RAND report concludes that US and NATO now face the prospect of losing their proxy war

By Romegas

The RAND Corporation, the US’s premier national security think tank funded directly by the Pentagon and the US military-industrial complex, has published a landmark report stating that prolonging the proxy war in Ukraine is actively harming the US and its allies and warning Washington that it should avoid “a protracted conflict” in Ukraine.

The report unequivocally entitled, “Avoiding a long war: US policy and the trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine conflict,”  states that the fighting in Ukraine represents “the most significant interstate conflict in decades, and its evolution will have major consequences” for Washington, including US “interests” being actively harmed.

The report makes it very clear that while Ukrainians have been doing the fighting, and their cities have been “flattened” and “economy decimated,” US “interests” are “not synonymous” with Kiev’s.

While acknowledging that if US ended its financial, humanitarian and particularly military support promptly would cause Ukraine to completely collapse, the report nonetheless cites several reasons why doing so would be in US interests, not least because a Ukrainian victory is regarded as both “improbable” and “unlikely,” due to Russian “resolve,” and its military mobilization having “rectified the manpower deficit that enabled Ukraine’s success in the Kharkiv counteroffensive.”

From the perspective of US “interests,” the report warns that while the Kremlin has not threatened to use nuclear weapons, there are “several issues that make Russian use of nuclear weapons both a plausible contingency Washington needs to account for and a hugely important factor in determining the future trajectory of the conflict.”

RAND worries that the expectation that the conflict stay “inside the geographical boundaries of Ukraine”  is on the verge of being disrespected, as “the extent of NATO allies’ indirect involvement in the war is breathtaking in scope,” including “tens of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and other aid” and “tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support,” along with “billions of dollars monthly in direct budgetary support to Kiev.” 

Such unprecedented aid, RAND warns, could prompt Moscow to “punish NATO members… with the objective of ending allied support for Ukraine; strike NATO preemptively if Russia perceives that NATO intervention in Ukraine is imminent; interdict the transfer of arms to Ukraine; retaliate against NATO for perceived support for internal unrest in Russia,”  if Moscow  concludes the country’s national security is “severely imperiled.”

While RAND states that these outcomes are “by no means inevitable,” they still represent an “elevated” risk, particularly in light of incidents such as a Ukrainian air defense missile striking Polish territory in November 2022 – a situation exacerbated by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky falsely claiming it was a deliberate Russian strike. While this event “did not spiral out of control, it did demonstrate that fighting can unintentionally spill over to the territory of neighboring US allies.”

The report is unequivocal in its claim that NATO should not even contemplate further direct involvement in the conflict even if the conflict had to remain conventional let alone potentially escalate it into nuclear one with a country that has the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.”

The clear implication is that NATO would lose such a conflict (a conventional one), not least because, as pointed out by the report, “the intensity of the military assistance” being given to Ukraine by its Western backers is already approaching an “unsustainable” level, with US and European weapons stocks “running low.” This consequently means, that prolonging the conflict would only result in more Ukrainian territory being reunified with Russia. In plain words, the longer the conflict goes on – the greater the chance that Russia not only demilitarizes Ukraine but also NATO with it.

RAND is unmoved by arguments Ukraine should attempt to recapture all the territory that it has lost since 2014, as “greater territorial control is not directly correlated with greater economic prosperity” or “greater security.” Land having been retaken by Kiev since September means “Russia has imposed far greater economic costs on the country as a whole.” And that it risks losing it again and more anyhow the longer the war takes.

The report concludes that:

“avoiding a long war… the highest priority after minimizing escalation risks,” and recommends that US “take steps that make an end to the conflict over the medium term more likely,” including “issuing assurances regarding the country’s neutrality,” something that Russia had long requested before the conflict began, to deaf ears, as well as “sanctions relief for Russia.”

And yet the report acknowledges that a  “dramatic, overnight shift in US policy,” is difficult as this would be “politically impossible – both domestically and with allies,” instead recommending the development of “instruments” to bring the war to a “negotiated end,” and “socializing them with Ukraine and with US allies” in advance to lessen the blow. Notwithstanding the political loss of face, RAND recommends that this process should start immediately, as “the alternative is a long war that poses major challenges for the US, Ukraine, and the rest of the world.”

This is all but an outright acknowledgment that the US and NATO are in fact losing the war, and prolonging it might lead to the collapse of the alliance as well as political turmoil at home and incalculable risks elsewhere – particularly after the sacrifices Western populations have been forced to undertake under the mistaken premise that Russia would be defeated.

The report marks a dramatic volte-face from a think tank that just as recently as 2019 published a report entitled ‘Extending Russia, Competing from Advantageous Ground’ – where in order to provoke Russia in over-extending itself with the ultimate aim of dismembering it, the same think tank recommended:

  • Imposing unprecedented economic sanctions, particularly on its energy markets.
  • Provide Lethal Aid to Ukraine
  • Increase Support to the Syrian Rebels (that is Jihadi terrorists including ISIS and spawns of Al Qaeda)
  • Promote Regime Change in Belarus
  • Exploit tensions in the South Caucasus, particularly between Armenia and Azerbaijan
  • Reduce Russian Influence in Central Asia (by fomenting turmoil in places like Kazakhstan)
  • Challenge Russian Presence in Moldova

That all of the above recommendations by RAND have all been subsequently tried out as if they were a script, only demonstrates how influential RAND is in influencing US National Security policy.

That such assumptions can very likely backfire,  particularly when they derive from a  hubristic attitude about a foe you understand little about – for example despite the sanctions, Russia’s economy, according to the IMF itself is projected to grow –  is ultimately neither here nor there and this latest report should be welcomed all the same – for it offers hope, that common sense is finally beginning to percolate in the dim brains of the Western Political Elite and can be the beginning to not only to bringing the tragedy in Ukraine to a sensible conclusion but also to deescalate the current trajectory towards nuclear war, which RAND itself, not so long ago did its best to provoke.

This report is also a vindication of the freedom of expression offered by Simon Mercieca’s platform – for locally, it was only on this site, that month after month against the propaganda of a hopelessly corrupt and inept media,  one could be warned that things were far from what they were being portrayed to be and that ultimately the whole affair would lead not only to the defeat of Ukraine but also of NATO.

That RAND itself should come to this conclusion just shows that despite not having any of the resources at the disposal of our officially sanctioned ‘fact-checkers’ – an individual who is willing to pursue an objective truth, and has the will to research at length and triangulate between contradictory open and official sources – can form the correct conclusions well in advance of the ‘media’ and the ‘experts’ themselves.

Remember that I have long insisted that Russia’s objective is not simply to win the war – but to do so in a fashion that brings NATO to its senses, not least by dragging it out:

Indeed, one of Russia’s major challenges in this war is not about winning it – but how to do so without provoking an unpredictable NATO knee-jerk reaction. In essence, they have to boil the frog slowly rather than squash it. For Russia’s objective is ultimately to fry far bigger fish other than Ukraine. Ukraine is simply a theatre in which a more tectonic struggle is taking place.

As I said the RAND Report is a welcome development – but perhaps it has come a bit too late.

It is my belief, from following Russian commentary, that Moscow has long concluded that its ‘partners’ cannot be trusted to respect or adhere to treaties they have signed and brokered with Russia, such as the Minsk Accords, which former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Former French President Hollande have admitted were never intended to be implemented, but rather to buy time for Kiev.

I am extremely confident that the Kremlin is well past being interested in any of RAND’s proposed solutions at all, and will choose instead to finish the war that the likes of RAND itself did its best to provoke – on its own terms.

Not least by taking all the time necessary to boil and boil completely, which as RAND itself now admits is time that the West cannot afford.

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