Second, the US and its allies are sending Ukraine more sophisticated weapons: Armoured personnel carriers, Patriot missiles, and tanks that can bust through layered Russian defences. Washington is also moving toward providing longer-range munitions that can pulverise Russian rear areas: The ground-launched small diameter bomb, likely to be part of an upcoming assistance package, has nearly twice the range of the HIMARS rounds Ukrainian forces have used to devastating effect.
The next debate may involve sophisticated aircraft: Biden recently said the US won’t provide F-16 fighters to Ukraine, but that’s also what he said about providing American tanks up until the moment he changed his mind.
Third, Biden may not envision Ukraine liberating Crimea by force, but he has reportedly become more supportive of strikes against Russian targets there. Could hitting Crimea, which is central to Putin’s narrative of Russian resurrection under his rule, trigger escalation?
Perhaps. But Putin has bluffed about escalation so many times that his threats are losing credibility. And precisely because Crimea is so important to Putin, threatening him with its loss may be the best way to force him to negotiate seriously.
BETTING ON A SWEET SPOT FOR NEGOTIATIONS
Although these various policy shifts seem to cut in opposite directions, there is a unifying logic. The US doesn’t want the war to drag on forever, because it is turning much of Ukraine into a wasteland while taking a toll on Western treasuries, arsenals and attention.