Why Is It So Difficult To Read Military History Books – WASHINGTON — For years, the United States has maintained that Crimea is still part of Ukraine. Yet the Biden administration has maintained a hard line since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, refusing to give Kiev the weapons it needs to target the Crimean peninsula, which Russia uses as a base to launch devastating attacks. to attack.
After months of discussions with Ukrainian officials, the Biden administration is finally starting to admit that Kiev may need the power to attack the Russian shrine, even if such a move increases the risk of escalation, according to several US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. to discuss the sensitive debate. Crimea, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is home to tens of thousands of dug-in Russian troops and numerous Russian military bases.
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“We have said throughout the war that Crimea is Ukraine and that Ukraine has the right to defend itself and its sovereign territory within its internationally recognized borders,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
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Privately, army and government officials had questioned Ukraine’s usefulness in directing attacks into Crimea, arguing that Kiev’s army had better targets elsewhere on the battlefield.
But the Biden administration has come to believe that if the Ukrainian military can show Russia that its control of Crimea could be compromised, that would strengthen Kiev’s position in future negotiations. In addition, fears that the Kremlin might retaliate with a tactical nuclear weapon have diminished, US officials and experts said — though they warned the risk remained.
The new thinking about Crimea — illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 — shows just how far Biden’s administration officials have come since the start of the war, when they were wary of even publicly acknowledging that the United States has launched Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. delivered to Ukrainian troops.
But over the course of the conflict, the United States and its NATO allies have steadily loosened the handcuffs they put on themselves, from supplying Javelins and Stingers to advanced missile systems, Patriot air defense systems, armored fighting vehicles, and even some Western tanks. to give Ukraine the capacity to strike against Russia’s onslaught.
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Now the Biden administration is contemplating what would be one of its boldest moves yet, which would be to help Ukraine attack the peninsula that President Vladimir V. Putin sees as integral to his quest to restore Russia’s past glory .
US officials are discussing with their Ukrainian counterparts the use of American-supplied weapons, from HIMARS missile systems to Bradley combat vehicles, to potentially challenge Putin’s hard-won control of a land bridge that serves as a critical supply route connecting Crimea to Russia. to take. through the Russian-occupied cities of Melitopol and Mariupol.
However, President Biden is not yet ready to give Ukraine the long-range missile systems Kiev would need to attack Russian installations on the peninsula.
The Bradleys are armored personnel carriers with powerful 25-millimeter guns and guided missiles that can take on Russian tanks. Credit… Remko De Waal/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images
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Ukrainian officials have long maintained that Crimea is a key target for their attacks and that continued military pressure on Russian bases there is an important part of their strategy. Ukrainian military officials have also spoken to US officials about the importance of increasing pressure on Russia’s rear echelon in Crimea, which supports military operations elsewhere in Ukraine.
With the Black Sea Fleet, a major Russian air base, command posts and logistics hubs supporting Russian operations in southern Ukraine, the peninsula is a major focus of Kiev’s battle plans.
By deciding to give the Bradleys to Ukraine, the Biden administration moved closer to providing Kiev with something senior Ukrainian officials have been begging the United States for for months: direct US aid for Ukraine to go on the offensive — including attacking the Crimea.
The Bradleys are armored personnel carriers with powerful 25-millimeter guns and guided missiles that can take on Russian tanks.
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Frederick B. Hodges, a retired lieutenant general and former top US military commander in Europe, said the Bradleys could be used by Ukrainian forces in the coming months to help breach the land bridge.
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The ability to rely on military bases in Crimea for the staging was the main reason Russian troops were able to seize land in southern Ukraine last year, a US official said. Making those troops less capable is an important battlefield goal for the Ukrainians.
“Ukraine could use Bradleys to move troops along key roads such as the M14, which connects Kherson, Melitopol and Mariupol,” added Seth G. Jones, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. . “Any Ukrainian infantry advancing through these areas would face significant fire from Russian positions, and Bradleys provide useful firepower and protection for troops.”
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The Bradleys, along with the British tanks and armored fighting vehicles that France and Germany have agreed to send, could form the vanguard of an armored force that could deploy Ukraine in a counter-offensive this winter or spring, the government and independent analysts say.
“We believe now is the right time to step up our support for Ukraine,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday during a visit to Washington. “We cannot allow this to drag on and become a World War I-type attrition type stalemate.”
Britain’s defense ministry said in a Twitter post last week that Russia has been strengthening defensive fortifications in the center of Zaporizhzhia, a province in southern Ukraine near the land bridge, in recent weeks where Russia maintains a large military force.
If Ukraine aims to recapture Zaporizhzhia, preparatory strikes could include hitting targets in nearby Crimea. “A major Ukrainian breakthrough in Zaporizhzhia would seriously jeopardize the viability of the Russian ‘land bridge’,” the British assessment said.
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Ukraine also has American-supplied HIMARS, long-range missile systems. With last year’s recapture of Kherson in the south, Ukrainian front lines can now use them to hit key supply routes from Crimea, a US military official said in an interview.
This week, top U.S. and Ukrainian commanders will hold a high-level planning meeting in Germany to work out offensive planning, another senior U.S. official said. The exercise, the official said, aims to tailor Ukraine’s battle plans to the types of weapons and supplies that NATO allies contribute.
Ukrainian officials fear their country cannot survive the years of a deadlocked conflict as Russia continues to bomb cities and towns. So they see little choice but to attack and endanger Crimea, a senior US official said, noting that the issue has been raised at recent high-level meetings at the White House.
The Biden administration is beginning to admit that Kiev may need the power to attack Crimea. Credit… Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters
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Still, despite the extra weapons, the Biden administration doesn’t think Ukraine can take Crimea militarily — and indeed, there are still concerns that such a move could prompt Mr Putin to retaliate with an escalating response. But, officials said, their assessment now is that Russia should believe Crimea is at risk, in part to strengthen Ukraine’s position in future negotiations.
By demonstrating its ability to strike in Crimea, US officials say, Ukraine could demonstrate that there is no Russian control. The Biden administration also increasingly believes that hitting Russia’s rear lines coming out of Crimea could seriously damage Moscow’s ability to push its front lines further, officials say.
“Without Crimea, the whole thing falls apart,” said Evelyn Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Ukraine during the Obama administration.
Contributing to shifting thinking is tempering fears that attacking Crimea would prompt Mr Putin to use a tactical nuclear weapon, officials say. “It feels to me like the government is increasingly acknowledging that the threat of Russian escalation may not be what they previously thought it was,” General Hodges said.
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While Ukrainian attacks in Russia itself continue to be of concern to US officials, Moscow’s response to intermittent Ukrainian special operations or covert attacks in Crimea, including against Russian air bases, command posts and ships in the Black Sea Fleet, has been dampened.
“There is more clarity about their tolerance to damage and attack,” said Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. “Crimea has been hit many times without a massive escalation from the Kremlin.”
Yet Mr Putin and the Russian public view Crimea as part of Russia, so strikes there could solidify Russian support for the war.
This photo, released by Russian state media, shows President Vladimir V. Putin at the bridge over the Kerch Strait in December. The bridge connects the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula with Russia. Credit… Sputnik, via Reuters
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For their part, US officials say they do not know how Putin will react if Ukraine attacks Crimea with American-supplied weapons.
Ms Massicot said none of Ukraine’s few attacks on Crimea so far
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