NewsUkraine gets green light for limited US weapon use on Russian soil

Ukraine gets green light for limited US weapon use on Russian soil

Biden gave a "green light" for Ukrainian attacks in Russia. "It's a small step forward"
Biden gave a "green light" for Ukrainian attacks in Russia. "It's a small step forward"
Images source: © East News | ANATOLII STEPANOV

4:32 PM EDT, May 31, 2024

Ukraine has received approval for limited attacks using US-supplied weapons on Russian territory. Is a breakthrough on the front coming? Col. Piotr Lewandowski says it’s just a "small step forward." In an interview with WP, he highlighted what would happen for the Russian advantage to collapse.

President Joe Biden recently instructed his team to ensure Ukraine can use US-supplied weapons for counterfire purposes in the Kharkiv region so Ukraine can respond to Russian forces that are attacking or preparing to attack it, confirmed a US administration official, quoted by the Reuters agency. However, he added, "the policy concerning the prohibition of using ATACMS or long-range strikes on Russian territory has not changed."

On Friday, Ukrainian presidential spokesman Serhiy Nikiforov confirmed that the United States allowed the "limited use of American weapons in the border region with Kharkiv." On the same day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also conveyed that President Joe Biden approved the use of US weapons by Kyiv on Russian territory. He explained that it’s a strategy of "adapting to the battlefield."

What does this mean in practice? The Americans lifted their ban only to a limited extent. The approval for attacks applies only to a small area near Ukrainian Kharkiv. Since mid-May, the Russians have been conducting a limited offensive there and have entered about six miles into Ukrainian territory.

As a military man, this frustrates me because we are giving Ukraine another "drip." On the principle: you can shoot, but only with guns, not missiles. It’s like tying one hand, letting it go for a moment, but still holding it, says Col. Piotr Lewandowski from the Territorial Defense Forces Training Center, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to Wirtualna Polska.

He believes the US decision is a "small step forward" but not a breakthrough decision. The Kremlin is more worried if the Americans allowed Ukraine to strike with ATACMS on Russian Federation territory. This could cause a halt in the offensive in some directions. The Russian advantage on the front could collapse, the former military man believes.

ATACMS are ballistic missiles with a range of 186 miles launched from HIMARS launchers. According to Col. Piotr Lewandowski, the US should grant permission for their use.

"Approval for all means"

In the case of Kharkiv, the Russians stretched their logistics about 62 miles deep behind the front on their territory. They pulled back when the HIMARS launchers appeared. They cannot pull back any further. In this section, they have technical support depots, areas for restoring combat capabilities, and collection points for damaged equipment, as well as material support depots, including fuel, food, and ammunition. That's why approval should be given for all means available to the Ukrainians, including ATACMS, comments Col. Piotr Lewandowski.

Ukrainian strikes inside Russia had previously caused concern in Washington and some NATO countries, which feared escalation and destabilization. Germany, Spain, and Italy were Among the countries with a similar stance to the US. On the other hand, among the ten countries giving Kyiv a green light are the United Kingdom, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Estonia. On Friday, "Der Spiegel" reported that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, like Joe Biden, changed his mind on this issue and agreed to allow Ukraine to use weapons supplied by Berlin.

Also on Friday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg addressed the issue of lifting restrictions on the use of weapons transferred to Ukraine by its allies. It is tough for Ukraine to defend itself if it cannot use advanced weapons to repel attacks, he said.

According to Col. Piotr Lewandowski, NATO's message should be coherent and unified.

We talk about the NATO community, but it turns out reality is not so black and white. We have another example of a rift. This is not a good message because it shows there is no common voice on this matter. Putin sees this and rejoices, evaluates the interlocutor of Wirtualna Polska.

US elections weighed in?

In his view, the change in attitude in the US likely resulted from political motives but also from the situation on the frontlines.

The election team probably conducted surveys showing that President Joe Biden's approval would bring him 2-3% support before the elections. Col. Piotr Lewandowski says the US decision looks like an offshoot of internal politics before the elections in the US.

And as he recalls, recently, the Russians have been trying to assault the Kharkiv direction intensively.

And it is not possible to break the enemy's offensive by hitting targets only 6-12 miles deep. That’s just the level of a company. Ukraine needs effective strikes deep into the Russian Federation territory. The Russians would then have to contend with greater losses, greater dispersion of groupings in the rear, and increased anti-aircraft defenses. And that is now crucial in the Kharkiv direction, Col. Lewandowski concludes.

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