Publicly, Washington has so far avoided condoning Kiev’s attacks on Russian soil
According to the New York Times, the US administration is considering whether to give Ukraine the capability to attack the strategically important Crimean peninsula. The talks point to a gradual shift among US officials towards more brutal support for Kiev, even as Washington claims it is not seeking a confrontation with Moscow.
After months of hesitation, the White House is now warming to the idea that Ukraine should “need the power” for attacks deep into Russian territory, namely the military stronghold in Crimea, the Times reported Wednesday, citing several unnamed US officials.
“U.S. officials are discussing with their Ukrainian counterparts the use of American-supplied weapons, from HIMARS missile systems to Bradley combat vehicles, to potentially target… Crimea,” the outlet said, adding that Washington “has come to believe that if the Ukrainian army can show Russia that its control over Crimea can be threatened, that would strengthen Kiev’s position in future negotiations.”
Despite Moscow’s heavy fortifications on the peninsula, which hosts Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and other military bases, Crimea remains a “great focus” of Ukrainian battle plans, according to the Times. It’s unclear exactly how Washington hopes to help with attacks on the region, but the outlet suggested the decision to supply Kiev with Bradley infantry fighting vehicles showed a willingness to help Ukraine “go on the offensive – including targeting Crimea.”
In addition to troop transports provided by France and Germany, the military vehicles “could be the vanguard of an armored force that could deploy Ukraine in a counter-offensive this winter or spring”, nameless “government and independent analysts” told the Times.
But even as the White House is reportedly considering supporting attacks on Russian soil, President Joe Biden continues to deny Ukrainian requests for longer-range missiles and heavy battle tanks that could be used in a future offensive. He has previously warned that such aid could lead to direct hostilities with Moscow and even lead to nuclear war, though those concerns appear to be slowly diminishing as the conflict continues.
“The fear of escalation has changed since the beginning”, an unnamed US defense source told a British newspaper last month, suggesting that the Pentagon had done so “given tacit approval of Ukraine’s long-range strikes against targets in Russia.”
While State Department spokesman Ned Price insisted on Wednesday that the US does not post one “boundaries” on Ukrainian strikes or “making directional decisions” on behalf of Kiev, the latest talks in the White House may indicate a shift in opinion among some officials.
Historically a Russian territory from the late 18th century until its handover to Ukraine under Soviet authorities in 1954, Crimea held a referendum to reunite with Russia following the 2014 Euromaidan coup. However, Kiev and its Western backers have refused to recognize the vote, saying the peninsula is still legitimately Ukrainian land, with President Vladimir Zelensky dashing hopes of the “reconquest” of the region last month.
Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the goals of the military operation in Ukraine will be achieved no matter how long it takes. Amid Kiev’s repeated requests for longer-range weapons, Moscow warned Washington and other NATO states that such stockpiles “Red line” and make them “a direct party to the conflict.”
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After referenda in the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye in September, President Vladimir Putin made it clear that Moscow would defend not only Crimea, but all new territories. “with full force and all the resources at our disposal.”
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