Rasmussen, who led NATO from 2009-2014 and now runs the Rasmussen Global think tank, is one of the lead creators of the Kyiv Security Compact, which is a proposal that he worked on with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak. It would commit Ukrainian allies to a long-term partnership to develop the country’s military.
“I really don’t understand why we have made those restrictions,” he told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “The Ukrainians need, desperately, air defense, missile defense, [and] anti-drone capabilities to defend themselves against the Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure. And they need tanks, heavy tanks, to gain further ground on the battlefield. I don’t understand why, for instance, we have made restrictions on the range of missiles. Why? I think it could serve as a potent deterrent against the Russian attacks.”
U.S. officials have repeatedly bristled at the Ukrainians’ request for more advanced air defense systems, arguing that the equipment they’ve already provided, which in total is more than $19 billion, has been effective. They have also expressed hesitance, given the possibility of escalating the conflict.
“The one who was exacting the war is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Rasmussen argued. “Since the 10th of October, he changed strategies, partly to cover his defeat in Kharkiv and Kherson. He has adopted a new strategy by targeting civilian infrastructure in the woods, etc. He’s really terrorizing the Ukrainian population, hoping to break down the morale of the Ukrainian people.”
Russian forces, over the last couple of months, began an aerial campaign targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Their strikes have left millions without power, water, or heat at times, with no assurances that those necessities will be available this winter. The temperature has already begun to drop in Ukraine for the winter season, and the first snow fell weeks ago.
The new phase of the war “amounts to war crimes, in my opinion,” he elaborated. “We have not adjusted our strategy to that change and that escalation.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in mid-November that Russian forces’ “deliberate targeting of the civilian power grid … is a war crime.”
“With the onset of winter, families will be without power and, more importantly, without heat. Basic human survival and subsistence is going to be severely impacted, and human suffering for the Ukrainian population is going to increase,” he warned, adding, “These strikes will undoubtedly hinder Ukraine’s ability to care for the sick and the elderly. Their hospitals will be partially operational. The elderly are going to be exposed to the elements.”
Given what the Russian military has inflicted upon millions of civilians, Rasmussen believes, “We should respond to that by lifting all restrictions on the weapons deliveries. And I think it doesn’t make sense to be more concerned about the risk of Ukrainian escalation to war than the de facto Russian escalation of the war.”
A senior U.S. defense official told reporters Tuesday that the Pentagon is “looking at all the possible capabilities that could help the Ukrainians withstand Russian attacks.” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said later that day, “Right now, we have no plans to provide Patriot batteries to Ukraine, but again, we’ll continue to have those discussions.”