They say you shouldn’t arm yourself with a knife if you’re headed into a gunfight.
But what if that’s your only option?
That might be where the U.S. finds itself after reducing conventional weapons stockpiles and then providing much of what was left in the cupboard to Ukrainian forces fighting off Russian invaders.
The Pentagon may feel a lot like Old Mother Hubbard if America should find itself involved in a conventional land war in Europe or Asia — possibilities that seemed remote less than two years ago, but now look slightly less outré given recent Russian aggression and Chinese and North Korean saber rattling.
Both sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict are burning through “weaponry and ammunition at a pace not seen since World War II,” The New York Times reported.
The problem is that military planners in Europe and the U.S. never expected to see another war like World War II, at least not since the fall of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, and have instead focused their military spending on “lighter, more expeditionary forces” like light infantry and special operations units.
For example, Ukraine is expending thousands of artillery rounds daily, whereas the U.S. in Afghanistan might have taken a full week or longer to run through that many munitions.
“Last summer in the Donbas region [alone], the Ukrainians were firing 6,000 to 7,000 artillery rounds each day, a senior NATO official said,” according to The Times. “The Russians were firing 40,000 to 50,000 rounds per day. By comparison, the United States produces only 15,000 rounds each month.”
Nor can the U.S. simply look to other NATO nations to fill in the gap. In fact, many are in worse shape than the U.S.
“Smaller countries have exhausted their potential, another NATO official [told The Times], with 20 of its 30 members ‘pretty tapped out.’ But the remaining 10 can still provide more, he suggested, especially larger allies. That would include France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.”
Of course, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as the ancient Vulcan proverb goes.
“It’s a mystery what the Russians have left,” Pierre Grasser, a researcher associated with Paris’ Sorbonne University, told the Agence France-Presse back in early September.
“They had enough supplies for their original plan,” he said. “But the fact is that the war is lasting longer than expected and the destruction of their reserves by U.S.-made HIMARS rockets is reshuffling the deck.”
“Moscow doesn’t have many allies that can supply it or come to the aid of its manufacturers,” he added, noting that China was involved in the conflict only diplomatically and that North Korea’s offer to sell munitions would probably only amount to enough to supply Russia for “a few weeks.”
That may mean that the U.S. has little to fear from Russia — aside from the obvious threat presented by its stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction — and, perhaps, reduces the level of North Korean menace for a while, but the U.S. still needs to be prepared to defend Taiwan from invasion by the People’s Republic.
(I’m not advocating for military action there or anywhere else, so please hold your emails. I’m simply saying that if we’re going to consider Taiwan an ally, we need to at least look like we’re capable of defending the island, if only as a deterrent.)
Unfortunately, concerns regarding the U.S. ability to meet military threats of that nature were already being raised as far back as seven months ago, when Sen. Richard Blumenthal said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “The United States military has probably sent about one-third of its Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine — one-third of our supply given to them,” according to Newsweek.
“Replenishing U.S. stocks or those weapons would require 32 months,” the Connecticut Democrat added, predicting that only President Joe Biden invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950 could prevent the country running out of what he called “these key arms.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed in September, predicting that “it will be many years before the [Javelin missile] inventory is fully replenished.”
CSIS also suggested that supplies of other key arms were “limited,” including HIMARS light multiple rocket launchers and ammunition, Stinger missiles, towed M-777 howitzers and 155-mm ammunition for them, and possible radar counter-artillery systems.
Nonetheless, “American officials insist that the U.S. military still has enough matériel to continue supplying Ukraine and defend U.S. interests elsewhere,” The Times reported.
I’m a little old to be trusting blanket statements from “American officials” — and if you’re old enough to read this, so are you — but I hope they’re right.
It’s not just embarrassing to bring a knife to a gunfight. It can be painful too.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.