West must avert long term war in Ukraine – US Gen. Wesley Clark

US Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), a retired four-star general and former NATO commander in Europe (1997-2000), talking at Kyiv Security Forum on 13 May 2022.  

Russian Aggression

Russia’s long-term war against Ukraine would mean unnecessary bloodshed, Russia needs to be ejected by the force of Ukrainian arms, and the West needs to arm Ukraine and bring Ukraine into NATO, US Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) believes.

During a special military panel of the Kyiv Security Forum, Wesley Clark, the retired US four-star general and former NATO commander in Europe (1997-2000), said that the only viable solution to ensure Ukraine’s security in the future is to arm Ukraine and bring it into NATO.

“It can’t be done until Russia is ejected [from the Ukrainian territory], Russia needs to be ejected by the force of the Ukrainian army, and there shouldn’t be a ceasefire until that time. It’s that simple,” Gen. Wesley Clark said.

Long-term war that would “bleed Ukraine” raises long-term risks and should be averted

Gen. Wesley Clark further insisted that Russia’s protracted war of attrition, a stalemate, would mean not only unnecessary bloodshed for Ukraine, but will also bring long-term risks internationally:

“To call for a long war is to bleed Ukraine unnecessarily due to fear of Russian escalation… It’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s not wise, it’s bad strategy… We don’t want a long war, not least because of what it does to Ukraine. But also because it raises the long-term risks, it brings China in, it allows Russia to mobilize, it puts more stress on the [NATO] Alliance, it’s just not the right strategy,” he said.

Therefore, Gen. Clark believes that the stalemate should be broken and offers two ways of doing it:

  • “It can be broken if Ukraine has the combat power to immediately push back the Russians in Donbas, slice in through Kherson, close off Russian access to Ukraine from Ukrainian Crimea, go in both directions on the south coast – clean them out. 
  • “It can also be done if Ukraine fights a mobile defense. Let [the Russians] come into Donbas, and then close it off.”

And, according to him, both options require tanks, self-propelled artillery, attack helicopters, ground-attack aircraft like Su jets, F-16s, or A-10s. Also, intelligence and logistics is needed to support this.

Providing Ukraine with US tanks, self-propelled artillery, aircraft would avert a long-term war

Gen. Wesley Clark further emphasized that full-scale assistance is required to avert a long war scenario:

“If we really believe in a long-war strategy, we’ve got to pull the trainers out immediately: M1 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, M109A6 self-propelled howitzers, Apache helicopters, F-16, A-10 aircraft. Don’t wait. It’s not that the Ukrainian forces can’t learn quickly, but to get the logistics behind it, so it’s sustainable, that’s a three-month, four-months, all-hands-on-deck effort to do that. It has to be started now.”

The ongoing effort to get the Soviet-times military equipment to Ukraine won’t work in the long-term:

“In the immediate future, within a 6-months window, Ukraine needs to be transitioning to NATO standard equipment,” Gen. Clark says.

Gen. Wesley Clark believes that the Russian troops shouldn’t feel safe in the Russian territory while they attack Ukraine, Russia “isn’t a sanctuary”:

“Ukraine right now is making incredible progress North-East of Kyiv. That’s the soft mid-belly of Russia. They have no idea what would happen. And this idea that somehow Russia should be a sanctuary, that they should be protected behind their border, and they’re free to assault and attack, and fire artillery, and use air defense against Ukraine – it’s nonsense.”

How Russia cultivated the West’s fear of nuclear weapons

The next question addressed to General Clark concerned Russia’s nuclear arsenal and why the West should stop being afraid of Putin’s threats to use it, as well as how he can be stopped.

Russia, and before it the Soviet Union, has spent 60 years cultivating in the West a fear of nuclear weapons… There is a long history that Putin is relying on to frighten the West. I think the rest of the leaders have to understand that Mr. Putin is going to use these nuclear weapons whenever it suits him, whenever he thinks it’s to his advantage.”

According to Gen.Clark, Putin’s main advantage from nuclear weapons is the ability to shock, scare, and terrify the West, “that this is the Third World War.”

We need to stop thinking in those terms. It represents to Russia a Western weakness, and it will be exploited. It gives [Putin] an incentive to stay in the fight,” Gen. Wesley Clark noted.

The antidote to this is to convince Vladimir Putin that if tactical nuclear weapons are used on the battlefield, NATO will intervene with conventional forces and stop Russia’s invasion. General Clark says NATO has the capacity to get this done, “with airpower, combined arms movements, with much better intelligence and coordination with the Ukrainian forces.”

“So I think the statesmen in the West have to stop peddling Russian propaganda, disinformation, and fear. They have to recognize what the stakes are here: Ukraine must succeed, Russia must fail, Putin must fail… Putin is a criminal, he started an aggressive war… We certainly don’t owe him an off-ramp,” the general said.

Transcribed by Denys Dratsky

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