Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging two illegal wars in Ukraine. One against Kyiv’s armed forces and one against Ukrainian civilians.

To date, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), there have been 8,983 documented civilian deaths and 15,442 injuries. Given Moscow still controls approximately 17% of Ukraine – roughly 132,000 square kilometers (51,000 square miles) – and well-documented reports of the discovery of Russian torture chambers in Kherson and massacres such as in Bucha, the number in all likelihood is far greater.

Brutality against civilians, after all, has long been part of the Russian military’s playbook, dating back to World War II and the Red Army’s mass rape of some 2 million German women and young girls.


Ukraine, tragically, is proving to be no different. In April, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said upwards of 80,000 allegations of war crimes had been lodged since the start of Putin’s “special military operation” on Feb. 24, 2022. Kostin also accused the Russian Defense Ministry of “deliberately using rape, torture, and kidnapping to try and show terror among civilians.” Moscow’s depravity has also included the rape of men and boys, according to Pramila Patten, the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence.

Putin was right when, according to Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia, he told then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2011, “You look at us and you see our skin and then assume we think like you. But we don’t.”

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Faced with choosing between fighting in Ukraine or prison, hundreds of Russian deserters and draft dodgers have fled to neighboring ex-Soviet countries, where they are now stuck in limbo.

No Vladimir, we do not.

Nor do all Russians, as McFaul pointed out at the beginning of the war. And yet, appallingly for now, Putin’s “thinking” is the prevailing school of thought in Russia, in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions, and Ukrainian civilians are dying as a result.

Since Putin’s war against humanity began, shattering image after image and soul breaking video after video of men, women, and children being bombed, injured or killed have flooded social media. One of Putin’s latest war crimes, as shared on Twitter by Anton Gerashchenko, the advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, shows a bloodied 84-year-old woman who was tossed through the air by the “shock wave” of a Russian missile or drone strike. 


If mothers and grandmothers in the US were under attack by Russian missiles or drones somewhere, Washington DC would be up in arms in taking the fight to whomever launched them, wherever they were launched.

Yet, inexplicably and indeed unconscionably, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been handcuffed and prevented by the Biden administration from doing just that since the beginning of the war. By affording Putin’s military forces effective sanctuary inside of Russia and most of Russian-occupied Crimea, Washington and NATO are only ensuring this war will continue for longer than it needs to and that more Ukrainian civilians, like the 84-year-old woman, will come under fire.

It is our “refusal to provide ATACMS,” as retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of US Army Europe pointedly notes, that “gives Russia safe haven for these attacks against Ukrainian civilians.” Hodges continued in his tweet to share the same concern we do by saying, “I don’t know how the [Biden] Administration can justify this.” At a minimum Hodges called for the “enabling” of “Ukraine to hit the Russian Navy and Air Force in Crimea.”


We have now reached a confluence in Putin’s war against Ukraine’s armed forces and his war against the men, women and children of Ukraine. What is urgently needed to protect the latter is also what is required to win the war.

President Biden has done a lot right thus far in coming to the aid of Ukraine. One can argue that he has been slow. But still, he has been there for Zelensky in his greatest times of need. However, Putin has also reached an inflection point in how he is prosecuting his two wars against Ukraine and its citizenry.

Moscow is attacking Ukraine’s environment, as was evidenced by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam on the banks of the Dnipro River. Putin is also continuing his threats to turn the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant into what we have long-described as an ecological “Nuclear Force Z,” that if unleashed would kill and sicken unfathomable numbers of Ukrainian civilians.


If Putin’s war against humanity is to be stopped in Ukraine, sending Patriot missile batteries simply is not good enough. Interdicting missiles in flight is only part of the solution.

The Patriots have significantly improved air defenses in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine. But Putin has simply changed targets and is deliberately aiming to kill civilians where Zelensky lacks robust integrated air defense systems as a counter to protect them. Putin, despite 16 months of Ukraine’s unwavering resolve proving otherwise, still believes he can callously murder his way to victory by killing Ukrainian men, women and children.

Enough is enough.

The Biden administration must lose its “escalation paralysis” as we have termed it and place more value on Ukrainian lives and less on fears of Russian reaction. Or, as the President frequently likes to say, to “be on the right side of history.”

Defeating Russian missile systems and drones at the point of origin would be far more effective in protecting civilians from Putin’s war than destroying them at their point of interdiction above Ukrainian villages, towns and cities. It would also cost substantially less in lives and fortune. Removing these Russian weapon systems from the battlefield has greater value than simply defensively knocking one missile or drone out of the sky. This means destroying them at their launch sites, regardless of where they are located – whether inside of Russia or somewhere in occupied Ukraine, such as Crimea.


What part of this reality does the Biden administration not yet understand? Russian Kinzhal missiles, Kh-101 cruise missiles and Iranian-supplied drones killing Ukrainians in their homes and apartment buildings are being fired from inside Russia or released by Tupelov Tu-160 and Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers flying in Russian airspace as well as from the Black Sea. Essentially, thus far, maddeningly and with impunity.

Biden is now at his own inflection point, where he must for humanity’s sake release ATACMS alongside other precision deep strike capable weapon systems to obliterate Putin’s capacity to criminally target and kill Ukrainian civilians. The Kremlin has demonstrated they have not yet depleted their aerial inventory and Putin’s bloodthirst for using them is only increasing.

Moscow needs to awaken to a new normal. ATACMS, if dispatched, would have a profound impact on the battlefield, far surpassing HIMARS. US long-range fire weapons operated by Ukraine must be that new normal.

Just as Americans have used every weapon system possible to defend America from its enemies, so too must Ukrainian men and women be given every tool without geographic exclusions to defend their civilians and homeland. Images of bloodied children and grandparents of Ukraine are not acceptable. Especially not when the US has the means to help Zelensky stop it.


One would presume that if Russian cruise missiles and drones rained on Florida from Cuba, killing American civilians, Washington’s response would be immediate and lethal and without regard to Putin or fears of “escalation.” Defending a country’s citizens is elemental to any nation’s national defense. It is no different for Ukraine.

Half-measures may help the Biden administration feel good about its efforts and sleep better at night, but it is not enough. Not when Putin is waging a war against humanity in Ukraine in his effort to win his war of aggression. The administration must reverse course from what John Kirby, White House Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, proclaimed following the raid into Russia’s Belgorod Oblast: “We don’t encourage, we don’t enable, and we don’t support strikes or attacks inside Russia.”

Putin’s evil must not be allowed to win, let alone rewarded. It must be decisively defeated. ATACMS can help draw Ukraine nearer to that day.

It is Father’s Day in America. In the spirit of all its meaning, Biden should use this day to send the fathers of Ukraine a reassuring message. The US will have your back while you are fighting and do everything possible to give Ukraine the capacity to defend their friends and families in cities across the country from Russian war crimes.


The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.


Copyright 2023. Mark C. Toth and Jonathan E. Sweet. All rights reserved.

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