Trudy Rubin: As Kyiv's counteroffensive gears up, US must fully commit to a Ukrainian victory over Russian forces
Published in News & Features
As Ukraine gears up for its long-awaited counteroffensive, it's possible to imagine what a victory might look like. That is, if the United States and Europe really seek a Ukrainian win.
Kyiv is in good position to move forward. Moscow's "triumph" in Bakhmut is Pyrrhic: The Russians suffered 100,000 casualties over the past five months, and gained barely any territory except this small ruined city, in which their fighters could yet be encircled by Ukraine's military.
Meantime, Kyiv's clever distraction — a group of Russian-born Ukraine supporters have made a military incursion just across the Russian border near Belgorod — has evoked hysteria in Moscow. (Ukraine denies any connection with this minor incursion, just as Moscow did when its own "little green men" invaded Crimea in 2014.)
Almost all that is needed to begin is better weather, some more training, and, most importantly, final delivery of key U.S. and European weapons systems. Then, Ukrainian forces will try to break through Russian defense lines and cut the supply routes between Russia and Crimea, a giant step towards forcing Russians to realize their imperial dreams have turned to nightmares.
Yet the White House can't seem to decide if it wants Ukraine to win, or even to take back Crimea. Until now, it has drifted forward without a clear vision of how it wants the war to end.
Over and over, the U.S. has denied Ukraine key weapons systems at critical moments, only to release them months later. Those weapons then make a huge difference, but only after thousands more Ukrainians have died.
That dithering still persists when it comes to delivering long range ATACM missiles and F-16 warplanes which are vital to destroying Russian logistics and protecting Ukrainian troops from air attack as they advance.
Hats off to Great Britain for recently sending its own long range Storm Shadow missiles. And kudos to EU nations that pressured Biden to finally allow training of F-16 pilots and delivery of some European F-16s. Unfortunately, the warplanes will arrive too late for the counteroffensive, and Ukraine will also need ATACMS — and, ultimately, U.S. warplanes.
Instead of doling out critical weapons little by little, and trying to micro-manage the conflict, the White House needs an overall strategy for Ukrainian victory. Then it must deliver key systems when they are needed for that strategy to succeed.
Last July, when I interviewed Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in Kyiv, he begged Washington to "help close the skies" to Russian missiles that were destroying civilians and cities.
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