As the Ukraine war stretches into its third year, Kyiv is desperate for money and weapons. As the United States and NATO stretch to provide assistance, their efforts bring increased risk of direct conflict with Russia.

Direct conflict – a Russian attack on US assets – is unlikely. No one wants to see rapid escalation between two nuclear-armed superpowers. What is much more likely is horizontal escalation.

The Russians view the US as waging a hybrid war, using Ukraine as a proxy. Rather than directly attacking US assets, it is more likely that Russia will provide sophisticated weapons to its own proxies and have those proxies attack US targets.

In this article, we look at two examples. First, Russia’s transfer of ICBM technology to North Korea, and second, Russia’s transfer of anti-ship missile technology to Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, and Yemen. In both cases, the transfer has already begun.

These examples are not exhaustive. Russia could also transfer weapons and technology to China, Cuba, Venezuela, and non-state actors like Latin American drug cartels. Those guys already buy our Javelins on the black market, why not pick up some Russian Kornet ATGMs right from the source?

The Demarche

In the wake of a Ukrainian ATACM missile strike on Crimea, the US ambassador to Moscow, Lynne Tracey, was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. There, she was issued a demarche. A demarche is the strongest diplomatic protest a country can deliver. It is only issued under grave circumstances and contains a warning. The country issued the demarche has transgressed, and if corrective action is not taken, further consequences will follow.

The Ukrainians launched five ATACMs with cluster warheads. Russian air defense destroyed four. The fifth exploded over a beach near Sevastopol. One hundred and fifty civilians were injured. Half a dozen, including two children, were killed outright.

Russia accused the United States of supplying advanced weaponry to Ukraine and encouraging attacks on Russian territory. Russia further suggested that US crews provide targeting and input the missiles’ flight guidance. The US and Ukraine were accused of deliberately targeting civilians. The demarche concluded with important messages. First, the United States and the Russian Federation are no longer in a “state of peace.” The Russians consider the United States to be waging a “hybrid war.” Second, the incident cannot be ignored and retaliatory measures will follow.