US weapons will give Russia significant problems

President Biden's decision to allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia with American weapons is extremely significant. There are still restrictions on what Ukraine can do, but it will give the Russians a lot of problems even with the current rules. And just as importantly, the taboo about making strikes in Russia has now been broken, and that will remain a fact for the rest of the war. Those are some of my topics in this video.


President Biden has now allowed Ukraine to use American weapons on Russian territory. It's a big and it's an important decision, but the American weapons will also still come with restrictions. It's limited what Ukraine is allowed to do with these weapons inside of Russia, what kinds of weapons, where they can use them. So the discussions about red lines will continue. But even with those limitations, this American decision will have consequences, both for the tactical situation around Russia's hierarchy of offensive, but also on a bigger scale about the war. So to be honest, I think as things are going, the Russian decision to open up a new frontline in the Kharkov region, I think it looks more and more like a shot in the foot. So let's talk about it.

Biden's decision that Ukraine can now use American weapons to hit targets inside Russian territory, it's an important decision and it's yet another red line that has been crossed. But when we talk about this, I think it's also important to remember where this red line comes from in the first place. It's not actually a Russian red line, it's a red line that the Western countries have invented for themselves when they started to deliver weapons to Ukraine over two years ago. Back then, it served a political purpose because it helped keeping the Western alliance together. So there was an alliance cohesion purpose there because some countries were concerned about the potential of escalation when they started to deliver weapons to Ukraine.

But this thing that Ukraine could not strike Russian territory with Western weapons, that was actually not a Russian red line. At that time, the Russian red line that they were talking about was that if Ukraine received any weapons at all from the West, then that would lead to all kinds of terrible things. So the Western countries crossed that red line that the Russians had established at the time. And then they made this decision that Ukraine could only use those weapons in certain places. And over time, then Russia adopted that red line and made it their own. But if back then, two years ago, the Western countries had just taken the full step in giving Ukraine some weapons without those restrictions, then we would not have been having this discussion now.

So it's an interesting example of how the politics that you make today have consequences down the line for whatever you can do then because it becomes the norm and it can be really hard to change the norm when people start assuming that there is a kind of deeper meaning behind that norm.

The decision that Biden has made is that Ukraine is now allowed to use American weapons to defend themselves near the Kharkov region. So there are some geographical limitations because the weapons have to be used near the Kharkov region and their use has to be somehow related to defending themselves against Russian attacks in this specific area. And then there are some limitations about what types of weapons Ukraine can use. They can use artillery. They can use the ordinary missiles for the HIMARS systems so that those are the ones that are called "GMLRS". They can also use air defense missiles. So they can only shoot down Russian aircraft that are somehow engaged in attacks on Ukraine. So they can't shoot down Russian aircraft that are doing something else.

But for example, they can't use the ATACMS missiles which are the very long-range missiles that Ukraine is currently using on Crimea and that are creating a lot of trouble for the Russians there because ATACMS missiles are apparently excluded from the list of weapons that Ukraine is allowed to use on Russian territory. So there are still many things that Ukraine cannot do. They can't use American weapons to target Russian positions in other areas. So for example, the Russians still have a safe haven in the areas that are bordering other regions like the Luhansk region, the Donetsk region, and the Ukrainians of course would like to strike there as well. Ukraine also can't use American weapons to strike Russian air bases because they are located too far into Russia and they're not allowed to use the weapons that have a reach that can go that far.

So but even with these limitations, it's still a significant step. And I will mention three areas where I think the American decision will make a difference. The first one is in the Kharkov region where it will make a tactical difference. When I say tactical, I mean the lowest level in warfare. So this is the very practical level where it will just get a lot harder for the Russians to make any progress on the battlefield. Until now, there has been this limitation and they have been firing at the Ukrainians from the Russian side of the border and they could do that before they felt pretty confident that the Ukrainians didn't have a lot of firepower to shoot back with because they couldn't use the American weapons. And that's changing now.

So the Russians are going to start taking much heavier casualties and there are certain things that they just won't be able to do anymore. So for example, it will be much harder for them to use those air launch glide bombs because Ukraine is going to start shooting down the aircraft. So this is going to create some serious dilemmas for the Russians. They're offensive in the Kharkov region. It looks more or less stalled at this point. They have not been making a lot of progress in a couple of weeks now and they're at a point now where they have to make a choice whether or not they want to invest more resources and to deploy more soldiers to this area so that they can take back the initiative because as things stands now, they haven't actually achieved anything particularly useful.

Putin has been out and personally stated that the purpose with the attack was to establish a buffer zone and a buffer zone by nature has to be covering the entire border to protect the Russian Belgorod region. And when a state leader says something like that, then that in itself becomes a commitment. And if it then turns out that Russia can't establish a decent buffer zone, then that is a personal failure for Putin. It's an embarrassment.

So Russia is already in a position where they actually need more resources in that part of the front line so that they can deliver on the goals that Putin has personally and publicly stated that they have. But the price of that has just increased dramatically as a result of this American decision. And in fact, I would say that at this point, I think the question is probably rather whether the Ukrainians will be able to conduct a counter offensive and push the Russians out again. And if the Russians don't reinforce this area, then I think that's a very possible outcome that the Ukrainians over the coming months will be able to push the Russians out. And of course, that would be an absolute embarrassment for the Russian army, for Putin. So they have a strong motivation to reinforce the area to avoid that embarrassment.

The second problem that this American decision will give to the Russians is that it makes the front line longer. Russia has so far had an asymmetric advantage in the sense that they have been able to concentrate their forces along the part of the front line that goes through Ukrainian territory. So the Ukrainians have had to allocate troops to the entire front line, including the international border between the countries. But the Russians have been able to have a very light footprint in the north, and they have had the opportunity to take some of their more valuable systems and then just concentrate them, only use them in Ukraine, because that's where it was most important. So that's things like air defense systems, electronic warfare equipment, those kinds of things. But now suddenly, they have to also use those along the border in the Belgorod, the Kursk, the Bryansk Oblast. So this can create holes in other areas where suddenly the Ukrainians will experience that they have some opportunities that they didn't have before.

The last problem that this creates for the Russians is that now the taboo has been broken about using American weapons to hit targets on Russian territory. As I said before, there are still many limitations to what Ukraine can do, and of course, it could have been worse for the Russians. It could have been just the decision that Ukraine is now free to just do whatever they want. But these new limitations, they're not nearly as useful as a red line for the Russians to talk about as the old ones were, because they're just too complicated. Before, it was a very black and white kind of thing. You can strike with everything here, and you can strike with nothing there. Like that's simple to understand. There is a line on a map. Everyone can understand that.

But now what we have instead is a kind of gray zone. Nobody knows exactly what the rules are, because the details are secret, and they're a matter between the Americans and the Ukrainians. That means that the rules are also flexible in a way where you can change the rules without it actually causing public debate. So now it's a complicated matrix where there are different situations, and there are different kinds of weapon solutions, and the Ukrainians and the Americans, then they have to negotiate about what is allowed at what time. That means that it's extremely difficult for the Russians to use this as a basis for some new claims about red lines, because Putin can't go out as president of Russia and say that, "Oh, well, we can live with you bombing the Belgorod region, but if you bomb some other regions in Russia, then that's a problem." That's not a red line that will work for him, because he's supposed to be the president of all of Russia, including the people of Belgorod.

So both from a practical point of view, and also from a point of view of information warfare, it's a much worse situation now for the Russians after Joe Biden has made this decision. But it's a situation that the Russians have brought on themselves. This has only happened because Russia launched the offensive into the Kharkov region. Vlad Vexler pointed out in a video about this that this is something that Joe Biden did because things are going badly for Ukraine. And this is, of course, true. It's a decision that Biden would have preferred not to make because he's very concerned about escalation management. And also the situation on the ground is bad, especially with the air bombardments of Kharkov.

But I think the reason why Biden made this decision was that the situation had become absurd. It's just impossible to make the argument that when the front line runs along the international border, then the Ukrainians are supposed to fight a war without shooting at the enemy. So the military absurdity of these restrictions was highlighted, and it was brought to the top of the international agenda by Russia's attacks into the Kharkov region. And if they had not done that, then the Americans would not have made this policy change.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a video where I said that I did not think it was a good plan from a military point of view for the Russians to have started this offensive. And I think that's what's really beginning now to manifest itself. The fact that Ukraine is now allowed to use American weapons to hit at least some targets on Russian territory, it shows that this offensive is beginning to backfire for the Russians. And now they're stuck in a situation where it can end up costing them a lot of resources to hold on to these territories. Because now Ukraine has what it takes to hit them really hard, but still the Russians have to keep pumping resources into the Kharkov offensive because it's politically unacceptable if the Ukrainians are successful with a counter offensive.

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