“Super Power” Washington remains deterred by the bully in the Kremlin – when will it end?

Bob McConnell
May 31, 2024

The Biden Administration announced that Ukraine can use American weapons to fire into Russia.  Big news! So many have been calling for this for years.

Not so fast!  The continuing limitations on the use of American weapons to be used are embarrassing and certainly reassuring to Vladimir Putin.

Does Washington want Ukraine to win?  The evidence does not support such an objective.

In an op-ed in the current New York Post, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe Phil Breedlove and former high-level Defense and State Department official Debra Cagan – both members of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation’s Friends of Ukraine Network – review what the Administration has done – and has not done.

It is long past time for the United States to stop allowing Putin to bully us into feckless foreign policy decisions which are against our own vital national security interests.


Biden’s new rule on Ukraine’s use of US weapons is far from enough to help it win

By Philip Breedlove and Debra Cagan | Published May 31, 2024, 4:45 p.m. ET

The New York Post had a photo of President Biden – I exchanged it for this Ramirez cartoon.

Months after most other countries removed any restrictions on the use of weapons provided to Ukraine, the Biden administration finally just came to a new policy on the matter, per news reports.

But the White House’s decision — made only after an excruciating delay — still falls well short of what needs to happen for Ukraine to turn the tide of this war.

This war is now 10 years old; this move should have been made years ago.

We would never have asked a US or NATO combat mission to fight a war so severely limited by US and Western policy.

Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, is located less than 19 miles from the Russian border and has faced near-disaster for weeks on end.

The Russian military has taken solace in the knowledge that it can continue to prosecute the war in its sanctuary just across the border, with little fear of retaliation.

Over the past six weeks, Russia has incrementally taken about 60 miles of territory in this northeast corner of Ukraine.

As Russia continued to bomb the most obvious of civilian targets, the call for permitting Ukraine to use US-provided longer-range weapons to hit the Russians in the sanctuary provided by US policy has grown to a crescendo.

Perhaps motivated to finally move now, lest this become a focus of the rapidly approaching NATO summit in Washington, President Biden has selected the most limited of options available.

Arguably, this one will potentially be the most dangerous for Ukrainian forces.

The list of prohibitions that comes with this decision is extensive.

In seeking to “not provoke” Russia, the Biden administration has limited this new authority to our shortest-range munitions, completely forbidding longer-range ATACMs use, presumably even the 150km (90-mile) range systems.

In order to operate under these very restrictive limitations Ukraine will have to move forward in the battle space, exposing its much-needed Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Russian counter-battery fire.

The administration has also extensively limited the types of targets it will allow Ukraine to strike, including only massed Russian troops on the border and those weapons systems that are attacking or preparing to attack Ukraine.

This latter set of restrictions is almost incomprehensible to fathom in that virtually every single one of Russia’s military personnel located in this region of Russia, as well as every single weapon, is there for this illegal, immoral, inhumane Russian campaign against the people of Ukraine.

Similarly, the admonition that US-supplied weapons cannot be used to strike deep into Russia is superfluous, since the only weapons Ukraine will be permitted to use are very short-range and incapable of deep strikes.

Even if the White House were to change its mind, as it has done so often in the past after months of delays, 300km (180-mile) ATACMS would still not constitute a very deep strike into Russia.

The most dangerous part: the combination of restrictions on general deployment location, and the limited range, which could result in the perfect target set for Russia.

There can be no element of surprise when the Russians can determine the geographic location of the Western weapons and target them accordingly.

Moreover, by making it clear that no US-supplied long-range weapons can be used, the Russian military must only calculate the range of the allowable weapons and move its assets just beyond those ranges.

The continued emphasis about not permitting “deep strikes” appears more of message to Russia than to Ukraine.

The most successful weapon in Vladimir Putin’s arsenal is his war of words and deterrent messaging.

Some in the United States, and in the greater West, are almost completely deterred by Putin’s bluster, which has had led to the foolish restrictions.

Yes, these incremental changes in US policy are better than no changes at all but still a prescription for a longer conflict.

In effect, the Biden administration is conveying to Putin that he will continue to have the upper hand because Washington will not permit Ukraine to do significant damage to the Russian war machine.

That is beyond tragic for Ukraine — along with the rest of the world.

Gen. (ret.) Philip Breedlove is former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander US European Command. Debra Cagan, a senior adviser to the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, has held high-level positions at the State and Defense departments through the Reagan to Trump administrations.


Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network
The introduction is Mr. McConnell’s and does not necessarily represent the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN).