White House has ‘not encouraged’ Ukraine to strike Russian-based military bases

Russia Ukraine War Cost of Defense Explainer
FILE – In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook, April 25, 2022, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, third from left, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, fourth from left, attend their meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, fourth from right, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Even as Ukraine celebrates recent battlefield victories, its government faces a looming challenge on the financial front: how to pay the enormous cost of the war effort without triggering out-of-control price spikes for ordinary people or piling up debt that could hamper postwar reconstruction. So far, the U.S. has been the leading donor, giving $15.2 billion in financial assistance and $52 billion in overall aid, including humanitarian and military assistance, through Oct. 3, according to the Ukraine Support Tracker at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP, File) AP

White House has ‘not encouraged’ Ukraine to strike Russian-based military bases

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The Biden administration has not “encouraged” Kyiv to strike targets within Russia’s borders, though three such strikes this week could mark the latest significant turning point in the war.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that while the United States has discussed its fear of the war escalating with Ukrainian leaders, it is ultimately not telling them how to fight the war with the weapons the U.S. and allies provide.

“Number one, we are providing them information to help them defend themselves. We certainly are providing them resources and material weapons to defend themselves,” he said. “But they make their own decisions. The whole idea, the whole principle behind this war, is one of sovereignty. And unlike the Russians, we respect Ukrainian sovereignty. When we give them a weapon system, it belongs to them, where they use it, how they use it, how much ammunition they use to use that system. I mean, those are Ukrainian decisions, and we respect that.”

RUSSIA LAUNCHES NEW WAVE OF MISSILE ATTACKS ON UKRAINE

The U.S. has “made it very clear our concerns about escalation,” he added. “But in the end, these are Ukrainian decisions that they have to make and that they have to speak to one way or the other.”

A drone strike hit an oil storage tank at an airfield in Kursk, Russia, on Tuesday, a day after the Engels-2 air base near Saratov, approximately 435 miles from Ukraine’s closest city, and the Dyagilevo air base near Ryazan, nearly 350 miles from Ukraine’s closest city, reported similar incidents.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of the strikes, while Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, released a vague statement seemingly about the attacks, saying, “The Earth is round — discovery made by Galileo. Astronomy was not studied in Kremlin, giving preference to court astrologers. If it was, they would know: if something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to departure point.”

Launching these strikes, a brazen move that could fundamentally shift the war, is Ukraine’s “decision to make,” Kirby said. He noted that the White House has “not encouraged them to do that,” though he added he couldn’t confirm details of the attacks.

These three likely Ukrainian strikes came around the time Russian forces launched their latest missile barrage at various Ukrainian cities. The fatal strikes on Monday were the latest occurrence of Russia’s unrelenting attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which Western officials have described as an attempt to weaponize the winter conditions against millions of civilians. Ukraine’s air defenses shot down roughly 60 of the more than 70 missiles launched.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to add new insight into the strikes at Engels-2 air base and Dyagilevo air base earlier this week.

“I don’t have anything further to add to it except this: Every single day, we are seeing explosions across the entirety of Ukraine as Russia tries to take out its energy infrastructure,” he said. “That’s the current reality in Ukraine. That’s what’s happening, as I said, quite literally every day.”

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Russia, with depleting stockpiles and a defense industrial base not equipped to handle it, has acquired drones from Iran that provided Russia with the greatly improved ability to strike at Ukraine’s infrastructure. The U.S. has seen Iran provide “continued provision[s]” of these drones, though not ballistic missiles, which has been identified as a possibility, Kirby added.

The North Koreans have sought to obscure the artillery they’re providing to Russia, but he said it’s unclear whether “that transaction has been consummated.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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