Lots of Fog

Usually, the majority of the fog of war is contained on the battlefield; today, it has spread to the White House and the media. Please pay attention closely; this story has more twists and turns than a two-lane alpine road. Five days ago, SOFREP reported that the US was making preparations to send medium-range rockets to Ukraine. And we (the US) did have those plans in place. Then, in an apparent change of mind, President Biden stated Monday (May 30th) that Washington was “not going to send to Ukraine any rocket systems that can strike into Russia.” Perhaps he did not consider the fact that ANY missile system or artillery could be made to strike into Russia depending on how close it was to the border…but I digress.

Yes, it all makes my head hurt too. Screenshot courtesy of YouTube

Green Light

We (SOFREP) reported on this announcement just yesterday morning. It was the latest intel we had at the time. Then, the news broke during our staff meeting late yesterday that the President had changed his mind yet again, and yes, we are now indeed sending medium-range advanced rocket systems to Ukraine. Joe says, “it’s a go,” and all that good stuff.

This policy change came in response to an urgent request from top Ukrainian officials who made it quite clear that these weapons systems were essential to halt the advance of Russian forces from the east. After re-changing his mind, the President told the press that these weapons, which can destroy targets almost 50 miles away, would enable Ukraine “to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield.” I have to agree with him on that point; this war is very quickly turning into a contest of who can lob the most destructive munitions on whom from the longest distance. The world has not seen large-scale warfare of this type for many decades.

Sam Eckholm has filmed an excellent, entertaining, educational video on the awesome capabilities of the Army’s HIMARS rocket launcher. Video courtesy of Sam, YouTube, and the Colorado National Guard.

Predictably, Biden’s latest announcement provoked a harsh response from Moscow. During a news briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Such deliveries do not contribute to … the Ukrainian leadership’s willingness to resume peace talks.” You can bet that behind the scenes, Putin was cursing loudly in Russian and throwing things around. Ironically, he most certainly does not want to see his nation attacked by his neighbor, which he himself decided to attack a little over three months ago. I know; no one said war makes any sense. Don’t expect it to.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov talked to state-owned news outlet RIA Novosti about the matter, calling the latest US military support “dangerous” and “unprecedented.” But, not to worry, Ukrainian officials have provided assurances that they would not use these weapons to destroy targets inside Russia. President Biden made it clear as well. In an essay published in the New York Times, he said:

“America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.  We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia.”

And there you have it, the latest as of 1544 hrs EST.

I should note that a US official, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said that we would not be sending the longest-range munitions to Ukraine at this time. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System we are sending (the M142 HIMARS) has a maximum firing range of up to 190 miles, but the munitions we will send with it can only strike targets up to about 43 miles away.

Shortly after Biden’s essay was published by the Times, Russia’s Defense Ministry said they were conducting exercises with their strategic missile forces in Ivanovo. The strategic missile division is Moscow’s main force responsible for “nuclear deterrence of possible aggression.”

Putin’s strategy of hinting at nuclear war has been pretty effective in rattling the Biden administration. While Russia has lost the initiative on the ground in Ukraine, it seems to have it over NATO and the US, which constantly protests it does not want a direct confrontation with Russia which ought to be obvious to Moscow by the absence of NATO mobilizing and sending its armies and air forces to the borders of Poland, Hungary, and Romania.  From what we have seen of the Russian military in the last few months, Putin has more to fear from a direct confrontation with the West than the US and NATO has.

Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen; the next few weeks should prove to be interesting.