Ukraine: Washington’s Balancing Act Increasingly Difficult – 04/09/2022 at 21:16


Military equipment loaded onto a truck in kyiv, Ukraine, February 11, 2022 (AFP/Sergei SUPINSKY)

The juggling act of the United States, providing considerable military aid to Ukraine while doing everything possible to prevent a spillover of the conflict to other countries, is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, at a time when images of abuses attributed to the Russian army are on the rise.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States has flooded Ukraine with light weapons, such as shoulder-mounted Javelin anti-tank missiles, but has always refused to hand over heavy weapons, including fighter jets, arguing that this “could be perceived as superiority”. “and increase the risk of a nuclear conflict with Russia.

And they regularly invoke US technologies unfamiliar to the Ukrainians to justify the limited range of weaponry they supply, instead of appealing to former Soviet-bloc countries that still have Russian-made weaponry.

But after the Russian military’s military setbacks and the war crimes attributed to it, the Pentagon is under pressure from elected officials, both Republican and Democrat, to do more to help kyiv push Russia back.

A Ukrainian soldier in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 12, 2022 (AFP/Aris Messinis)

A Ukrainian soldier in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 12, 2022 (AFP/Aris Messinis)

“It seems to me that our strategy often seems a bit schizophrenic: We want the Ukrainians to win against Russia, but we are afraid that losing Putin will cause an escalation,” influential Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said during a hearing in the US Congress on Thursday. Joined. senior US military officials.

“We wonder if Vladimir Putin ever feared that his massacres of women and children would escalate,” Republican Senator Kevin Cramer added, lamenting in particular that the Pentagon had not facilitated the delivery of the MIG-29 to kyiv.

– Training and logistics –

Aside from a NATO-secured airspace closure with the risk of direct confrontation with the Russian air force, the Pentagon’s options are indeed limited: US heavy weaponry is not compatible with that of the Ukrainian military. , and training Ukrainian soldiers in its handling would take them off the battlefield for several weeks, when a major Russian assault is being prepared against the regions of Donbass that Moscow does not control.

Abrams tanks, for example, are powered by a fuel-guzzling turboshaft engine that requires enormous logistical support, and targeting them with lasers requires extensive training, the Pentagon says.

A US Army M1A2 Abrams tank during a military exercise in Novo Selo, Bulgaria, on May 31, 2021 (AFP / Nikolay DOYCHINOV)

A US Army M1A2 Abrams tank during a military exercise in Novo Selo, Bulgaria, on May 31, 2021 (AFP / Nikolay DOYCHINOV)

The A-10 “Warthog” fighter jet, which Blumenthal cited as a possible addition to military aid to Ukraine, is known for its resilience and ability to return to base with heavy damage. But the pilots should be trained for several weeks and, above all, an entire supply chain should be created to ensure their maintenance.

In response to criticism from elected officials, the White House has released an exhaustive list of equipment supplied to Ukraine so far: 1,400 Stingers anti-aircraft systems, 5,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 7,000 other anti-tank weapons, several hundred Switchblade suicide bomber drones, 7,000 assault rifles, 50 million bullets and various ammunition, 45,000 batches of bulletproof vests and helmets, laser-guided rockets, Puma drones, anti-artillery and anti-drone radars, light armored vehicles, secure communication systems, anti-mine protection.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby took offense at these criticisms.

“The idea that we are not doing enough or fast enough irritates us deeply,” he said.

Since arriving at the White House, President Joe Biden has given $2.4 billion in military assistance to kyiv, “which is almost as much as Ukraine’s defense budget,” he said, adding.

Recalling that in addition to the weapons supplied to kyiv, the United States increased its military personnel in Europe from 80,000 to 100,000 in mid-February and sent a Patriot anti-aircraft battery to Slovakia to compensate for the Russian-made S-300 system that Bratislava delivered to kyiv, the Mr Kirby stressed that the effort was “unprecedented”.

“No other country has the logistics to do this. No other country has the resources to do this,” he said. “At the same time, we take into account that Russia is a nuclear power.”

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