Although appearances indicate otherwise, the relationship between Ukraine and the United States has not always been ideal. All part of the weeks before the war, when US intelligence did not stop publicly warning of an invasion attempt by the Kremlin… while in kyiv they asked for silence so as not to scare away investors and tourists. The conviction – also fueled by France and Germany – that the Pentagon was exaggerating the Russian threat was the key to keeping the path of the tanks to kyiv clear for forty-eight dramatic hours.
That was not the only confrontation between the two governments. On June 15, 2022, a tense conversation took place between Biden and Zelensky on the occasion of the announcement of the shipment of HIMARS missile launchers, which would ultimately be decisive in the course of the war. When Biden called his Ukrainian counterpart in the first person to announce the good news, he was met with something akin to complaint and grievance: kyiv wanted more and wanted it as soon as possible. This insatiable thirst once annoyed Washington to the point that Biden recommended that Zelensky moderate his public speaking, which he, more or less, has done.
In the United States, there is a feeling that Ukraine is not appreciative enough of what the West is doing for its country. Beyond the moral obligation to protect the weak against the strong and the strategic convenience of preventing Russia from expanding its territory and, above all, its sphere of influence, to the very border with NATO, the truth is that both the Alliance such as the European Union or Australia are turning much further than initially thought… without giving the impression that kyiv has finished being satisfied.
[Rusia ataca a Ucrania con 30 misiles tras conseguir los Leopard: explosiones en Kiev y sin luz en Odesa]
Since the beginning of the war, the amount of arms sent is tremendous, as is the logistical and purely economic support. Ukraine asked for Javelins and got Javelins. He asked for HIMARS and got HIMARS. He asked for Patriot anti-missiles and got Patriot anti-missiles. Even when promised Challengers, Bradleys and Marders tanks, Zelenski said: “No, we want Leopards and Abrams.” And he has already achieved them, although shipments will hardly be ready before the summer and both training and maintenance are especially complicated.
Missiles to attack Russian territory
Everyone understands that Zelensky is within his right to ask. First of all, it is your country that has been invaded. It is its citizens who die under Russian missiles or are tortured under the fictitious administrations that Moscow has set up in Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhia or Kherson. No one is going to publicly reproach the president of a country that do everything possible to save it from destruction. However, there has been a certain discomfort for some time with the level of demand and the haste with which everything is requested.
We still don’t know when the tank parties will be available – in the Pentagon, in fact, they still doubt that the decision is correct: bringing Abrams to the Ukraine is a huge expense in fuel and both maintenance and repair will be an arduous task – when publishes today that kyiv is already asking for long-range missiles with which to attack Russian arsenals both in the Crimea and in Rostov and Belgorod. A request that, on the other hand, comes from afar, but that is extremely complex to attend to.
One of the red lines that Biden has marked throughout this conflict is that US weapons can only be used for defensive purposes within Ukrainian territory. That is, the Russian Federation cannot be attacked within its internationally recognized borders. Although there is some ambiguity within the administration itself and the general staff about what status to grant to Crimea – its annexation in 2014 was just as illegal as Lugansk is in 2022, for example – the rest of Russia is untouchable. They don’t want an escalation and they don’t want to be the ones to cause it.
[Ucrania pide ahora aviones de combate tras lograr los Leopard: “Hay que defender el cielo”]
In that sense, it does not seem likely that the United States will give in to these pressures because allowing an attack on Russian territory with NATO weapons would be entering the launch pad towards World War III. All the arms advances that we are seeing in the last few hours stem from the conviction that the Russian offensive at the end of winter is going to be once again more powerful than kyiv believes… and from the belief that Moscow’s nuclear threats are a huge bluff as long as the situation remains what it is. They don’t want to risk changing the status too much. In fact, this arms shipment has already sparked a dangerous verbal escalation.
Fighters to control airspace
Now, we return to the initial dilemma: Zelensky wants to defend himself. And she wants to do it in the way that is most effective for his army. It is absurd to lose men and men at the front when the sources of supply of arms, food and combat battalions can be directly attacked. Although the Makiivka catastrophe is still recent, where hundreds of Russian soldiers died from the attack of a single precision missile by geolocating their location using mobile devices, kyiv assures that Russia is “learning from its mistakes” and that it is increasingly difficult to catch the enemy in these resignations. They also understand that the arrival of Gerasimov in command of the operations supposes a “now or never” that requires a reaction to the height.
For all these reasons, apart from the long-distance missiles to attack Russian territory, rumors have been made in recent hours of the possible request for fighter jets to try to even out the fight for airspace. Specifically, the magazine Political He cites half a dozen European diplomats and officials who assure that the debate on the type of military aircraft to send is already on the table. Most likely they are either the F16 or the F18, both types made in the United States.
The question, once again, is whether Ukraine needs such weapons. Is difficult to face Russia in the air, which has many more devices available than the kyiv government can get its hands on. Perhaps it would be more effective to strengthen anti-aircraft defense systems. The fighters can have a double defensive and offensive function and the latter could cause the much feared military escalation. Air defense systems would cause irreparable damage to the Russian army without delving into his victim narrative and they would offer some comfort to the battered Ukrainian people…and their government.