As the pundit classes have been consumed with the implications of the 34 count conviction of Donald Trump in New York, the Biden Administration has authorized crossing a big Russia red line, that of using US (and other foreign) weapons to hit targets in Russia. The New York Times’ version of the decision:

The decision by the Biden administration to allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia with American-made weapons fulfills a long-held wish by officials in Kyiv that they claimed was essential to level the playing field
The shift in policy followed declarations from nearly a dozen European governments and Canada that their weapons could be used to fire into Russia.

Freed from those constraints, Ukraine can strike into Russia with SCALP missiles from France and, potentially soon, the identical Storm Shadow missiles supplied by Britain. Although the British foreign minister, David Cameron, said on May 3 that Ukraine should be able to attack Russia with Western weapons, London has not yet given its full permission…

The SCALP and Storm Shadow missiles have a range of about 150 miles and are fired from Ukraine’s aging fleet of Soviet-designed fighter jets.

Several countries — Britain, Germany, Norway and the United States — have given Ukraine ground-based launchers that can fire longer-range missiles. Those systems are known as HIMARS and MLRS launchers, and they can also shoot the American-made Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, which have a range of up to 190 miles.

However, in disclosing the new policy, U.S. officials said their policy would not permit the use of ATACMS or long-range missiles that can strike deep into Russia. Germany also has so far refused to donate its Taurus missile, with a range of 310 miles, in part out of concern that it would be fired deep into Russia and escalate the war. It is now even less likely to do so, Rafael Loss, a weapons expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview on Thursday.

Additionally, Britain, Canada and the United States have supplied Ukraine with medium-range missiles or ground-based small diameter bombs that can reach into Russia from 50 to 90 miles away.
But the new authorizations may have their greatest impact in the war for air superiority — especially if the allies allow their donated jets and drones to attack within Russia’s air space.

On Friday, the Dutch foreign minister said Ukraine could use the 24 F-16 fighter jets that the Netherlands has pledged to fly into Russian territory on war missions.

And from a Politico exclusive, Biden secretly gave Ukraine permission to strike inside Russia with US weapons (note the Times does not credit Politico and Politico oddly has this story way below the fold):

The Biden administration has quietly given Ukraine permission to strike inside Russia — solely near the area of Kharkiv — using U.S.-provided weapons, three U.S. officials and two other people familiar with the move said Thursday, a major reversal that will help Ukraine to better defend its second-largest city.

If I were cynical, I would see this as a pretext of more of the same elsewhere. Putin said Russia has no immediate designs on Kharkiv. Kharkiv is a big sprawling city. Taking it would require a lot of resources. Zelensky nevertheless seems to have devoted an excessive amount of his dwindling resources to defending it, when Russia would be better served to bypass it for now if it wanted to move further into Ukraine, say to cut more supply lines. If Russia wanted to increase the intensity of the war and accelerate the attrition, the more obvious way would be to elongate the front even further by moving forces into Sumy. Russia may have even planned to do so but is now holding back to see how the latest episode of NATO derangement plays out.

Keep in mind that the pretense that these are somehow Ukraine weapons because they are being allocated to Ukraine for use is a canard. Ukraine depends on its Western backers for targeting information. Most experts believe that even the operation is done substantially if not entirely by little green men from the Collective West. These are complex systems and it’s not plausible that Ukrainian soldiers could have been trained to a level to deploy them independently. Putin addressed the issue long-form in an interview earlier this week, suggesting that NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg must have developed dementia to suggest otherwise. He also warned that this move could stoke a “world wide conflict” as in Russia might respond by striking US military assets in other theaters.

I don’t know what the US is trying to achieve by playing this half pregnant game. On the one hand, Russia has been able to take down most long-range missiles thrown at it. For instance, Alexander Mercouris yesterday cited a fresh Ministry of Defense report that Ukraine had fired 8 ATACMS missiles at Crimea and Russia had shot all of them down. That does not mean there was not collateral damage from the falling missile or anti-aircraft missiles. And as Mercouris likes to stress, this is a game of odds, with some missiles like to get through now and again.

On the one hand, the Times included the Dutch F-16s in its weapons list. That should actually be reassuring to the Russians as an empty threat. Scott Ritter has said that any pilot who flew them against Russia has only 20% odds of returning alive. They would be detected almost immediately upon takeoff and aggressively targeted. F-16s also require golf green runaways to take off. Ukraine does not have any that are up to snuff and Russia would quickly strike any runways that Ukraine managed to bring up to the needed standard. That then lead to the next issue, that Russia has said that any country that launches an attack against Russia, and that would include allowing pretend Ukraine F-16s to take off from airbases in Poland or Romania, would put that country at war with Russia and subject it to return strikes. It does not appear that Romania or Poland have yet decided to go there.

On the other, if NATO members in the guise of being Ukraine do hit something non-trivial in Russia, and odds favor that happening, what does Russia do then? Even though some have criticized Russian forbearance as a sign of weakness, I would hazard that Russia, and many of its allies, recognize that the US is run by reckless incompetents who act as if nuclear war is no big deal. Admittedly, Aurelian in his must-read NATO’s Phantom Armies has explained long-form that NATO is institutionally incapable of mounting any kind of meaningful operation against Russia even if it could get out of its own underwear (although Auerlien did not consider a less awkward “coalition of the willing”). But the western powers are still woefully short of men and weapons. And NATO’s or a NATO subset’s disparate weapons systems creates a logistical nightmare.

So a conventional military escalation is self-limiting even if it were attempted. The risk is nuclear war, say the US trundling a submarine over to Russia’s east coast and thinking it would be a dandy idea to lob a tactical nuke into Siberia. This bunch is loony enough to do that.

I don’t think Russia will need to do anything unless and until one of these newly authorized weapons does real damage in Russia. Failed attempts work to Russia’s advantage even if they are nervous-making. But if the West were to land a blow, Russia’s best move, despite the gratification of making a tit-for-tat response and hitting a NATO target, would be to greatly accelerate its destruction of the Ukraine electrical system. Russia probably by now has several variants worked out. Destroying more of the grid now would of course make a lot of military operations more difficult, and would increase the movement of refugees into Europe, which would in particular not make Polish citizens very happy.

Needless to say, at this point, all we can do is speculate about yet another dangerous escalation that (assuming no nuclear war) won’t change the outcome of the war. So keep watching what transpires.


1 From the Kremlin website:

With regard to the strikes, frankly, I am not sure what the NATO Secretary General is talking about. When he was the Prime Minister of Norway, we communicated and addressed challenging issues concerning the Barents Sea and other issues, and generally, we were able to come to terms, and I am positive he was not suffering from dementia back then. If he is talking about potentially attacking Russia’s territory with long-range precision weapons, he, as a person who heads a military-political organisation, even though he is a civilian like me, should be aware of the fact that long-range precision weapons cannot be used without space-based reconnaissance. This is my first point.

My second point is that the final target selection and what is known as launch mission can only be made by highly skilled specialists who rely on this reconnaissance data, technical reconnaissance data. For some attack systems, such as Storm Shadow, these launch missions can be put in automatically, without the need to use Ukrainian military. Who does it? Those who manufacture and those who allegedly supply these attack systems to Ukraine do. This can and does happen without the participation of the Ukrainian military. Launching other systems, such as ATACMS, for example, also relies on space reconnaissance data, targets are identified and automatically communicated to the relevant crews that may not even realise what exactly they are putting in. A crew, maybe even a Ukrainian crew, then puts in the corresponding launch mission. However, the mission is put together by representatives of NATO countries, not the Ukrainian military.

So, these officials from NATO countries, especially the ones based in Europe, particularly in small European countries, should be fully aware of what is at stake. They should keep in mind that theirs are small and densely populated countries, which is a factor to reckon with before they start talking about striking deep into the Russian territory. It is a serious matter and, without a doubt, we are watching this very carefully.

The focus is on the developments on the outskirts of Kharkov. But they were the ones to provoke those events. I made it clear publicly, I think it was six months ago, that if they continue to target residential neighbourhoods, we will have to create a security area. Not long ago, we started doing what I said back then…..

Are they looking for a global conflict? I think they wanted to agree upon strategic arms, but we do not really see them being really eager to do so. They are talking about it but are not doing much to make it happen. We will wait and see what happens next.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Source link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *