FILE PHOTO. High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). © Tony Overman/The Olympian via AP
The US is willing to sacrifice countless lives to weaken Russia
The US is doing everything possible to extend the suffering of the Ukrainian people by creating conditions that appear to mandate an expansion of Russia’s military effort, and the subsequent destruction of the Ukrainian nation.
US President Joe Biden has approved the transfer of at least four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine. In a “guest essay” published in The New York Times, Biden declared that “[The United States has] moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table. That’s why I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”
At least four of the HIMARS systems will be transferred to Kiev, part of a $700 million dollar military aid package sourced from the $8 billion authorized by Congress for direct drawdown from existing US military stocks. As configured for Ukraine, the M142 will be able to fire a pod of six 227mm artillery GPS-guided rockets, with a range of 43.5 miles (70 kilometers). What is known is that Biden will not be supplying Ukraine with the more advanced ATACMS short-range missile, with a range of 300 kilometers.
Ukrainian forces will be trained on the HIMARS systems prior to their being dispatched to Ukraine. According to the Pentagon, the estimated training time is three weeks. Previously, Ukrainian soldiers were trained on US M777A2 155mm artillery systems at a US Army training facility in Grafenwoehr, Germany. Given the need for an artillery range capable of accommodating the operational parameters of the HIMARS, it is likely that the Grafenwoehr facility will be used again.
Prior to the decision regarding HIMARS being announced, the president ppeared to be shying away from sending advanced artillery rockets to Ukraine. “We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia,” he had announced, on May 30, in response to a reporter’s question. Biden, however, appears to have been speaking about the ATACMS missile. He clarified his position the next day, in his essay. “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”
The fact is, the HIMARS system, if deployed close to the Russian frontier, would give Ukraine the ability to strike nearby Russian cities, such as the strategic logistics hub in Belgorod. Biden’s apparent reversal was in large part due to guarantees from Kiev. “The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared a day after Biden’s essay was published. “There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States.”
The Russian Presidential spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, decried the HIMARS decision as “deliberately and diligently pouring fuel on the fire,” while scoffing at the notion of Ukrainian assurances regarding the weapons systems’ future use. “In order to trust [someone], you need to have experience with situations when such promises were kept,” Peskov said. “Regretfully, there is no such experience whatsoever.”
According to President Biden, the purpose behind his decision to arm Ukraine with billions of dollars’ worth of advanced weaponry was motivated by pure intent. “America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.” Recognizing the difficult situation Ukraine has found itself in militarily, he seems to understand the pressures being placed upon Kiev to negotiate an end to the fighting. “I will not,” Biden declared, “pressure the Ukrainian government…to make any territorial concessions. It would be wrong and contrary to well-settled principles to do so.”
Biden was making specific reference to the fact that any potential agreement with Russia to stop the fighting would, at a minimum, need to recognize Crimea as Russian and the Donbass republics as independent, as well as understand the probability that Kherson and other Russian-majority territories currently under Moscow’s control would probably undertake referenda regarding whether they would remain a part of Ukraine going forward.
Biden’s posture flies in the face of historical and practical reality. Russia will never give up Crimea, nor will it pressure the newly independent republics of Lugansk and Donetsk to rescind their hard-won liberation. Any other questions of territorial status are directly related to battlefield realities, and everything indicates that not only will Ukraine be unable to reverse Russia’s territorial gains but will more than likely lose additional swaths of territory, in the weeks to come. as the fighting continues.
Biden, by providing advanced weapons to Ukraine, is seeking to accomplish the impossible–a negotiated Ukrainian victory. This is reflected in his fanciful depiction of the current state of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. “Ukraine’s talks with Russia are not stalled because Ukraine has turned its back on diplomacy,” Biden states. “They are stalled because Russia continues to wage a war to take control of as much of Ukraine as it can. The United States will continue to work to strengthen Ukraine and support its efforts to achieve a negotiated end to the conflict.”
Biden’s words, like the American policy they ostensibly describe, are inherently contradictory and reek of hypocrisy. After declaring that “We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia,” Biden goes on to articulate a case for just that. “It is in our vital national interests to ensure a peaceful and stable Europe and to make it clear that might does not make right. If Russia does not pay a heavy price for its actions, it will send a message to other would-be aggressors that they too can seize territory and subjugate other countries.”
The ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict is one that should never have been fought and once started, should have been brought to a quick conclusion. The blame for both the initiation of the conflict, and the fact that is it still ongoing today, does not lie, as Biden suggests, with Russia.
A quick history lesson: The special military operation is a direct result of America’s ongoing efforts to use NATO expansion, including the desired incorporation of Ukraine, as a means of weakening Russia while undermining the viability of the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin so that he could be replaced with a modern-day clone of Boris Yeltsin—a Russian ‘leader’ in name only, who would once again cast the country prostrate at the feet of a domineering West.
The decade of the 1990s was good for those in the West seeking to punish Russians for the perceived Cold War sins of the Soviet Union. But it was a horrible time for the Russian people. Neither President Putin nor wider society appear to be willing to allow the US and NATO to reverse the hands of time and repeat that era of darkness. Any student of modern Russian history would know this. Unfortunately, Western leaders are informed not by Russian historians but by Russophobe propagandists, and the result is a conflict in Ukraine.
The special military operation, however, was not triggered by NATO’s expansion, but rather by the policies of Ukraine, promoted and facilitated by NATO, which subjected the ethnic-Russian population of Donbass to the eight-year horror of genocidal, ethnic-driven hatred inflicted on them at the hands of the most vile, odious ideology imaginable – the neo-Nazi extremism of the Ukrainian political far right, embodied in the form of the Azov Regiment and other organizations of its ilk.
Despite the existence of a negotiated framework for peace – the 2015 Minsk Accords – brokered as part of the Normandy Format mechanism that included France, Germany, and Ukraine, with Russia observing, the US and its NATO allies (including France and Germany) not only failed to pressure successive Ukrainian presidential administrations to fulfil their obligations under the accords, but actively conspired against any process that would have led to the peaceful conclusion of the Donbass conflict in a manner which not only ended the killing, but also ensured that the Donbass region would remain an integral part of the Ukrainian nation.
The result was an eight-year conflict which killed over 14,000 people, most of them ethnic Russians.
Russia’s military operation was initiated for the purpose of bringing the conflict in Donbass, and the suffering of the local population, Ukrainian and Russian alike, to an end. That it has taken this long is the direct result of miscalculations on the part of the Russian military in the initial phases of the operation, the unexpected resilience and determination of the Ukrainian armed forces, and the fact that the Ukrainians had eight years to construct some of the most complex defensive positions in modern history along the line of conflict in the Donbass regions. In the end, however, Russia’s determination to see the mission through to its completion, combined with the professionalism and competence of its military forces, are producing the very victory that is unfolding on the ground in eastern Ukraine today, and which Biden seeks to reverse through the provision of advanced weapons systems such as HIMARS.
An important reality which cannot be overlooked in the ongoing military struggle is that the Ukrainian military has been functioning as a de facto extension of NATO for some time now. Since 2015 the US and its NATO allies have been training Ukrainian officers and soldiers to NATO standards in terms of organization, tactics, communications, and leadership. While most of the Ukraine military’s pre-conflict inventory was composed of Soviet-era equipment, much of this had been upgraded so that it met or exceeded the capabilities of most NATO members. In short, if Ukraine had been a formal member of NATO, it would have possessed the third largest military in the organization, after the United States and Turkey, with greater capabilities and competency than most of its other would-be NATO partners.
In the years leading up to Russia’s special military operation, Ukraine was supplied with hundreds of millions of dollars of modern military equipment, including Javelin anti-tank weapons. These weapons, and the Ukrainian military, failed to defeat the Russians. Indeed, by the end of Phase One of Russia’s operation, announced on March 25, Russia had inflicted significant harm on the Ukrainian military, making a Russian victory in Phase Two–the liberation of the Donbass–all but inevitable.
The provision of tens of billions of dollars of military aid by the US, NATO, and the European Union has not been able to reverse this tide. What these weapons, when combined with the simultaneous provision of real-time intelligence about Russian force dispositions and an untouchable strategic depth in the form of military bases in Germany, Poland, and other NATO countries from where Ukraine can receive training and equipment without fear or Russian attack, have been able to allow is the ability for Ukraine to reconstitute many of the military formations that Russia had destroyed or degraded during Phase One.
The “HIMARS Effect” will not have any meaningful impact on the battlefield in Ukraine–Russia’s military superiority is assured across the board, regardless of the numbers and quality of the weapons the US and its allies provide Ukraine. However, the goal of the US in Ukraine, according to President Biden, is to inflict a heavy price on Russia for its actions. HIMARS, when employed, will inevitably kill and wound Russian soldiers, and damage and destroy Russian military equipment. The same is true for all the lethal weapons Ukraine has been provided by the West.
Russia is, in fact, paying a heavy price in Ukraine, not because of any aggressive act of territorial acquisition carried out by the Russian military, but rather as a direct result of the policies undertaken by both NATO and Ukraine to threaten the legitimate national security interests of the Russian nation, and the lives of the ethnic Russian population of the Donbass and other eastern Ukrainian territories. All HIMARS contributes to this process is an expanded death count without a change in the outcome. In this, the HIMARS Effect perfectly encapsulates Biden’s Ukraine policy as a whole, where he is willing to sacrifice the lives and viability of the Ukrainian people and nation for the purpose of inflicting harm on Russia with no hope of altering the outcome of events on the ground.
It is a policy of death, pure and simple, and as such epitomizes the role played by America in the world today.
Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.
RT, June 7, 2022, https://www.rt.com/