Military equipment loaded into a truck in kyiv, Ukraine, February 11, 2022 (AFP/Sergei SUPINSKY)
The balancing act of the United States, which provides considerable military aid to Ukraine while doing everything to avoid an extension of the conflict to other countries, is becoming more and more difficult to maintain, at a time when the images abuses attributed to the Russian army are on the increase.
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States has flooded Ukraine with light weaponry, such as shoulder-carried Javelin anti-tank missiles, but it has always refused to hand over weapons. heavy armaments, including fighter jets, arguing that this “could be perceived as one-upmanship” and increase the risk of a nuclear conflict with Russia.
And they regularly invoke American technologies that are unfamiliar to Ukrainians to justify the limited range of weaponry they supply, instead appealing to former Soviet bloc countries that still have Russian-made weaponry.
But after the military reverses of the Russian army and the war crimes attributed to it, the Pentagon finds itself under pressure from elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats, to do more to help kyiv beat back Russia.
A Ukrainian soldier in Irpin, Ukraine, on March 12, 2022 (AFP/Aris Messinis)
“It seems to me that our strategy often seems a little schizophrenic: we want the Ukrainians to win against Russia, but we fear that losing Putin will cause an escalation,” noted the influential Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal on Thursday. during a congressional hearing of top US military officials.
“Do we wonder if Vladimir Putin ever feared that his massacres of women and children would be an escalation,” added Republican Senator Kevin Cramer, regretting in particular that the Pentagon did not facilitate the delivery of MIG-29 in Kyiv.
– Training and logistics –
Apart from a closure of the airspace ensured by NATO with the risk of direct confrontation with the Russian air force, the options of the Pentagon are in fact limited: the heavy armaments of the United States are not compatible with those available to the Ukrainian army, and training Ukrainian soldiers in their handling would remove them from the battlefield for several weeks, when a major Russian assault is being prepared against the regions of Donbass that Moscow does not control.
The Abrams tanks, for example, are powered by a very fuel-intensive turboshaft engine that requires enormous logistical support, and targeting them with lasers requires extensive training, the Pentagon says.
A US Army M1A2 Abrams tank during a military exercise in Novo Selo, Bulgaria, May 31, 2021 (AFP / Nikolay DOYCHINOV)
The A-10 “Warthog” fighter jet, which Blumenthal cited as a possible addition to military aid to Ukraine, is known for its resilience and ability to return to base with heavy damage. But the pilots should be trained for several weeks and, above all, a whole supply chain should be created to ensure its maintenance.
In response to criticism from elected officials, the White House has published an exhaustive list of equipment supplied to Ukraine so far: 1,400 Stingers anti-aircraft systems, 5,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 7,000 other anti-tank weapons, several hundred drones Switchblade suicide bombers, 7,000 assault rifles, 50 million bullets and various ammunition, 45,000 batches of bullet-proof vests and helmets, laser-guided rockets, Puma drones, anti-artillery and anti-drone radars, light armored vehicles , secure communication systems, anti-mine protections.
On Friday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby took offense to the criticism.
“The idea that we are not doing enough or fast enough irritates us deeply,” he said.
Since arriving at the White House, President Joe Biden has released $2.4 billion for military assistance to kyiv, “which is almost as much as Ukraine’s defense budget”, he said. he adds.
Recalling that in addition to the armaments supplied to kyiv, the United States increased its military personnel in Europe from 80,000 to 100,000 in mid-February and sent a Patriot anti-aircraft battery to Slovakia to compensate for the Russian-made S-300 system which Bratislava handed over to Kyiv, Mr Kirby stressed that the effort was “unprecedented”.
“No other country has the logistics to do this. No other country has the resources to do this,” he noted. “At the same time, we keep in mind that Russia is a nuclear power.”