Last week the House passed a stop-gap spending bill to keep the government running for another forty-five days as they haggle over a budget. As is always the case now, it was all insider baseball and pointless theater. The people on the stage doing “Shutdown Fever” seem to think there is an audience for this stuff, despite the fact the audience for this material is just the Washington media. The peanut gallery has been empty for so long they do not bother to open it anymore.
Aside from the usual finkery and shenanigans that come from these things, there was one thing that could prove to be interesting. Speaker of the House McCarthy agreed to drop Ukraine funding from the bill in order to get the votes to pass it. He promised the Democrats a separate bill, but his promises are even less reliable than some of the famously unreliable promises. The fact that the Democrats were willing to go along with it suggests they were not terribly upset by this finkery.
Despite what some back-benchers have to say, none of this has to do with the money being spent on the Ukraine project. Washington prints the money it spends, so no one in Washington worries about spending. It is not even clear that they care about the Ukraine project, but this is a good issue for them to show that McCarthy is nothing more than a gormless sock puppet for the people who really run Washington. McCarthy made sure to prove they were correct on that score.
The fact that the Democrats went along with this without too much of a fight and the White House has been moderate in tone is the curious thing. So far no one has bleated anything about Russian interference, which is has been the pattern for two years now whenever anyone questions the official Ukraine narrative. It could be that they know the fix is in so they can ignore this tempest in a teapot. Let the outer party have their poo-flinging contest, as long as the money keeps flowing.
It is also possible that the Evil Party knows the Stupid Party will come to their rescue as this Ukraine project slips into a debacle. If the Republicans are willing to take the lead on defunding this project, then they get the blame for what happens in 2024. Given the way things are going on the battlefields, it is reasonable to think that with or without Washington money, things could be very grim by next summer. Perhaps that is why the Democrats are letting the Republicans win this one.
The thing is though, the neocons never give up on a project, so it is hard to imagine them going along with this. Ukraine is not Iraq or Afghanistan. If the money runs out, the ultras will kill Zelensky and Ukraine collapses into civil war. The Russians then take control of the country and Ukraine ceases to exist. Ukraine has lost half of its population since independence and that will accelerate with a civil war. The result will be a lightly populated border state between Russia and the West.
This suggests that maybe there is some uncertainty in the White House about where to go next with the Ukraine project. Money is not the real issue. It is the dwindling supply of weapons and ammunition in the West. The Pentagon keeps warning about this issue, which no one seems to understand. It will take years to resupply the war machine with new weapons to replace those sent to Ukraine. The American military industrial base cannot keep pace with the demands of Ukraine.
If NATO cannot keep sending weapons to Ukraine, then what are the options to reduce the burn rate or stall the war until supplies can be replenished? That is where things get tricky as all of the options rely on the Russians going along with the scheme. If the plan is to slow the burn, it means the end of offensive operations by the Ukraine army, but the Russians will continue to pound them. If the plan is a cease fire, then it means getting the Russians to go along with it.
A third option, related to the first two, is the trial balloon let slip by the British Minister of Defense over the weekend. The idea is to put NATO forces into Western Ukraine as trainers and advisors. They would be housed on bases, which would be turned into supply depots and repair facilities. The belief is the Russians would not blow up these facilities due to the presence of NATO forces. NATO would have safe zones in Ukraine to build up supplies and train a new army.
Given that the Russians have blown up a number of command centers with Western advisors in them, this sounds nutty. On the other hand, those facilities did not have the NATO flag over them. They were Ukrainian military facilities disguised as things like hotels and business parks. In Syria, Washington has had a garrison there protecting the remains of ISIS from the Russians and Syrians. Perhaps Washington thinks the same thing will work in Ukraine.
Taken together, this latest bit of budget drama suggests that Washington is unsure where to go with the Ukraine project. This deal buys them a month or so to come up with a new plan. This coincides with the onset of the autumn rains which will force the Ukrainians back into their bunkers and trenches. That will also slow the burn rate of weapons and ammunition. The old narrative has finally collapsed, and they now need a new narrative or someone on whom to pin the blame.
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