U.S. warms to helping Ukraine target Crimea

By | January 19, 2023

The New York Times reports:

For years, the United States has insisted that Crimea is still part of Ukraine. Yet the Biden administration has held to a hard line since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, refusing to provide Kyiv with the weapons it needs to target the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has been using as a base for launching devastating strikes.

Now that line is starting to soften.

After months of discussions with Ukrainian officials, the Biden administration is finally starting to concede that Kyiv may need the power to strike the Russian sanctuary, even if such a move increases the risk of escalation, according to several U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive debate. Crimea, between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is home to tens of thousands of dug-in Russian troops and numerous Russian military bases.

White House officials insist there is no change in position. Crimea, they say, belongs to Ukraine.

“Russian-occupied areas are still Ukraine,” said John Kirby, a White House spokesman, earlier this month. He added that the Ukrainians “have the right to defend themselves and to look after their sovereign territory in their internationally recognized borders.”

Privately, military and administration officials had questioned the utility of Ukraine focusing attacks on Crimea, arguing Kyiv’s military had better targets elsewhere on the battlefield.

But the Biden administration has come to believe that if the Ukrainian military can show Russia that its control of Crimea can be threatened, that would strengthen Kyiv’s position in any future negotiations. In addition, fears that the Kremlin would retaliate using a tactical nuclear weapon have dimmed, U.S. officials and experts said — though they cautioned that the risk remained. [Continue reading…]

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