Here we go again: the ratcheting tit-for-tat threats currently being unleashed between Moscow and Washington arguably hasn’t been this intense since the height of the Donbass conflict of years ago, and the Crimea crisis. It’s leading to the Biden administration mulling ramping up arms transfers to Kiev.
CNN on Tuesday is citing multiple defense sources to report “The Biden administration is weighing sending military advisers and new equipment including weaponry to Ukraine as Russia builds up forces near the border and US officials prepare allies for the possibility of another Russian invasion.”
And yet as we’ve reviewed, there’s still as yet little to nothing in the way of hard evidence that Russia is setting in motion any kind of plans to “invade Ukraine” – as Bloomberg last week first reported based on anonymous US sources. Much of the speculation appears based on satellite images of Russian troop movements taking place significantly far from Ukraine’s border, with Moscow’s constant refrain to the West being that it can move its own troops within Russia’s sovereign borders wherever it wants to.
But this new US plan to not just send more military hardware – but also US military advisers – would mark a serious escalation, as the Kremlin has recently warned it would see any kind of NATO forces buildup inside Ukraine as violating its “red lines” which would require taking action.
According to the fresh CNN report, the proposed lethal aid package now under consideration by the White House could include stinger missiles – which Moscow would without doubt consider a severe escalation:
The discussions about the proposed lethal aid package are happening as Ukraine has begun to warn publicly that an invasion could happen as soon as January. The package could include new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles as well as mortars, the sources said.
Air defense systems, such as stinger missiles, are also under consideration, and the Defense Department has been pressing for some equipment that would have gone to Afghanistan — like Mi-17 helicopters — to instead be sent to Ukraine. The Mi-17 is a Russian helicopter that the US originally purchased to give to the Afghans. The Pentagon is now weighing what to do with them after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.
And in particular the Javelins are seen as deadly and effective against Russia’s T-80 tanks. Recently, Moscow has accused pro-Ukrainian forces of heightened attacks on pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s east over the past months, which has included multiple deaths from sporadic mortar fire.
The past year has seen NATO military exercises utilize closer Ukrainian army and naval participation…
We glad to see US troops in Ukraine ! More Stingers against Russian helicopters ! More Javelins against Russian tanks !!! https://t.co/Cx4fIzpEV3
— jurholl (@jurholl) May 18, 2021
Already in response to the rumors and reports of more US weapons and trainers sent to Ukraine, Russia is responding with threats of its own to send its weapons into eastern Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of sending military advisers and weapons to Ukraine, because this is already taking place. Military advisers are arriving there, weapons are supplied there — not only from the United States, but also from other NATO countries. And all this, of course, leads to a further aggravation of the situation on the border line.”
Previously on Monday the Kremlin vehemently denied the Western reports of any planned-for “invasion”, with government spokesman Peskov explaining that currently the Russian military is merely engaged in the “usual background level” of military maneuvers – similar to the training drills that ended up generating false reports last April and May of a “planned Ukraine invasion”. That prior situation, like the current one, involved Russian troops and weaponry being observed at least 60km from the actual Ukrainian border, and not along it.
During the statement, Peskov actually turned the charges back on NATO, saying, that in Ukraine “The number of provocations has increased significantly and these provocations are conducted using weapons delivered by NATO.” He blamed Kiev and its backers for the soaring tensions, calling its own military build-up “alarming” – thus each side appears to be ramping up troop readiness based on accusing the other of a “build-up” of forces.
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Rabobank asks the necessary question, what could go wrong?…
One can see how this can easily go wrong: and by arming Ukraine, but with nowhere near enough to stop a determined Russian invasion(?), the West can be seen as incentivizing such action. Pray tell, what is the correct monetary-policy response if the worst happens, and energy and food prices soar further, while the US finds itself dragged into an expensive conflict? While Europe of course won’t fight in its own backyard (the very thought of it!), one hopes they have enough thick jumpers and blankets to get through a winter with no Russian gas while locked down.