The Senate bill that tied funding for Ukraine to cash for the border and Israel has been declared dead on arrival in the House and is stalled in the Senate.  House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La) held out hope for eventual funding, however: “We’ll talk about the Ukraine measure going forward.  That’s not been abandoned.”

But whatever bill passes is not likely to look like the current Senate version. Spending $60 billion on a foreign country during an election year could end several Washington careers.  However, as Speaker Johnson also said, “We can’t allow Vladimir Putin to march through Europe.” 

It is time to look at the war from a different perspective.  Congress should mandate a new strategy. Rather than push the US toward bankruptcy by spending without end, we should tell Ukraine to target the funding of Putin’s war machine.  Ukraine’s military intelligence agency, the HUR, is well positioned to accomplish that mission.  The HUR has an impressive record of victories against strategic military and energy targets deep inside Russian territory. 

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Cut Putin’s Energy Revenue

The lifeblood of any war is money, and Putin derives his money from selling fossil fuels.  Reductions in American energy production has driven up the world price of oil and gas, while simultaneously opening up international markets to be supplied by Russian production. This has given Putin the windfall he needs to finance his military adventurism. 

SBU Detains Suspected Traitor Helping Russians Bomb Kraken Special Forces Base
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SBU Detains Suspected Traitor Helping Russians Bomb Kraken Special Forces Base

The suspect was reportedly relaying the coordinates of the Kraken special forces base in Kharkiv, on which Russians planned to use ballistic missiles and half-ton glide bombs.

US policy makers should take note of the dramatic successes of this small, underfinanced military organization.  They should encourage Ukrainian President Zelensky to use the HUR for attacks specifically targeted to cripple Putin’s energy production and export facilities. Attacks on Russian energy infrastructure could rapidly alter the military and financial balance of power.

A History of Clandestine Victories

If Putin is deprived of the foreign currency he needs to purchase weapons and ammunition, that would quickly erode his war-making ability, and give relief to the other Ukrainian forces fighting to maintain the front lines. 

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Could this strategy succeed?  The HUR has already won many clandestine victories, both near the border and thousands of miles away.  A simple cost-benefit analysis of these operations compared to ongoing trench warfare supports a radical change of course. 

Here are a few examples of successful attacks: Just days ago a HUR saboteur blew up a Su-34 fighter jet at the Shagol airfield in Chelyabinsk, which is over 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) behind the front line.  Also this month, HUR drones hit a fuel and energy compound in Russia’s Oryol region, south of Moscow.  The strikes destroyed fuel storage tanks and part of the electricity grid.

Last month, the target was a rail tunnel in Buryatia, the only viable supply line between Russia and China.  This line brings fuel, rockets, and artillery rounds from North Korea and China to supply the Red Army.  It is over 6,500 kilometers (4,000 miles) inside Russian territory.  Days after the tunnel was destroyed, another blast blew up a bridge over a deep gorge on the only bypass for the tunnel.  Both blasts destroyed shipments of military jet fuel and temporarily disabled the transport routes.

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Just today a Ukrainian drone attack caused significant damage to Russia’s largest metallurgical plant in Novolipetsk, whose products feed many enterprises involved in the manufacture of the Kremlin’s missiles, rockets, artillery and drones, among other things.

These victories are not new.  They have been taking place since the beginning of the war.  Throughout 2022, the HUR changed the geography of the war by launching drones at air bases hundreds of miles inside Russia.

The achievements also have serious policy implications.  They expose the emptiness of Putin’s threats to use massive nuclear retaliation for any attack inside Russia.  Russian retaliation for HUR attacks deep inside Russian territory has been limited to conventional missile and artillery attacks on civilian areas.  Ukrainian forces have been emboldened by these successes, and Russian commanders have been demoralized and replaced.

Assassination Attempts Against the GUR Director 

Vladimir Putin is keenly aware of the role played by the HUR, and has tried on several occasions to assassinate the chief of the service, Kyrilo Budanov.  Recently both Budanov and his wife were targets of separate assassination attempts.  Russia’s clandestine forces have influence inside Ukrainian circles, and are sure to use it to aid the service chief’s bureaucratic opponents.

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US and EU policy makers would be wise to look at the record of the HUR and mandate support for its efforts.  As Washington counts every dollar sent to Ukraine, it should consider directing some of that money specifically to clandestine efforts to deprive Putin and his “special military operation” of its revenue stream.  We should spend our money to bankrupt Putin, not ourselves.

Bart Marcois is a former career U.S. diplomat, and was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs.  

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

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Comments (2)

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I can't take morons anymore
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Bankrupt? Seriously? Does this genius know the first thing about how this all works? Does he not know that the money spent will go almost entirely to US manufacturing? Does he not know that supporting Ukraine is massively cheaper than sending troops, putting American feet on the ground?

What a joke. Bankruptcy! Idiot.

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Hope
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If the west really wants to end the war quickly , they could and one way is assimilating some high ranked leaders through some proxies inside Russia by paying money .
The West sells their old stocks of weapons and renew them with more advanced once while enriching their oil producing companies that work globally whether in Europe itself and North America...
This is somehow like neocolonism attempting to weaken Russia for more world power plus economic advantages and influences ...

John
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@Hope, For now we should just continuing provide Ukraine with whatever help they need. Look at the miracles Urkainina army has worouhg up putins ill prepared military. Kill ration of 10:1 and their land force equipment whittled down to ~50% of its prewar size.....all with mostly old allied tech some of which was nearing expiry anyways.

I say give Ukraine the good stuff and let them end the war on their own terms more quickly. Fighter jets and bombers, long range missiles, hand over the keys for NATO's 2000 tanks and let the Ukrainians provide "valet" service. More sanctions, redistribution of russia frozen assets to Ukraine. Ease path for foreigners to fight the good fight on Ukraine's side.

Before you know it putin will have needlessly worn down russia's defenses to the extent that it can't defend itself. Then Ukraine and all russia's former colonized neighbours can just walk in in and take back the land the USSR / russian stole from them:

* China: About 910,000 sq/hms of Qing and Siberian territories since 1860. 

* Finland: Lost ~11% of territory in 1939 Russia ‘Winter War'.

* Poland: Kaliningrad Oblast stolen in WWII.

* Japan: Four southernmost Kuril Islands.stolen in WWII.

* Moldova: Transnistria portion stolen in 1992

* Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia portions stolen in 2008.

Russian's will regret they let putin start his most recent aggression.

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