Biden’s Ukraine Rocket Whiplash – WSJ

Ukrainian soldiers from an intelligence agency conduct a patrol and surveillance operation on the outskirts of the separatist Donetsk (Donbass) region on May 17.


Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/Zuma Press

The White House on Wednesday announced an additional $700 million in arms for Ukraine, and the good news is that the US will deploy sophisticated firepower to help push back the Russians in the east of the country.

Russia is gaining ground in Ukraine as the war has turned into a brutal artillery battle. The Russian advance is slow and costly, including “devastating casualties among middle and junior officers,” the Institute for the Study of War noted this week. But the Russian military has an artillery advantage in range and firepower.

President Biden said Monday the US would not supply Ukraine with “missile systems that would attack Russia,” hinting that the White House might not be willing to loan the equipment that could help Ukrainians mitigate the Russian advantage. The Ukrainians have been asking for such systems for months.

The government now says it has assurances that Ukrainians will not use the missile systems announced on Wednesday to hit targets in Russia. Highly mobile artillery missile systems known as Himars are powerful weapons, both accurate and mobile. The Pentagon says the US will send four systems based in Europe and the training of the Ukrainians will take about three weeks. That’s an eternity in an artillery war, but better late than never.

Officials said the US would provide ammunition that can range about 40 miles. The Pentagon found this to be about twice the range of howitzers sent by the US, so an improvement on the battlefield. However, the government is still reluctant to offer longer-range options that can travel more than 180 miles.

If the Ukrainians have promised to use the weapons only to defend their territory, why limit the range of US-supplied missiles? The missile drama is a microcosm of the administration’s strategic ambivalence towards war. Mr. Biden wrote this week that he will not pressure Ukraine into accepting a deal with Russia, but that will be the implied result if the US is too slow or reluctant to provide the weapons Ukrainians need, to assert oneself.

For months, the Biden administration has come to the right conclusions on arms and support, but late and only after nudges from Congress or the press. The way to bring Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table and stop the bloodshed is to defeat him on the ground.

Review & Outlook: By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin unified the NATO alliance, which will be stronger with Finland and Sweden as members. Images: Sputnik/TT News Agency/Lehtikuva/Reuters Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the print edition on June 2, 2022. Biden’s Ukraine Rocket Whiplash – WSJ

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