue for the provision of armored Humvees, a piece of equipment not only long derided by U.S. troops and due for replacement, but also an unnecessary recommendation in light of Ukraine’s advanced defense industry. Ukraine is highly capable and proficient at producing indigenous lightly armored vehicles and heavy tanks. This is actually Ukraine’s defense industry’s area of expertise.


Bottom line: If Obama sends weapons, like Brookings advises $3 billion worth, it’ll get the U.S. into a “proxy war” against Russia, and one that we’ll almost certainly lose (along with that $3 billion of expenses paid to U.S. arms-makers by us taxpayers).

For once: a real military expert, who’s something more than just a salesman for Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, GE, and other eager manufacturers of killing-machines.

For once: a patriotic American in Washington. Probably this scathing report he wrote on the Establishment’s new proposal for wasting another $3 billion to kill people (specifically to kill the residents in the Donbass region of the former Ukraine) will prevent Michael Kofman from rising any further. He’s not doing his sell-job for the privateers; he’s doing his advisory job for the public, but in a country that’s being run for the benefit of its aristocracy, not of its public. (The public are here only to pay taxes to fund the aristocracy’s ventures — in this case its next invasion.)

Will Michael Kofman end up in the breadlines, while the authors of the Brookings report end up in the headlines, and inside the White House? What would a President Elizabeth Warren, or a President Bernie Sanders, say about that? Of course, no one knows, but virtually all of the other prospective Presidential candidates would probably love to preside over more opportunities to “protect” “allies,” such as Ukraine’s ravenous oligarchs, who are already stripping that entire country clean — but they’re ‘America’s friends.’

As for the residents of Donbass: they get in the way of Obama’s plans — such as to place nuclear missiles right next door to Russia.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • Bill Frank

    Your work on Ukraine is most appreciated. Thank you for completely exposing the propaganda laced poison delivered by the shills in the MSM. Developments lead me to believe the US is losing support from it’s “allies” and a non US brokered peace deal is possible. Many in Europe have had more than enough of US bullying and arrogance. They see what American adventures have created in the Mid East and want no part of it on their terrain. Historically, this could be a significant setback for the empire. Throw in the Greek’s apparent refusal to play the austerity game anymore and it looks like this week could be very, very interesting.

    • cettel

      Thank you. My goal is now to end NATO; its continued existence after the end of the Soviet Union is an enormous crime and exposes that a significant part of NATO’s support during the Cold War had nothing whatsoever to do with any ideological battle, between communism and capitalism, or between democracy and totalitarianism, but is instead a mere global grab-for-power by America’s aristocracy, to subordinate all other nations’ aristocracies to it — and to ignore all the bloodshed and vast economic waste that has been entailed by this psychopathic American aristocratic grab-for-global-power. That ugliness of NATO’s past is now the ONLY thing that exists in NATO’s present; the ideological case for NATO’s existence is long-since entirely gone; so, NATO is now 100% fraudulent, 100% an aristocratic lie; it must therefore end, ASAP, in order to end the growing global danger of catastrophic nuclear war. Why are ‘peaceniks’ not marching by the millions worldwide to end that abomination, NATO?
      There was justification for America’s post-WW-II cold war against communism and against totalitarianism. There is no justification for the U.S. Government’s war (of any type) against Russia. That entirely unnecessary and increasingly harmful and dangerous war doesn’t say anything about Russia, but it says lots — all of it very damning — about the current U.S. Government, and about all of NATO. It’s a criminal operation now. Germany should quit. France should quit. Albania should quit. Belgium should quit. Bulgaria should quit. Canada should quit. Croatia shoud quit. Czech Republic should quit. Denmark should quit. Estonia should quit. Greece should quit. Hungary should quit. Iceland should quit. Italy should quit. Latvia should quit. Lithuania should quit. Luxembourg should quit. Netherlands should quit. Norway should quit. Poland should quit. Portugal should quit. Romania should quit. Slovakia should quit. Slovenia should quit. Spain should quit. Turkey should quit. U.K. should quit.

      The Soviet Union is gone. Communism is gone. Permanent war should also be gone.
      “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world”: it was George Washington’s Farewell Address to us. The inaugural pledge of Thomas Jefferson was no less clear: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.”

      • goingnowherefast

        Good Article. I agree that NATO should be abolished. The problem is a global Empire has grown up around it. As we know from history, empires don’t voluntarily give up their power. Either they go bankrupt trying to extend their control too widely or they must meet their match in a confrontation.

        Let us try to force this one to collapse with as little collateral damage as possible. Your efforts along with others writing to expose the criminals in power is most appreciated.

      • Me Who

        It is worth considering that this started partly over Ukraine joining the EU. Why it’s the US that has to be involved was never explained to the public clearly, and we can assume economic reasons. My point is that, I don’t believe a country can necessarily be held responsible in government or government empire building and it would be futile to focus your efforts to that effect. Particularly because we see that the gap between rich and poor is so wide and every country seems to be in debt. Who has all the money? Who is all that debt owed to? Can it ever be paid back? So part of the slimy scheme is to create more debt through borrowing (which is reason alone fojr why the US shouldn’t be giving to anyone), stealing tax money without public input, and murder – but the few benefit while the public suffers. Wouldn’t an empire include the population of the country? The UK has 16 crown territories including Canada, Australia, and New Zeland. They funded the creation of Israel which is tapping rich oil reserves to be piped to the EU. Why does Israel support the current Ukrainian government if they are the ‘neonazis’ they are rumored to be? Would it have anything to do with money? Afamily history of some US legislators can be traced to these ruling bodies of Europe. The business community has endorsed an international business model (greater opportunity to exploit) and we know how many shady connections exist between governments and businesses. In order to end perpetual war, you need to focus on these immense, enmeshed globalists because these are always the beneficiaries of protecting “national interests”.

  • Max

    Mr. Poroshenko implements genocide against ethnic russians in Ukraine. He just clear up the territory by mass murders.But it is very suitable for american economy – there for Russia must pay for own humane.

    • Nill Nilsen

      Max is a good example of
      someone who believes the Russian propaganda. How many people were lost before
      invasion of the Russian saboteurs? Zero. How many people to prison? Zero. How
      many houses were destroyed? Zero. What Putin defend? Why after arrival of saboteurs
      from Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation thousands people were kill?

      Porosheko was the Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine in the time of President Victor Yanukovych.

      Russian separatist don’t want a better life for the
      Donbas residents. They are just in it for the fight and don’t care who gets
      killed. The Russian terrorists place weapon emplacement in inhabited
      block. Then shoot at the Ukrainian army and at civil people. Separatists do it
      specially to cause hatred to Kiev. And for show of the Russian television.

    • Игорь Белорус

      Find a doctor. Go to the clinic. Ask a straightjacket. How can you bear such drivel?

  • Nill Nilsen

    Putin won’t go
    to the diplomatic solution. He trusts only in force of arms. It occupy part of Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine.
    Ukraine which has the third in the world after the US and Russia nuclear
    potential, voluntary gave 5000 warheads and cruise missiles, destroys launching silo, and 43 strategic Tu-160 and Tu-95МС
    superbombers went to scrap metal. The USA, United Kingdom and Russia default on the Budapest memorandum. Now none
    of them wants to give the weapon to Ukraine. I think in our civilization now
    all understand that only the weapons of mass destruction are capable to protect
    the nation.

    I think uranium
    business will start prospering and it is worth investing money in it.

  • william hyres

    You say that the US has no obligations to Ukraine, yet when they signed their agreement to give up their nuclear weapons back to Russia, Ukraine’s security was to be upheld. “1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

    2. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

    3. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.

    4. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of[2] an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.

    5. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm, in the case of Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclearweapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, except in the case of an attack on themselves, their territories or dependent territories, their armed forces, or their allies, by such a State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.

    6. Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America will consult in the event a situation arises that raises a question concerning these commitments.[2]

    This Memorandum will become applicable upon signature. Signed in four copies having equal validity in the English, Russian, and Ukrainian languages.”

    Look this over, and you will see that you are mistaken about obligations to secure Ukraine. They gave up their nukes, and all the nations listed agreed to protect Ukraine. Now that Ukraine is in a civil war with one of the nations, The Russian Federation, betraying that treaty, it is up to the US to counter such a betrayal.

    You stand corrected.

  • Yuri

    I recently read an interview by Michael Kofman to a Ukrainian Novoe Vremia magazine (http://fortruss.blogspot.com/2015/02/american-military-expert-to-ukraine.html), which struck me by several statements that sound strange for an expert on Russia. Thus, he claimed that “No one in history has ever won a war with Russia on its border.” Indeed? Here is just a short list. Russia was soundly defeated in Crimean war in 1854. Its suffered a humiliating defeat from Japan in 1905. Red Army led by Tukhachevsky was wiped out by Poles in 1920. The Soviet Army was defeated in Afghan, something that precipitated collapse of the USSR. Moreover, Russia suffered defeats inside its borders. Yes, Russia lost the war with Chechnya under Putin. As a result, these days Chechnya lives under sharia law and whims of its autocratic ruler and Moscow pays Chechens billions to pacify them.
    Then, the following claim: “My colleagues in Russia, associated with the General staff, are well aware that any day, if Russia wants to, it can completely destroy the entire UAF in 72 hours”. In fact, these days Russian government controlled mass media and Russian officials leave no doubt that the Russians treat the U.S. as an archenemy and the spy mania once again sweeps the country. In this environment for an American to take at face value claims of a “colleague” from the Russian General staff is kind of naive, to say at least. Hey, have you heard about Potemkin village or you sincerely believe that a Russian General would risk his life revealing to an American “expert” classified plans of destroying Ukrainian armed forces in 72 hours?

  • Pepot

    Wrong comment. What is happening now id gradual break up of Ukraine’s territory.

  • A.Alexander

    The non-expert who is just “managing professional military education programs”, so the author -historian could dance a little on his poor body.

  • A.Alexander

    The fearless Washintonblog pushed my esterday comment to 7 month time.Ha Ha!