For several weeks the Ukrainian military has conducted a campaign of drone strikes against energy infrastructure throughout the Russian Federation. These strikes are conducted using domestically-produced drones and have shown the limits of Russia’s air defense network.

In response to these attacks, the White House has called for the Ukrainian military to exercise restraint and avoid hitting targets within the Russian Federation. Officially, this is due to the administration’s concerns over potential “escalation” in the conflict. What is more likely, however, is that the Biden administration is concerned that damage to Russian energy infrastructure will lead to an increase in energy prices and compromise the president’s reelection campaign.

While there is a logic behind the administration’s position, the White House’s request fails to reflect the reality of this war and betrays nearly two years of security posturing. The Russian Federation regularly uses its territory as a means for attacking Ukrainian cities. During the early stages of the war, the Russian military would regularly fire ballistic missiles at Eastern Ukraine from Belgorod Oblast. The Russian Air Force continues to launch air-to-surface munitions at Ukrainian targets from Russian airspace. The notion that these are off-limits targets for the Ukrainian military is absurd and the ask for restrain compromises Ukraine’s war effort.  

We should also ask ourselves, what “escalation” is the White House looking to avoid? The opening moments of the invasion of Ukraine included missile strikes on Ukraine’s westernmost regions and an ill-planned attempt by the Russian military to immediately capture Kyiv. For over two years, every Ukrainian city has been targeted by missiles, drones, and shelling by Russian forces. Short of an improbable nuclear strike, there’s literally no way that the Russian military can “escalate” the war [The notion of a nuclear strike is absurd and a topic for a future post]. 


Washington’s request also comes after months of delay in providing much-needed security assistance to Ukraine. If anything, one could argue that Ukraine’s current strategy is the result of the United States’ lack of consistency in providing material support. Given that American political deadlock has already led to the loss of Avdiivka, Kyiv may have been forced to recalibrate its strategy and focus on targets in Russia to throw Moscow off-kilter. Furthermore, as the US is no longer providing security assistance we have lost the leverage to make any demands of the Ukrainians. Thus, this request for Ukrainian restraint shows both hubris and a lack of sophistication.

Reprinted from the author’s blog Why It Matters. See the original here.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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