The US should send Ukraine any weapons it requests as Russia’s invasion reaches a crucial moment that could change the outcome of the war, some political analysts and lawmakers said on Friday.
Ukrainians put up a fierce resistance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading forces than expected – and the West could have a decisive influence on the war in Ukraine’s favor by supplying its fighters with heavy weapons now, experts say.
But to help Ukraine prevail, the US must take the lead over its NATO allies because of its global position and massive military resources, said Dalibor Rohac, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.
“If you want Ukrainians to win this war, there is no one like the United States that can make that happen in the short term,” Rohac told The Post.
“My main message is to just do more,” Rohac said. “Send the Ukrainians whatever they ask, don’t be afraid of Putin and he may actually lose this war.”
NATO pledged to send more weapons in support of the conflict on Thursday amid growing reports of Russian brutality and atrocities against civilians in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said images and reports of the invasion force’s tactics had prompted the Biden administration “at the moment to look not only broadly at what we have deployed and what we continue to deploy, but whether there are additional systems that… this could make a difference.”
John Herbst, who served as US ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006, told The Post that the government “scared itself” because it was overly concerned that it might take actions perceived as a provocation by Russia and would lead to a nuclear standoff.
“I don’t think American troops should shoot at Russians in Russia, and actually I’m not advocating American troops fighting the war in Ukraine,” Herbst said. “But I think any weapons we can supply to Ukraine will not make Putin nuke us.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat, supports the deployment of additional weapons, including longer-range anti-aircraft missile systems, a spokesman for the committee said in an email.
However, some NATO countries are reluctant to supply weapons that are seen as offensive rather than defensive. Other concerns have been raised about arming Ukrainians with modern, high-tech weapons that they have not been properly trained to use.
Retired General Wesley Clark wrote in one op/ed published in The Post Friday that there is little time to lose in delivering hundreds of thousands of artillery shells, tanks and MiGs and Sukhoi aircraft to the Ukrainian armed forces.
“Why? Because there is now a window – maybe for a week or two – when Ukraine can counterattack north, south and east to drive out Russian forces. This will require mobile armored forces and air forces,” wrote Clark: “And if that window is lost, the future is darker and more uncertain.”
A Ukrainian victory could force Russia out of the country forever, putting Putin on his heels and forcing him to think twice about further conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and elsewhere, Clark said.
Russia’s failure in Ukraine would also give China pause for thought if it decides to ignite new military conflicts across its borders, he wrote in the article.
There is a crucial window in the next few weeks, military and political experts said.
Russia is refocusing its attacks on eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass region, after struggling in some northern cities – and there are fears the intensity of the coming offensive could turn the tide in Moscow’s favour.
But even if the offensive falters, Putin could agree to a ceasefire by mid-May, with a concession such as annexing part of the Donbass region that would allow him to call the operation a success, Rohac told The Post.
The Biden administration built its initial arms supply policy on the assumption that Ukraine would be largely defeated and that the resistance would consist mostly of guerrilla fighters in occupied countries, he added. But the US has to adapt, now the view of the war has changed.
“The Ukrainians have a good chance of actually driving the Russians out of Ukraine altogether and that would be a priority for us to achieve that result.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Biden has been “a little too cautious” on Ukraine.
“We have to give the Ukrainians everything they want,” he said an interview on Fox News Friday. “They showed they have the will to fight, the ability to fight and our goal should be to win.”
McConnell said there was “no question” that Putin’s forces had committed war crimes – he was demanding more than speeches from the US.
“Of course, Putin will not be deterred from being labeled a war criminal,” McConnell said. “He’ll be deterred on the battlefield… And so what we have to do is give (the Ukrainians) every single useful weapon they ask for and need to defeat the Russians.”
With mail wires