For months, Western military analysts have sung a chorus of contempt for Russia’s military performance in the Ukraine war. Time and again, Western media have dutifully repeated — without a hint of scepticism — their dismissive claims and outright lies about Russia’s military performance and battlefield developments in Ukraine.
A cursory review of recent headlines would cause an uninformed reader to believe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been an unmitigated disaster for the Russian military.
Here’s a tiny sample:
Newsweek, May 19, 2022
BBC, April 11, 2022
Aljazeera, June 4, 2022
New York Times, May 16, 2022
In general, the sources for these claims have been the Ukrainian, U.S. and British governments, as well as military ‘experts’ from NATO countries. Repeatedly, these same sources have asserted that a major cause of Russia’s supposed failure in the Ukraine war is the incompetence of the Russian military.
Again, I offer a tiny sample:
The Conversation, March 13, 2022
Washington Post, March 17, 2022
Business Insider, March 20, 2022
The Economist, April 30, 2022
The New Yorker, March 11, 2022
For the sake of argument, let’s take these bombastic claims at face value (I’ll touch on the veracity of these claims later in this post and I’ll explore their veracity in more detail in Part 2 of this article).
As citizens of a NATO country, it behooves us to ask: if Russia’s failure to defeat Ukraine after three months of fighting is proof of the Russian military’s incompetence, what does that say about NATO’s failure to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan?
If we apply to NATO’s Afghan war the same standards that Western military ‘experts’ apply to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, then we are led inexorably to the conclusion that NATO is the military equivalent of the Keystone Cops:
At least the Keystone Cops were funny, but there’s nothing funny about the death, destruction, pollution and financial ruin wrought by NATO. In fact, NATO is a gigantic, multi-trillion-dollar fraud being perpetrated on the taxpayers of NATO countries.
Let’s begin by examining the comparative military expenditures of NATO and Russia.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2021, Russia’s military budget amounted to $65.9 billion (all spending figures in this article are in U.S. currency, unless stated otherwise). By contrast, SIPRI estimates the U.S. military budget in 2021 to have been $801 billion – more than twelve times the military budget of Russia. By itself, the United Kingdom – NATO’s second-biggest military spender — had a larger military budget in 2021 ($68.4 billion) than Russia. The combined military spending in 2021 for NATO’s second tier military spenders (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Canada) was approximately $239 billion. When we add in NATO’s relatively ‘small’ military spenders, such as Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands, total NATO military spending in 2021 was well in excess of $1.1 trillion – about seventeen times Russia’s military spending.
Now, let’s compare the military opponent that Russia confronts in Ukraine to the opponent confronted by NATO in Afghanistan.
Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe, with a landmass of 603,500 square kilometres, (Russia is the only European country that is larger than Ukraine.) Afghanistan’s land mass (647,000 square kilometres) is slightly larger than that of Ukraine. With a population in 2020 of 44.1 million, Ukraine was slightly more populous than Afghanistan, at 38.9 million.
In 2022, Global Firepower ranked the United States as the world’s top country by military strength, followed by Russia in second place. Two other NATO countries made the top 10: France in seventh place and the United Kingdom in eighth place.
In 2022, Global Firepower ranked Ukraine’s military 22nd out of 142 countries, with total military personnel of approximately 500,000. It also reported that Ukraine had total aircraft strength of 318 military aircraft (including 69 fighters/interceptors and 34 attack helicopters), along with land forces that included 2,596 tanks, 12,303 armoured vehicles, 1,067 self-propelled artillery, 2,040 towed artillery and 490 rocket projectors. Global Firepower also stated that Ukraine’s navy had 38 assets, including one frigate and thirteen patrol vessels.
In addition, over the eight years leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, eight NATO countries trained at least 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers a year.
In Afghanistan, NATO’s primary military opponent was, of course, the Taliban. Although precise estimates of the Taliban’s military strength were difficult to compile, there is little doubt that the Taliban had far fewer fighters than Ukraine’s military and that the Taliban possessed an arsenal that was vastly inferior to that of Ukraine’s military.
According to a January 2021 analysis published by West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center:
The number of people in the Taliban’s fighting forces is difficult to determine precisely, but a variety of sources give an estimate of 60,000 core fighters, give or take 10-20 percent. The most systematic public study of the Taliban’s size (from 2017) concluded that the group’s total manpower exceeds 200,000 individuals, which includes around 60,000 core fighters, another 90,000 members of local militias, and tens of thousands of facilitators and support elements. These numbers are considerable increases over official U.S. estimates of around 20,000 fighters that were provided in 2014…
… To implement [their] tactics, the Taliban use primarily Soviet-style small arms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), though they also have limited numbers of heavy machine guns, heavy mortars, anti-armor weapons, and sniper rifles. In recent years, the Taliban have been able to overrun numerous ANDSF checkpoints and installations, affording them more advanced gear such as up-armored vehicles, night-vision devices, and laser optics. The group has used this advanced equipment to conduct assaults on hardened ANDSF facilities and to arm its relatively new “Red Unit,” which is an elite infantry unit (estimated to number from several hundred to a thousand members) used to spearhead and support attacks against particularly important or sensitive targets across the country.
[Emphasis added; footnotes omitted.]
Whatever the number of up-armored vehicles and heavy mortars the Taliban were able to secure from enemy forces, it is clear that, as of the twentieth year of the Afghan war, the Taliban’s up-armoured vehicles and heavy mortars paled in comparison to the tank and artillery forces of the Ukrainian military. In addition, the Taliban had no air-force, whereas Ukraine possessed 69 fighters/interceptors and 34 attack helicopters.
In the final analysis, as of early 2021, the Taliban remained a military force that used “primarily Soviet-style small arms and improvised explosive devices.”
In addition, for most of the war in Afghanistan, the government of Afghanistan was allied with NATO, whereas Russia is fighting in a country whose national government is hostile to Russia.
Thus, there simply can be no question that NATO’s advantages over the Taliban were, at least on paper, far greater than Russia’s advantages over Ukraine.
Despite these facts, where do the two wars stand today?
After about 100 days of fighting, Russia’s military occupies, according to Ukraine’s president, approximately 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory. That is an area that is roughly the size of England. Moreover, recent Ukrainian losses in the key battlegrounds of Mariupol, Popasnaya and Severodonetsk strongly suggest that Russia’s military is expanding its control over the Donbas.
Russia’s military has managed to accomplish these feats despite major challenges that NATO did not have to confront during the Afghanistan war, including the imposition of sanctions that are designed to destroy Russia’s economy, the flooding of Ukraine with more NATO weaponry after Russia’s invasion began, and the ongoing provision by the Pentagon of valuable intelligence to the Ukrainian military.
It is indeed no exaggeration to say that the entirety of NATO is directly waging an economic war on Russia, and is indirectly waging a military war on Russia through a Ukrainian proxy. Despite these formidable obstacles, Russia appears to be winning this war.
By contrast, NATO has been thoroughly defeated in Afghanistan — after twenty years of war. NATO no longer controls any part of the country, and the very enemy that NATO sought to destroy by means of two decades of savagery has returned to power.
Not only did NATO have far more time than Russia to defeat an opponent that was much less formidable than Russia’s (as measured by force size and weaponry), but NATO squandered astonishing sums of money to lose the Afghanistan war.
According to a study by Brown University, the United States had spent more than $2.3 trillion on the war in Afghanistan as of August 2021 — far more than the entire annual GDP of Russia ($1.5 trillion in 2020). From 2010 and 2012, the United States spent over $100 billion a year on the Afghanistan war – a sum that vastly exceeds Russia’s annual military budget.
Of course, none of these figures includes spending by NATO countries other than the United States. According to the BBC, the U.K. and Germany – who had the largest numbers of troops in Afghanistan after the United States – spent an estimated $30 billion and $19 billion, respectively, on the war in Afghanistan. Canada reportedly spent C$18 billion on the Afghan war (US$14.3 billion at current exchange rates), while 40,000 of Canada’s soldiers served in Afghanistan
Then there is the human cost of the Afghanistan war. According to Brown University, the total number of persons killed by direct war violence in the Afghan war from October 2001 to September 2021 was more than 176,000. The vast majority of these casualties were Afghans (including more than 46,000 civilians). These figures do not include indirect, war-related deaths caused by loss of access to food, water, and/or infrastructure, or war-related disease.
Today, Afghanistan lies in smoking ruins. According to the United Nations, 97% of Afghans are now at risk of being plunged into poverty. The economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies since NATO fled the country in shame are causing widespread, severe hunger.
Aside from grand larceny, there is one thing that NATO does do exceedingly well: it destroys states. Indeed, NATO is the destroyer of nations par excellence.
In Afghanistan, vast devastation is all that the great and glorious NATO ‘won’ after two decades of war and over $2 trillion of expense. Meanwhile, NATO’s supercilious, incompetent and corrupt leaders continue to mock Russia’s military performance after a mere 100 days of war in Ukraine. You can’t make this stuff up.
In a sane Western world, the calls for NATO to be disbanded would now be deafening, but instead, we are told that we ‘must’ expand NATO and dramatically increase NATO military spending to contain the growing Russian threat. Putting aside the obvious question of why we need to increase military spending if Russia’s military is so incompetent, it strains credulity to suggest that spending seventeen times more than Russia is not enough. Are we seriously to believe that we will suddenly become safe from Russian aggression by increasing our military spending from seventeen to twenty times more than Russian military spending?
The bottom line is this: if you are convinced that we must now increase our military spending and expand NATO to protect ourselves from Russia, then you are a sucker. I, for one, refuse to be a sucker. I object in the strongest possible terms, as should we all, to the expenditure of even more of our hard-earned tax dollars to enrich the merchants of death who arm NATO and command its farcical militaries.