Western Supports Have Cost Tens of Thousands of Ukrainian Lives
An Interview Daniel L. Davis


The Liberty asked a former U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, who had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is well aware of the disconnect of government information and media reports from the reality of the battlefield, to analyze the war in Ukraine (as of March 8th).


Daniel L. Davis

Daniel L. Davis
Daniel L. Davis is a Senior Fellow for Defense Priorities and a former Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army who deployed into combat zones four times. He is the author of “The Eleventh Hour in 2020 America.” Follow him @DanielLDavis1

Interviewer: You have raised an alarm against the possibility that Western military support could cross Russia’s red line and trigger an escalation to nuclear war. If Russia will be defeated on the battlefield in Ukraine, it could use nuclear weapons. How do you see the possibility of “a game of nuclear chicken?”

Lt. Col. Davis: Yeah, that’s been one of my concerns from the very beginning. Though I would say in the last number of months, and actually at the moment, it’s far less concerning than it was. Because Russia will only use nuclear weapons if they feel they’re in an existential threat, or that their country is physically threatened either with the nuclear strike of someone else, or from a conventional military defeat. Then they would almost certainly resort to nuclear weapons. And the biggest trigger, not the first, but the biggest trigger would probably be Crimea.

If Russia was being physically ejected from the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Luhansk, and Donetsk, then that might cross the trigger. But for sure if the Ukrainian side, because of western support, put Crimea in the crosshairs and genuinely threatened Russia’s conventional military control over it, I think it’s almost certain that Russia would resort to tactical nuclear weapons. But until that time, Russia won’t because it’s not in their interest to do so. If they use nuclear weapons while they still have conventional power, then that would invite a nuclear retaliation, and could potentially undo everything that they had. So right now, the threat is not that high.

But what concerns me a lot is that you have, certainly, Zelensky and many of his other supporters, and a number of retired army US generals have said, “Yeah, we should definitely go to take Crimea.” General Ben Hodges is one of the big advocates of saying absolutely we should, probably by the end of the summer, retake Crimea.

Number one, it’s an unsupportable position because there’s no evidence that, militarily speaking, Ukraine will be in a position or have the capacity to even put at risk, much less actually take, Crimea by the summer. But what concerns me the most is General Hodges’ comment that, “All this talk about a nuclear threshold and a nuclear red line, that’s completely crazy. There’s no way that’s going to happen because Putin understands that when Biden said there’ll be a nuclear retaliation he believes that. So he won’t use it.” He’s just basically saying, “Don’t even worry about it. It’s not even a risk. He’s just all talk.” Etc. And I’m like, okay, look, the consequences of a nuclear strike are so cataclysmic, for anyone to even approach it with such casual dismissal, is by itself really concerning. And especially when that person happens to be a retired three-star US Army General and he’s advising the Ukrainian side to take military action, and the Western Allies to support the operation to take Crimea, he’s basically drawing people into, if they listen to him, into a situation that could actually result in the use of nuclear weapons.

So right now we’re not at risk of that. But if we listen to his advice, and if somehow Ukraine got that capacity and we supported it, then we would be raising the level of potential nuclear escalation to a very pointless and unreasonable level.

Interviewer: As you mentioned to Crimea, for instance, if Ukraine recaptures Melitopol, it would break up the supply lines of the Russian army from Luhansk to the West field. It kind of delivers checkmate to retake Herson and Crimea. In this case, do you think Russia might use tactical nuclear weapons?

Lt. Col. Davis: If it goes to Crimea, I would say it’s virtually certain. It’s very possible if any of these other territories were at least successfully [recaptured], if Russia was successfully expelled from them, then you would have a serious consideration of using nuclear weapons. They may not wait till the end. Currently, the biggest claim over the last several months of the Ukrainian general staff is that they want to launch a military offensive operation from somewhere in the Zaporizhzhia area in the south toward the city of Melitopol because that will basically cut in half the Russian formations, and put all of their southern forces at risk, and then make a possibility to get to Crimea. Melitopol is like 80 kilometers away from the current front lines. So that would be just a mammoth monumental task, something that Ukraine has not shown the ability to do since this war started, which means to try and force Russia off of the ground they’re defending.

The only advances that Ukraine has made in the entire war were in the north in the Kharkiv area, both in the first month of the war when Russia redeployed and pulled out of the Kyiv and the Kharkiv area. And then last fall, when a very lightly defended northern sector of the Russian lines in the Kharkiv area, again, where Ukraine had a large force that rolled all the way back to the Svatove – Kreminna line, where the current lines are right now. That was a big run there, but they caught the Russians by surprise. They had a very small contingent that was holding this big, huge area of the north. And they were just rolled out because they didn’t have any defenses.

Russia has learned from that. So now then, along the entire basically 1,000-kilometer front, they are building elaborate defensive positions all the way across to prevent any kind of surprise happening from that again. In the areas that have been contested from the beginning of the war, this goes all the way back to Mariupol, Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk or Soledar of late, and now Bakhmut right now. Everywhere that the Russians have contended, Ukraine has failed to stop them from attacking and capturing a city. Ukraine has not stopped them in one place yet, and certainly, they haven’t reversed something that Russia held onto. That would have to completely change for them to even contemplate taking Melitopol, and too few people recognize that Ukraine hasn’t been successful a single time in ejecting Russia from something that they chose to stay and fight against.

Because Russia is using a doctrine that says if an area is not important to your objectives, and it would cost more to hold than you would gain by having it, then they’ll let those troops go. But when it has something to do with their core objectives, then they will fight to the last. They will fight tenaciously. And they have shown everywhere they stayed, no one has pushed them off of that.

So first of all, for Ukraine to suggest that they’re going to attack Melitopol and put Crimea at risk, they have to reverse their battlefield performance from day one. And I think that that is such a heavy lift, given the losses that they’ve absorbed over the first year, the number of troops they have now, the limited equipment that they will have, at least through the summer, and what Russia has been bringing forward and the defenses they’ve drawn. I think the chances are very low of that, but that does seem to be the talk. And so that’s their desire. But as with Crimea right now, I think the chances, at least through the summer, are very low that they would succeed. Unless they succeeded in any of these provinces that you just mentioned, I think the chances of nuclear escalation are very, very low.

Interviewer: I see. For now, we don’t see any signal from the West to stop its support for Ukraine, but the Biden administration could eventually end its support. In that case, what kind of situation would Ukraine find itself in?

Lt. Col. Davis: This is another question that very few people ask. I would slightly amend your statement that the governments are currently showing no signal that they’re going to stop or change their support for Ukraine. But the populations of many of the western countries are sending signals that their dissatisfaction is growing, both in the United States and in Europe. Those are warning flags that I think many in Ukraine do get, but that not many of the western media have really been acknowledging or considering.

You see this consistent erosion of western public support, and in Europe, it’s actually in many cases stronger because they’re protesting. They’re taking to the streets in many capitals, in Germany in particular, saying, “Stop providing NATO weapons to Ukraine.” There are many reasons, but some of them don’t see that it’s helping Ukraine. And certainly, I’m in that camp. Because by providing the weapons that we have so far, we have allowed Ukraine not to lose. We have allowed them to hold on to some of their terrain, their territory, and given them the motivation to keep fighting by giving them the equipment. Had the West, led by the United States, not given this massive amount of weapons and ammunition from the beginning, the war would have been over probably by April or May of last year, simply because Ukraine wouldn’t have had the military capacity to resist the Russians. Now, many people will say that’s a good thing because that prevented Russia from winning the war. And in many of the people in the west, the biggest objective is to prevent Russia from winning. I think many of them understand that you can’t have an objective to help Ukraine win because they see that that’s just not going to happen. They see the military balance. They see the nuclear weapons and the chances of Russia losing outright, are just almost not even realistic. But not winning is.

The problem is that comes at the expense and the cost of tens of thousands of Ukrainian lives, and the absolute eradication of many Ukrainian cities. I mean, you look at Mariupol in the beginning, though part of it’s being rebuilt already, but the town of, I think it’s Kupiansk, and Marinka in the south, Sievierodonetsk, a place called Popasna, Lysychansk, definitely Soledar and of course Bakhmut, everybody sees that lately, have almost been wiped off the face of the map. In many cases, this place called Marinka in the south, it looks like a nuclear blast went off there. There’s almost no building standing. It is creepy and eerie to look at the level of devastation. And of course, Bakhmut is not too far off of that. All of that is because we have extended the war by giving them all this, basically a lifeline to survive, but not enough under the circumstances to be able to win. Nobody would be able to win under those circumstances because the fundamentals just aren’t there to get a win.

So the question should come in: are we actually helping Ukraine by continuing to support it? I think more people are starting to ask that question, which is why you see the support for providing weapons going down.

Look, if there was an invader on my land, I’d want to fight them to the end. I wouldn’t want to just surrender to them. That would just be hateful to do. But if the consequence and the cost of continuing to fight means more of your countrymen are going to die, more of your cities are going to get wiped out, then you have to say, “Is this helpful?” Because ultimately, the thing is going to ground down, in the best case scenario for Ukraine, is it grinds into a stalemate that Russia can’t physically capture all the territory up to Kyiv. But the cost will just be enormous.

Imagine, it’s six months from now, and everybody on the Ukraine side now comes to this realization that the war can’t be won. They say, “Okay, it’s pointless to keep fighting.” Let’s say it’s like a North and South Korea in 1951, ’52, and they’re like, “Okay, this can’t be won militarily. We’re at the 38th parallel,” wherever that line would end up being. “Let’s go ahead and make a negotiated settlement.” This is far and away the most likely outcome of [the Ukraine War] at this point. Then all of this fighting for the last year and a half would have been futile. It will have been pointless. They will have sacrificed all of these people and all of these cities for nothing.

If they had made a deal, if they had followed this Minsk agreement and made any kind of positive outcome, Ukraine, Kyiv would have stayed in control of its country. There would have been no war. All of its people would be alive. Other than the Crimea, they would still be nominally in charge of the entire country. And even as early as March of last year, there was still a chance, on March 29 in Istanbul, both sides emerged from a Turkish-held negotiation that both sides said, “This is the general outlines of a deal.” We’ve been told that Boris Johnson and some others scuttled that deal and said, “No, don’t do it. Keep fighting.” And that’s what happened. So the chance for peace then evaporated. Now then we have almost a full another year of the war, and the lines have hardly changed at all.

Looking at it from that perspective, you would see what a disaster that was for Ukraine. Circling back to your original question here, what happens to Ukraine if the West does start to pull back? And let’s say that there are other reasons. It’s not just because the western population stopped wanting to support it. But it’s because the western governments start saying, “Okay, we’re giving too much money here. I can’t just keep giving a million artillery shells per year. We don’t even have it. And now that we’re getting rid of our own stocks, we don’t have any more tanks to give. We don’t have any more armored personnel carriers.” Then they may say, “All right.” Now then they may tell Kyiv, “You’re going to have to negotiate a settlement now because we’re out of equipment. We don’t have anything else to give you.” Well, now, Ukraine, whether they want to fight or not, they’re going to have to negotiate a settlement because they are outright incapable of continuing and prosecuting this war on their own. They can’t do it. They are 100% dependent and reliant on external support. And if they don’t get it in the required levels, they can’t even hold on to their territory, much less eke out any kind of a victory. That’s going to put Ukraine in a position where all they can do is make the best negotiation they can, or they’ll suffer a military defeat.

[This is] because Russia has everything internally. They’ve got their own tank manufacturing plants. They’ve got their own ammunition plants. Those things are all cranking, reportedly six, seven days a week, three shifts, around-the-clock operations. They are really kicking out the war material necessary to support this war as long as it goes. The Russian people appear to understand that this war could go on indefinitely. That would probably mean more mobilization. And they seem mentally prepared for that. One side has the domestic capacity to prosecute the war indefinitely, or at least for many months to come, and a population that can support it – and the number of troops necessary because they can mobilize another million people if they needed to with only a little bit of difficulty.

The Ukraine side is absolutely scraping the barrel now, and they are making it very difficult even to get another 100,000 because their casualties are so high. I think the arc of action on the ground speaks to the likelihood that Ukraine is going to be forced into making a negotiated settlement whether they want to or not, possibly later this year or early next year. Of course, the longer it goes, all it’s going to end up doing is increasing the body count for the Ukraine side. But it’s not going to change so much to the area on the ground. As you can see, in the last year, the lines have hardly moved at all.

Interviewer: So Ukraine will find itself in a fateful crisis after the US government possibly stops supporting Ukraine.

Lt. Col. Davis: Well yeah, because they will be faced with the stark reality that they no longer have a choice. They must make the best-negotiated settlement, or basically commit national suicide by keeping trying to fight without the backing of the West, in which case they’ll definitely militarily lose. I don’t think they would do that.

I think that the minute that the support, the signals change from green to amber or to red, then Kyiv realizes it will be forced into making a negotiated settlement with Moscow. Then you have the real problem because if Russia sees that Ukraine is being forced into making a negotiated settlement, the deal will be very much pro-Moscow, and they will ask for everything. It will be really, really hard for the Ukraine side at that point.

Interviewer: So true. You mentioned that fewer and fewer people in Europe and also in your country are actually not supporting Ukraine. We heard that the American people are mad at President Zelensky’s speech, which basically says if the US does not continue to support Ukraine, they will lose NATO and the world leadership positions. Could you explain the general reaction, especially among conservatives?

Lt. Col. Davis: Yeah. Especially among conservatives, there was some pretty bad backlash on that because there were a couple of things that happened.

One, the number of conservative outlets mischaracterized what Zelensky had said, and claimed that he was saying that Americans are going to fight for us and your people. That was not accurate. But the real issue was the characterization that was accurate. Because what Zelensky is basically telling everybody in the West is, “Hey, I’m fighting for you. If you don’t do this now, Russia will roll into NATO and take parts of the eastern part of Europe. Your NATO is going to dissolve and fall away, and then you’re going to end up in the fight because it’s going to be Russia against NATO.”

There’s no evidence of that. That’s just nonsense. I understand why Zelensky would be saying that because he wants to scare the West into believing that, “Oh my gosh, if we ever stop supporting Ukraine, we’re going to be next.” He needs the West to think that so they don’t stop supporting [Ukraine]. Because he sees what we talked about earlier in this conversation, that the West is already coming to the realization that, “We’re really not at risk here.”

If anyone ever thought that Russia has the capacity to attack NATO, especially the Baltic countries or Poland, which was the biggest fear of many people, they now see that that’s just not true at all. Russia conventionally has been exposed as being extremely weak. You see, after a full year of war against a single country on their border, they’ve barely got 17% of that country. The idea that they could then go and march into a 30-member military alliance, and have any possibility of conventional success, has just evaporated. It’s just gone. And nobody knows that better than Vladimir Putin. He would not commit national suicide by launching a war that he literally could not win. Because he could not stand up to the combined force of NATO, and then his country would be at risk of being invaded. And of course, then you’d have the possibility of nuclear weapons, and the almost certainty of nuclear weapons. So he wouldn’t do that either because that’s a lose-lose for Putin.

But what that does show, and I think that Zelensky’s claims that you mentioned, are not being successful because lots of people recognize what I just said, that Russia is not a threat to Europe. You’re not fighting for Europe. You want Europe to help you fight for your own national security, which is on the surface. It’s understandable. But don’t try to spread it and make it sound like it’s my obligation, like you have the right to use our stuff. That’s what left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouth in America – the implication that it’s an obligation of ours, almost like we had a treaty. We don’t have a treaty.

So all these things we’ve given over the last 12 months, now more than 12 months, have just been extraordinary, just by any measure, whether it’s finances, whether it’s intelligence, training, and massive amounts of armaments with no treaty, just because we want to help you. And then to demand more and try to make people feel guilty if they don’t give it, it’s just not sitting well with many in America.

Interviewer: The American people know the true intention of President Zelensky.

Lt. Col. Davis: Well, I think that they can, on one level, understand why he’s so desperate, and why he’s so passionate. And, still to this day, he still has astronomical support and respect among many in the West, on both the conservative and the liberal side in the American political landscape. But many of the people are starting to go, “Okay, but there are limits to that. I respect you. I understand your situation. If I was the leader of a country that had been physically invaded, I’d want to get them out too. I’d do everything I could.” They understand that. I understand that. But the reality is that it’s not just Ukraine’s needs. It’s the needs of the American people. It’s our national security. It’s Germany’s national security. It’s Poland’s national security. All these things matter, not just what Kyiv wants.

Interviewer: I understand. We are deeply concerned that the West’s support for Ukraine runs counter to the moves to restore the military balance in the Western Pacific. Although this is a grave concern for Japan, there are very few discussions on this point. Could you share your views with us regarding this perspective?

Lt. Col. Davis: Let me ask you a question of you. When you say there are concerns that the balance of power in the Pacific is going to be affected by what’s going on in Ukraine, what do you mean by that?

Interviewer: I mean, there’s a deep concern about the Chinese aggression in the Pacific region.

Lt. Col. Davis: So by that, you mean, because we’re giving so much stuff to Ukraine, we have less stuff to give in the Pacific? Is that what you mean?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Lt. Col. Davis: Okay. Yeah. I mean, and certainly, there are many in the US that believe that we’re taking our eye off the ball, as they say, by spending so much time worrying about Russia, and not enough worrying about China.

I’m not sure that’s really an accurate view. Because the things that are going on in Ukraine are primarily ground-based, army kind of things. Artillery pieces, tanks, armored personnel carriers. Not much of that would come into play in a China-Taiwan-US scenario, for example, or if China should try to do something against any of our treaty allies, Japan, South Korea, Australia. That would be, of course, more naval, and certainly air power. And so those really aren’t at play [in Ukraine]. In fact, those aren’t played at all in Ukraine. In that regard, I don’t think that it really has any impact. In fact, in the last several months, the United States has deepened its military cooperation and basing issues with Japan. They’ve added this new Marine base in Guam. They’ve expanded by four bases access to the Philippines. They’re trying to expand yet even more cooperation with both India and Australia, the whole AUKUS, the grouping. So I don’t see that there’s been any diminution of American support or activity in the area. They continue to do the freedom of navigation operations on the naval side. They continue to do the aerial reconnaissance and whatever in the area. So I don’t think that it’s a distraction with that. The only issue could be that a lot of money has been spent over [in Ukraine] which is going to be problematic.

The bigger thing that Americans need to be concerned about is that we don’t get too carried away with trying to provide a military balance to offset China’s rise, and their growing military strength because China is not going to be deterred by that. If we ever come to realize that being strong is not a deterrent to another strong country, that should have been exposed in Russia in February of 2022. [America] was making all these boisterous threats that we would have unprecedented sanctions against Russia if they attacked, that we would help Ukraine with weapons and all this, and obviously it had no effect on Vladimir Putin. He did what he thought he needed for his national security.

And in many regards, the threats of our support for Ukraine actually drove Russia. That’s one of my concerns, one of the least recognized lessons to learn from the Ukraine War, and its potential application between US and China, which is not getting enough understanding. In that, especially if you have a country that has its own power, and if you constantly threaten that power with military force, it’s not going to make them go, “Okay” and not do what they want. Can you even imagine Xi Jinping saying, “Yes. We want to reunify Taiwan. But because America did freedom of navigation operations and made these new bases, we’re just going to sit down, and we’re not going to do it”? Can you imagine that?

Interviewer: Absolutely not.

Lt. Col. Davis: He wouldn’t stay in power a week if he told the Politburo those kinds of things. If anything, it’s going to make him even more determined to retake Taiwan by force. The more we do on this to try to show strength, perversely, the greater I think the chances are that China will use force to try and reunify Taiwan.

In that regard, I think that the absolute best thing, the way that can provide genuine deterrence, is a significant increase in our diplomacy. That means bilateral and multilateral throughout the region. The more people are talking, the more they’re understanding and the more they find win-win solutions, especially in regard to economic exchange, and security exchange, if everybody is safe, if everybody’s prosperous, then there’s no reason for anyone to go to war.

I know it’s not a popular position among many in my country, but all these things that we’re doing like Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, and a lot of these high-level things we’re doing, sending over now, potentially, up to 200 American military uniformed people on Taiwan, those things don’t foster peace. Those things don’t help Taiwan. They don’t help them get stronger. They don’t make their national security better. It puts them at greater risk. What we should do is just say, “All right, let’s just cool the jets on that. We don’t need high-level government-to-government visits. That doesn’t help anybody. That’s just splashy, and it’s just like waving a red cape in front of a charging Chinese bull. It doesn’t help anything.”

So by not doing that, by doing less of some of these other provocative military things that are clearly designed as anti-China, and an increase in diplomacy, then that lessens China’s motivation to want to use force. Because if China believes that they can even have the possibility of, eventually, reunification with Taiwan in the future at some point, I think that they’d be very content not to use military force. They prioritize the economy and the quality of life of their own people above military conquest. And I think if they had the chance to propel those desires forward without resorting to military force, they would do it in a minute because they certainly see, one of the lessons they probably also have learned from the Ukraine War, is that things are a lot harder than they look. And that even a stronger military power can suffer a significant loss.

The last thing China can have is a protracted war so they would want to win something really fast and quick, and knock Taiwan out right away. If they believed that they were going to be in a situation where the war could go on a long time and cost them a great deal of their military power, they’re going to be less likely to do so. Which is why, concurrent with more diplomatic and less provocative military measures by the West, is more self-defense and self-reliance by Taiwan. Unlike Ukraine, if a war did break out [in Taiwan], we don’t have the Polish border to just nonstop send supplies and ammunition into Taiwan. The first thing China, almost certainly, is going to do is to set up a naval blockade and an air blockade on the eastern side of Taiwan to prevent any incursion. We wouldn’t be able to get any supplies.

If there’s a war [in Taiwan], Taiwan is on their own. Whatever they have on the ground on that day, that’s all they’re getting because China will make sure that nobody can supply them with anything. That was one of the big lessons they were going to learn. That means that the only thing Taiwan can do for their national security in the event of war is to prepare before that, to maybe increase their national defense spending by a lot, not just 1% or 0.5%. Maybe increase the number of their active duty troops significantly. I think I saw a plan the other day that by 2029, they’ll increase the number of their conscripts that have four months of training to a one-year training. But that’s a long, slow path that isn’t going to be much of a deterrent to China. I think they would have to do something quicker. But Taiwan’s defense of their own country, and making them more of that classic porcupine kind of strategy, is the best chance they have to defend themselves. Not hoping for external help.

Interviewer: I see. So Taiwan, and possibly Japan also, should be concerned that their lands will be battlefields?

Lt. Col. Davis: Yeah. I would certainly be. I’ve written a number of articles looking at this about how catastrophic for everybody involved in a war between China and Taiwan, that involved the United States ― and if the United States is involved, almost by definition, right away Japan would be involved.

I’m sure you’ve seen those latest CSIS examinations of what a war would look like, and the simulations of all that. Many of the scenarios start with China immediately knocking out Japanese naval bases, Japanese air bases, airfields, etc. So basically, bringing Tokyo into the war in the first hour. And so that would, in my view, be very bad for Japan. I just don’t see a military path to success, anything that would be a victory. Because right now, China has their internal time clock. They know when they would launch something. So they would have everything in the world prepared. They would have all the ammunition stockpiles to sustain a long war. They would have all the spare parts necessary to keep planes flying, and ships going, and their landing forces, etc. They would have everything that you would need to go for war. Nobody else would have that. Japan wouldn’t. The United States wouldn’t. Australia wouldn’t. None of the people on our side would because, basically, we’ll have what we have right now. And that’s enough to sustain a war for a couple of weeks.

Honestly, if China launched a war right now and we weren’t ready, we didn’t know anything about it, they caught us off guard, we would have enough ammunition and supply and fuel, etc. to be able to have a high-intensity fight for about a week and a half, two weeks, three weeks at the most. Whereas China could go, “We can absorb all that. Here’s another three, four, five, six, seven months we can still go, and you can’t match that.”

That’s one of the reasons why I say it would be devastating for all of the US and our allies in the region. Because once our stockpiles have been depleted, China’s stockpiles won’t be depleted. Now what are you going to do, if they keep hitting the Japanese bases, and they don’t have enough anti-aircraft missiles to knock things down? Then all of a sudden, they’re extremely vulnerable. And that, I think, is a very real possibility that too few people have. These CSIS war games were troubling to me in that people looked at the net result for China.

Of course, in all these scenarios, China never fully got control of the island so they called that a success. As though China against Taiwan is a success. Nobody looked at the wreckage behind it. And I’m like, “Wait a minute. If success means that half of the American air fleet in the Pacific is knocked out of the sky, two aircraft carriers and a number of other main battle cruisers are on the bottom of the South China Sea, that’s not a win. Okay? And if a lot of Japanese air bases have been blown up, and the facilities torched, and their planes on the ground blown up, and their ships in the harbor knocked out and sunk in the harbor, that’s not a win. That’s not a success. That doesn’t help any of our countries.” So that’s why I say that under any circumstances, if we actually get into a shooting war with China over Taiwan, we’re going to lose, whether we physically lose on the battlefield or not, our interests are going to greatly suffer. And it’ll take decades to recover from that.

So it is a bad decision if we get into a fight over Taiwan. Nobody wants to hear the consequence of that. They don’t want to contemplate it. Because if China does launch a war, then my absolute advice, is don’t fight. Do not take the bait, and don’t go in and try to fight China for Taiwan. Instead, basically blockade China with that. That’s where our power can come in handy. You have the Japanese military, the US military and the Australian military, and you can basically put a blockade on China and put real economic pressure on them without getting involved. That could make China stop the war, or at least limit what they’re doing. That leaves our military power fully in place. And then we can defend against any even theoretical possibility that China should later want to go anywhere else or attack anyone else. We have our full military power. Going and fighting China means that we will sacrifice that, and that’s not good for anyone in the West.

Interviewer: Let me ask you about your views on Biden’s diplomacy. As you mentioned about China, we are concerned that the Biden administration made a serious blunder by dividing the world into two blocks, and pushing Moscow and Beijing closer. Could you give your views on that point?

Lt. Col. Davis: Yeah. I’m very concerned about that. I have been for a long time. It’s been self-evident that China and Russia inherently have contradictions and suspicions of one another, I mean, going all the way up to 1969, I believe it was, where they had a small clash. There’s a lot of bad blood historically. But when you give them both extreme motivation to work in a common cause against a common adversary, then of course they’re going to work closer together.

And I think that’s exactly what you’re seeing. Add Iran into that. They’ve been taking a lot more active proactive position for both China and Russia so that’s drawn that closer together. And naturally, you can add North Korea into that potential as well. The primary concern is Russia and China because of their nuclear arsenals, but really it’s all of those. Because that also affects Middle Eastern security. What we’re doing by forcing China and Russia together is impacting the Middle East as well, because of the issues with Iran and all of its neighbors, etc. And then with North and South Korea, and then Japan and North Korea, all of these things are negatively impacted by us giving Moscow and Beijing a reason to try and get closer together. You see in just the last couple of weeks, that’s grown even closer together.

And again, one of my big concerns about Western diplomacy, really going back to the end of the Cold War, for a long period of time from like 1992 forward, we were a uni-power. We were the sole nuclear global powerhouse on the planet, economically, militarily, and every other way. And that led to kind of a bit of a hubris, and a bit of arrogance, that we could do anything we wanted to. We were a force for good, and whatever we do, we can, and nobody can tell us otherwise.

You see with Saddam Hussein in Iraq, with Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, with Bashar al-Assad in Syria, if we want to shoot a few missiles, we do. If we want a full invasion, we do. And they can do nothing about it. We haven’t even had any concerns about that. The problem is that China is not Saddam Hussein. They’re not Iraq. They’re not Libya. Russia is not Libya and Saddam Hussein. And the problem is, it’s hard for us to change 30 years of mentality. We’re still trying to behave towards both [China and Russia] like Saddam and Muammar Gaddafi. They’re not. And until you recognize that, “Hey, these are two superpowers that because of their nuclear arsenals, and especially China, it’s also its economic powerhouse, you just can’t treat them the way you did somebody that had no authority and no ability to counter what you’re saying.” The sooner that we recognize that, we have to now start looking for give-and-take, not just giving orders, but trying to find win-win solutions. We might say, “Okay, I really want these three things. I’d like to have five, but I really need these three. So I’ll negotiate away these two, and let China or Russia or one of these others have some kind of diplomatic success, just to keep things ― just to make sure I get these three core things that I want.”

We don’t do that. If we want five, we go for five. And we expect everyone else to give us everything. That mentality is pushing Beijing and Moscow and Tehran and Pyongyang closer together. As we see in Russia right now, with Iran’s impact by providing these Shahed drones, and possibly missiles, and possibly North Korea providing missiles, if they are doing that, that has a direct military implication on the ground against the person we’re supporting in Ukraine.

So you can certainly see that that could also potentially happen in the Pacific in the future. Right now Russia is cranking all this military production up. They’re making drones. They’re making new missiles. They’re making artillery pieces, a lot of the things that China would need. If they were the one that got into a war, and let’s say that Russia had theirs wrapped up, you can easily see that they would be transporting some of that to China as well, in the situation that it got into that. All of those things would work to our disadvantage.

And the only way you can stop that ― you can’t stop that at the moment. You can only stop it now before it happens by having a more enlightened foreign policy, and being a little more sober, and having a little more humility in your engagement with other countries. And perversely, having more humility and getting more into the give-and-take is a sign of strength, and will increase your security, both economically and militarily. But we’re going the opposite because we think the only strength is to puff up our chest and threaten, “I’m going to kill you. And I’m going to put more bases and more missiles and all this.” And we’re moving in the wrong direction. And you see the results of it. You just mentioned it.

Interviewer: So true. What can the Biden administration do to end the Ukraine War?

Lt. Col. Davis: It’s hard right now because we failed to use diplomacy with the Minsk Accords, or even a number of other things that were possible prior to war. We forfeited that. We let it go.

We forfeited the chance in the first month of the war in Istanbul to end the war there on very limited gains to the Russian side. That would have been in our favor. That would have been to our long-term benefit to have done that. We sabotaged that as well. Now then a year later, then Russia now has mobilized. They have mobilized their industry. I believe they’re much less willing to talk about things because they think that they have long-term advantages to be able to take care of this, and possibly even achieve on the ground militarily their political objectives. Right now they for sure don’t want to talk about anything.

But even if we changed our mind right now and said, “Okay, let’s start talking about some negotiated settlement here,” I’m not sure that Russia would be willing to do that. Because I think that they have concluded that the only way that they can assure their security is by conquest on the ground up to some point. I don’t see any chance that they would even dream of capturing all of Ukraine because that would be an albatross around their neck. They don’t have any interest. They don’t have the ability to, basically, garrison a country of 40-something million into perpetuity.

But in the area where there are predominantly Russian-speaking and Russian-cultural people, they can handle that. They can maybe even build a new Cold War iron curtain where these defensive lines could be, after they get to whatever level that they think they get. That could potentially be the Dnepri River because it’s a natural barrier between the east and the west part of the country. And it may be that they say, “We’re going to just conquer all of that.”

Our options are probably limited. But in any case, we can certainly help the case out by telling Kyiv that, “Look, the days of unlimited supply are over. We’re going to start ramping back our support. You can make whatever choices you want, but understand that without this uninterrupted flow, there’s no way that you can militarily shove Russia out of your country anywhere.” So then they would be forced to come to their own conclusions and try to seek a negotiated settlement. Our options are very limited now because of these bad decisions we made prior to the war and in the early phase of the war.
We should do that though, because that’s still the smartest thing to do, both for Ukraine and for our interest, is to start tapering back on the support, and making sure, privately, that they know the days of the blank check are over, so that they can make their own decisions about trying to find a negotiated settlement.

Interviewer: I see. So maybe the Biden administration should admit that they made a mistake.

Lt. Col. Davis: They would have to admit that to themselves. They’re not going to admit it publicly. They’ll never admit it publicly. They’re going to keep saying, “We’ll be with you for as long as it takes.” That’s a tagline they’ve had almost for a year. And they’ll never say anything besides that. “We’re with you.” Because they would say what I just suggested privately. And then when Zelensky publicly says, “We’re going to start looking for a negotiated settlement,” we would say, “Oh, okay. Well, if that’s what they want to do, sure, we’ll support that too. Because they’re our friends and we’re going to support them whatever with if it’s military or diplomacy. We support their decision because that’s their sovereign country.”

We wouldn’t admit a mistake. But we have to first privately admit, in the private circles of our offices, that, “Oh, crap, this was a bad mistake. We shouldn’t have done this.” That’s the necessary first step. I don’t know that they’ll make it, but they may be forced to later. But that would surely help things along.

Interviewer: We are concerned that the Japanese Kishida administration has blindly followed the Biden administration, and as a result, Japan is confronting three countries, China, Russia and North Korea, and putting itself in a geopolitically hopeless environment. In your view, what do you think should be Japan’s foreign and security policy?

Lt. Col. Davis: Every country is going to do whatever it can. It’s going to exploit whatever opportunities it can, for the benefit of its people. Japan is certainly no exception to this. And so long as they view their long-term interest, both security and financially, to be working closely with the United States, they’ll continue to do that. And that means subordinating some of their desires to some of the things that Washington wants, as long as they see an ultimate net-net benefit for Tokyo.

My worry is that if we aren’t careful, and if we don’t start admitting in private some of these things that we’ve made mistakes, and change our behavior, whether it’s Japan, Australia or many of the countries in Europe, they may start to say, “Just following the United States all the time is not helping us out.”

Look, there are already a lot of people in Europe that are upset about the support for the war because it has a negative implication on their economies. Because of all these sanctions that have been put, they’ve been in some ways harsher on the Western side than they are on the Russian side. A lot of these things have long-term implications, like this oil and the fuel thing. Western Europe survived the winter because it wasn’t very harsh, and they figured out the oil consumption issue and the gas issue.
But what’s not been paid much attention to is the cost of that replacement is now much higher than it was before. That’s having direct implications on economic output because the cost of doing business is now higher.
Many businesses have gone out of business because of all of this, and that’s leaving a lot of people unhappy. If it gets to the point where they get even worse, let’s say a recession follows, and many people say it’s because of this war that the US supported, facilitated, and kept it going, there’s going to be people being less and less willing to follow the United States.

In the case of Japan, I think that they’re not close to that yet. But I get the feeling that people are starting to think, ” Do we want to keep doing this?” And the fact that they’re even asking that question should be a warning sign to Washington. Because especially if things go south in the issue with China, Taiwan and the United States, and that scenario that I painted earlier, that the CSIS drew of 100 planes getting shot down, and ships getting sunk, and all of a sudden, it’s clear that the US military no longer has the capacity to dominate the air and the sea everywhere, now people like Japan will start going, ” Hang on. We need to rethink this.” And especially if Japan had suffered lots of loss of its armed forces because of supporting our policy against China, and it harms the Japanese people, and definitely harms their ability for economic opportunities, then they’re going to start saying, “Yeah. We need to start rethinking this.”

The whole global dynamics of Western leadership, which right now includes both Europe and certainly the Asia-Pacific area with Japan and South Korea, could completely unhinge. Who knows where it could go from there? But the day that Tokyo calculates that their best interests are not with doing whatever we say, they will start to change. That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s moving in that direction. And with more bad things, that could be accelerated.

Interviewer: Yeah. I’m sure that our Japanese readers will understand what is actually happening right now after reading your interview.

Lt. Col. Davis: Yeah. Japan’s friendship with the United States has been more than half a century and it’s been really good for Japan. The friendship has been great. There’s no reason for any of that to change. Everybody would like it to perpetuate indefinitely, well into the future, as long as it benefits both sides. As long as there is some humility on both sides, or all the different sides, where people are seeking the best for each other, and not just for themselves, as long as that continues on, then the relationship continues to everyone’s benefit.

So there’s no reason it should change. But if we go down the path that we’re currently on, and we drift in a way that where all of a sudden, it’s costly to be a friend of ours, that’s when the dynamics change. People are starting to recognize that we’re going in a direction that’s not as good as it has been in the previous 50 years, for example. And so that should be some warning bells and sirens that people should start paying more attention to. If we can correct this drift, because it’s a drift right now, and if we can bring it back into the center, it’s great for everybody. But until leaders and even people, your readers, are willing to recognize that it is drifting and that it needs to be corrected, it’s not going to be. It’s going to keep drifting the wrong way. So I think that articles like this one are useful to expose, “Here’s the truth. This is what’s happening on the ground. It’s going in a direction that’s not good for us, or for the US, or for Japan, and it needs to be corrected.” Then I think that that could be very useful.

Interviewer: Yeah. Thank you so much for spending your time today.

Lt. Col. Davis: Certainly. Always my pleasure.

Western Supports Have Cost Tens of Thousands of Ukrainian Lives
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