Opinion: Shorten the war. Send 60 HIMARS to Ukraine.


By Max Boot. Columnist

July 11, 2022

WASHINGTON POST

It has become commonplace to observe that Ukraine is mired in a “long war” — one that could last for years, according to NATO’s secretary general. That could well be correct. The war, after all, has already lasted nearly five months and continues to grind on. But I fear that by so readily accepting that there is no end in sight, we might be giving in to fatalism and defeatism. Instead of becoming resigned to a never-ending war, the West should be focusing on how to shorten the conflict by enabling Ukraine to win.

A long war, after all, probably favors Russia. Ukraine’s economy is set to shrink by 45 percent this year amid Russian attacks on economic infrastructure and a Russian blockade of the Black Sea coast. Russia is suffering from sanctions, but it is expected to take in more oil and gas revenue this year ($285 billion) than last year. While Russian dictator Vladimir Putin squelches domestic opposition, Western support for Ukraine could waver if Europeans have to endure sky-high prices for natural gas in the winter and if the increasingly isolationist Republicans take control of at least one house of Congress.

This is certainly no time for a “mission accomplished” moment — as if simply prolonging the war represents some kind of victory. It is dismaying to read in the New York Times that anonymous Biden administration officials are claiming the United States has already either accomplished or is about to accomplish its “strategic objectives” — ensuring that an independent Ukraine will survive, that the invasion will be a “strategic failure” for Russia, that there will be no “superpower conflict” and that the international order will be strengthened “around Western values.”

It is wildly premature to suggest that any of these objectives have been durably achieved; Putin hasn’t given up his evil scheme of enslaving Ukraine. It is also highly insensitive to tout supposed U.S. success when roughly 20 percent of Ukraine remains under enemy occupation and more Ukrainians are being slaughtered every day. Would we be satisfied if an army of war criminals occupied 20 percent of the United States? By my calculation, that would include the entire states of California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Texas. We wouldn’t live with such an outrage — and neither should the Ukrainians.

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Fortunately, Ukraine has no shortage of volunteers willing to fight — and, if necessary, die — to defend their homeland. What Ukrainians lack are the weapons and training they need to roll back the Russian advance. They have been receiving some of both but not in the numbers needed.

The British army has undertaken a much-needed initiative to train 10,000 Ukrainians for military service. Other countries should set up their own programs so that the number of trained recruits can be increased exponentially to make up for wartime losses.

The United States and other countries have also been sending growing quantities of heavy weapons to Ukraine. The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) are proving particularly effective in allowing the Ukrainians to target Russian headquarters and ammunition depots. A Russian military blogger laments that Russian air defenses haven’t been able to stop HIMARS rockets, resulting in “BIG losses in personnel and equipment.”

Those are impressive results considering that Ukraine so far has received only nine HIMARS. The Biden administration just pledged four more in addition to nine others promised by allies. But Ukrainian officials are asking for many more HIMARS and would like to see them equipped with longer-range rockets. Michael G. Vickers, a former undersecretary of defense who helped mastermind the 1980s war against the Red Army in Afghanistan, recently suggested that Ukraine needs 60 to 100 HIMARS or other multiple-launch rocket systems to win the artillery duel.

Why aren’t we sending more HIMARS? I put that question on Friday to a senior U.S. defense official, who responded by pointing out all the difficulties involved, from moving these systems to Ukraine to training enough Ukrainians to operate them to providing spare parts to keep them functioning. All true. But why doesn’t the administration announce right now that it is planning to send 60 HIMARS as soon as practicable and ramp up training to make sure Ukraine has enough operators to use them? That kind of commitment could shift the balance of power on the ground, enabling a Ukrainian counteroffensive to take back lost land. Simply making the announcement would buoy Ukrainian spirits and undermine Russian morale.

The U.S. military is very good at achieving tactical goals: If you tell soldiers or Marines to take a hill, they will move heaven and earth to take it. The problem is that it isn’t clear what goal the U.S. aid program is trying to achieve. President Biden recently pledged to continue supporting Ukraine “as long as it takes” to ensure it is “not defeated” by Russia. That’s not good enough. Our goal should not be averting a Ukrainian defeat. It should be enabling a Ukrainian victory. That’s the only way to shorten the war and end the suffering.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: President Zelensky taunted Russia on Tuesday, as Kyiv celebrated a strike — apparently conducted with advanced Western rocket launchers — on an ammunition depot in the occupied southern region of Kherson.

The fight: A slowly regenerating Russian army is making incremental gains in eastern Ukraine against valiant but underequipped Ukrainian forces. The United States and its allies are racing to deliver the enormous quantities of weaponry the Ukrainians urgently need if they are to hold the Russians at bay.

The weapons: Ukraine is making use of weapons such as Javelin antitank missiles and Switchblade “kamikaze” drones, provided by the United States and other allies. Russia has used an array of weaponsagainst Ukraine, some of which have drawn the attention and concern of analysts.

Photos: Post photographers have been on the ground from the very beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.

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Opinion by Max BootMax Boot is a Washington Post columnist, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam.” Twitter

7 comments

  1. Give them shitloads of HIMARS. They seem to be the game changer. Especially if they are given long range models.
    Speed things along : send trainers there and ask volunteers to operate them in situ while the boys are learning. Lose no time. But do it secretly.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. To be honest, I also have no inkling of what’s going on in Biden’s skull, or in the skulls of his advisers. This trickle-trickle aid is not the right way of handling such a grave situation. An entire nation and its people depend on smart, determined and steady help is what’s needed. And, it’s not only essential to help an innocent nation, but to punish a guilty one. Not to forget that China, Iran and every other trash country is watching us … very closely.
    We cannot afford to let Vlad and mafia land win! There is too much at stake. When will Washington see this truth?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The old creepy Bidenov would have been much more successful standing up putin if he would have allowed domestic oil and gas production. People sometimes wonder why putin didn’t invade anyone during the Trump years, I’d wager that is one of the reasons why.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The Democrat Party is incompetent. Realize that, and the reasons for things going as they are become obvious.

        It is a bit of a surprise that Max Boot actually gets something right on this. He’s been something of an idiot on most things since Trump came into office in 2017.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Of course! Biden, that damned fool, considers his fucked up leftist anti-energy doctrines more important than anything. To hell with fighting Putler effectively by making changes to our energy sector, which would drain billions from putler’s war chest. To hell with millions of Americans who feel the utter pain every time they must buy gas, even if it’s just to get to work or to go shopping.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Bidenov is not standing in the way of domestic oil and gas production. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2022/mar/09/joe-biden/fact-checking-bidens-claim-there-are-9000-unused-o/ an old link but details some of why I believe that. The reason why putler didn’t intensify the war during the trump years is that trump was putler’s poodle. All these red magat hat wearing peddlers of Kremlin bs are still a major propaganda problem of his time in office. Once again we must dispell the lies by boldly proclaiming the truth. Trump would’ve done anything to get his mafia Moscow tower, and stay in power, including trashing the US constitution and throwing Ukraine under the bus. At best trump is a con man, at worst a traitor to the US and to Ukraine.

    Like

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