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Ukrainian armed forces’ soldiers drive a T-72 tank on the outskirts of Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine on December 21, 2022InternationalIndiaAfricaSecretary of State Antony Blinken told a group of experts on Wednesday that a Ukrainian attempt to retake Crimea would be a red line for Russian President Vladimir Putin that could lead to a tough reaction from Moscow.”It is curious, as the US leadership in the past has not seemed to understand what the term ‘red-line’ means,” Retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, a former analyst for the US Department of Defense, told Sputnik. “It is possible that Blinken is becoming aware of the serious weakness and rapid decline of Ukraine’s situation, on military, humanitarian, and political leadership fronts. There is a broad array of factual information and accurate assessments of Ukraine’s situation available to the rest of the world, and even among some important retired military men and other analysts in the US, and this information is gradually seeping into the US State Department.””Certainly European intelligence as well as Israeli intelligence would be trusted by the US leadership, and I suspect Blinken is becoming pessimistic. It is in Blinken’s interest to reduce US expectations, and if possible, end the war with some kind of ‘win’ narrative before Joe Biden, who appointed him, enters his re-election campaign in 12 months,” the retired lieutenant colonel continued.In a recent Zoom call with a group of experts, Blinken specified that the US isn’t actively encouraging Ukraine to retake Crimea and that it is solely Kiev’s initiative.World’Out of Control’: MTG Says US Possibly Backing Ukraine Invasion of Crimea ‘Insanity’30 January, 20:51 GMT
Washington Was ‘Warming’ to Attack Crimea
Blinken’s remarks came after US mainstream media reports in January alleged that the Biden administration is considering the argument that Kiev needs the strength to regain Crimea. The New York Times reported on January 18 that the US government believes that if the Ukrainian military had an opportunity to threaten the peninsula, it would have boosted Kiev’s negotiating position, even if such a move would increase the risk of escalation.The media claimed, citing unnamed US officials, that Kiev and Washington had been discussing the use of American-supplied weapons, such as HIMARS rocket systems and Bradley fighting vehicles, to target Russia’s control over a land bridge that functions as a critical supply route connecting Crimea to Russia via Melitopol and Mariupol. The newspaper also quoted Frederick B. Hodges, a retired lieutenant general and former US top commander in Europe, who said that in the coming months, the Bradleys could be used to help sever the land bridge.Blinken’s apparent change of heart comes in contradiction with the January reports. Furthermore, RAND, an American nonprofit global policy think tank created in 1948 by the Douglas Aircraft Company to offer research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces, has released an analysis stating that a protracted military conflict in Ukraine is not in US interests.According to RAND, the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO is elevated while the conflict is ongoing.The report also alleged that an end to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict “that leaves Ukraine in full control over all of its internationally recognized territory (…) remains a highly unlikely outcome.” It further remarked that “the line of control as of December 2022 does not deprive Kiev of economically vital areas that would dramatically affect the country’s viability.””Blinken proceeds from the fact that Crimea has long been a Russian territory,” Ivan Konovalov, military expert and political analyst, told Sputnik. “That is, it has always been a Russian territory. Crimea returned to the Russian harbor in 2014. The United States is well aware that in Russia, this issue is not a government one, but a people’s one. This is the general opinion of the Russian people: Crimea is Russian land. And it is clear to American analysts, politicians, to the US military, to those who objectively look at this situation what an attack on Crimea will lead to.”MilitaryRate of Ukraine Ammunition Use Makes US Review Stockpiles, Weigh Up Spending Hike: Milley16 February, 13:57 GMT
Depleted Weapons Stockpiles
But that is not all: it appears that the US does not have the resources and stamina to push ahead with the conflict, according to Sputnik’s interlocutors.Earlier this week, the Western press reported that the Pentagon is reviewing its weapons stockpiles and may need to boost military spending after seeing how quickly ammunition has been used during the Ukraine conflict. On Tuesday, Department of Defense officials met with their counterparts in Brussels to coordinate massive amounts of lethal assistance to Kiev. The quantity of munitions required for prolonging the conflict exposed vulnerabilities in the defense industry of the US and its allies, as per Western media.Previously, a series of reports by American and European media outlets raised the alarm over the speed at which Western ammo and military equipment are being used and destroyed in Ukraine.
"The United States acknowledges, although it does not want to do so, that Europe is exhausted," Konovalov said. "That is, if the conflict continues, then the Americans should take the most burden of it, although they already took on quite a lot. But in Europe, militarily, the possibilities are not very great (…) And right now this is a dilemma for the Americans, they are knocking out of the Europeans as much as they can. But take a look at the situation with the tanks. Initially they decided that Leopard [2s] would be delivered, but now most countries are refusing [to do that]. Moreover, the first delivery of Leopards will be Leopard 1s. And this is a completely old tank with an old gun."
Four Reasons Leopard 2s & M1 Abrams Will Bite the Dust in Ukraine27 January, 18:00 GMT
False Flags to Escalate or Shift the Narrative Are Both Possible
Kiev is urging its Western patrons to provide more weapons and support to seize Crimea, but that would require a huge military grouping, long-range weapons, and naval forces, i.e. something Ukraine does not have, according to the Russian expert.Kiev has a lot on its plate right now, and cannot even dream about shifting its focus to Crimea, echoed Kwiatkowski.”Ukraine does not have the military capability required to even take back the Donbass, and to refocus its remaining capability on the battlefield to Crimea would further fracture the Ukrainian territory – and be unsuccessful on both fronts,” the former Pentagon analyst said. “No general would advise a strategy of dividing already limited forces, even to try and take such a strategically valuable piece of real estate.””However, Ukraine would like for NATO or the US to believe this is a valid goal, and enter the battlefield on its behalf. It is possible that Ukraine’s leadership, and Zelensky himself, has misread the US tea leaves, and actually believes the US and NATO will fight a land and sea war against Russia over Crimea right before a US election, just as several NATO member governments go wobbly on the whole Ukraine fiasco,” Kwiatkowski continued.However, she warned against believing that the US leadership is willing to back down in the near term: they may both try to escalate further or shift the narrative and seek a way out.”I do not rule out the possibility of US terrorism directly against Russia, of the kind we saw with the destruction of Nord Stream I and II in September,” she said. “The Black Sea in particular is a place where the US and NATO operate relatively freely. Because in many ways US policymakers are both ill-informed, and fearful of further reputational and financial losses as a result of their support of the failed state of Ukraine, they are increasingly desperate for a way out. False flags to escalate, and false flags to shift the narrative, are both possible, and I’m sure the intelligence agencies around the world are increasingly on edge.”