How the United States wants to help Ukraine attack Crimea

A few days ago, retired American general Ben Hodges railed, on Twitter, against his country’s aid strategy for Ukraine. According to him, and so far carefully avoiding supplying Kyiv with weapons or long-range aircraft capable of carrying them, the United States gave Russia a “asylum” from where to launch prepare and launch its attack on its neighbors.

This sanctuary is Crimea, an official territory of Ukraine but invaded and then occupied by Russia since 2014, and one of the knots of this conflict. According to the Kyiv authorities, as according to many Kyiv allies, this is understood.

As, for example, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Moscow’s cherished ally, spectacularly emphasized, Crimea is indeed part of Ukraine, and victory for the latter is inconceivable without its restoration. .

On the other hand, according to Foreign Minister Antony J. Blinken, this is far from clear. “We are focused on continuing what we started, which means making sure Ukraine has what it needs to defend itself, what it needs to fend off Russian aggression, and to retake territory it has invaded since February 24.”he explained in early December to the Wall Street Journal.

Therefore, here it is not the question of Crimea, which is sidelined in the ultimate goal associated with American military assistance. However, as the New York Times explained, slowly but surely that is changing.

Rear chainstays

Washington is thus coming to understand that it must support Ukraine in its assault on the Russian-held peninsula if it is to put it in a strong position in hypothetical future peace negotiations.

Washington had made a slow but impressive political shift from tacit and timid (yet indispensable and vital) aid in the first days of the invasion to an all-out supply of increasingly powerful equipment, such as the famous Himars.

The United States is considering the best way to pass one of the last Rubicon by assisting kyiv to attack targets in Crimea, which it has so far done alone, with sometimes spectacular results, such as striking the Kerch Bridge, the key logistical link directly linking the peninsula to Russia.

Because Crimea is not just part of Ukrainian territory: in fact Crimea has become, as Ben Hodges explains, one of the most important rear bases for Russian operations throughout Ukraine, particularly in the south. .

Carrying out an effective, destructive and increasingly far-reaching offensive would seriously disrupt Moscow’s military march on its neighbours, while Russia appears to be preparing for a full-scale offensive and, in particular with massive new mobilizations and general military reinforcements to come, to a long war.

For a long time, and as the New York Times makes clear, Washington feared Russian escalation, wary in particular of the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons in the event of too specific a threat to the Crimean jewel. While these fears have not completely disappeared from the equation, they appear to have lessened in intensity, opening the door for more direct assistance from Washington.

This was especially the case through the recent announcement of the Bradley tank deliveries – an equipment transfer with a clear offensive call that was unimaginable at the start of the conflict.

With French-delivered AMX-10 RC German Marders, recently the heaviest British Challenger 2 and while perhaps awaiting large-scale delivery of German Leopard 2 by the European coalition, the Bradleys could serve as a counter-Ukrainian spearhead. offensive to the south – or even serve to go and cut once and for all the Kerch bridgehead, vital to Russian supplies in Crimea and, from there, throughout Ukraine.

A bridge too far

“Ukraine could use this Bradley to transport troops on key routes, such as the M14, which connects Kherson, Melitopol and Mariupol”explained to NYT Seth G. Jones, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Ukrainian infantry advancing in this direction will come under heavy fire from Russian positions, and Bradley will offer them offensive strength and cover.”

Moreover, any advance to the South would allow Ukraine to launch its attacks deeper into Crimea, at Russian bases or airports, with Himar having been provided by the United States in particular. So many attacks would seriously hamper the freedom of action Russia has had so far in its Crimean “safe haven”.

“We basically confined Ukraine, making it clear that this war would be fought on Ukrainian soil and not on Russian soil”explained Philip Breedlove, the four-star general who headed the command of U.S. forces in Europe and Allied Headquarters in Europe during Russia’s 2014 conquest of Crimea.

“Offering Russia a safe haven for war, without fear of reprisal, is utter nonsense. It makes no sense militarily.”

However, as the New York Times made clear, and although the Ukrainian and American soldiers concretely discussed their offensive and adaptation to the means provided, the upper echelons in Washington did not really believe in kyiv’s ability to militarily retake Crimea. . And always put the hola on long-range missile delivery like ATACMS, which will greatly facilitate the action.

For Washington, the idea is to weaken Russia’s actions, to put Moscow back to the wall again before the war is definitively stalled, and to put Ukraine in a position of strength when possible negotiations begin between the two countries.

Maybe Vladimir Putin, who recently stated that his only goal “special military operations” peace in Donbass, he already felt the tide turning against the preservation of the peninsula.

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