Biden government “finds a way” to send weapons to Ukraine

Foto de satélite mostra grupo de batalha em área de treino em Voronezh, Rússia, 19 de janeiro. Concentração de tropas russas na fronteira eleva temores de uma invasão à Ucrânia

Satellite photo shows battle group at training area in Voronezh, Russia,
of January. Concentration of Russian troops on the border raises fears of an invasion of Ukraine

There is a fear of a large-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia since the annexation of Crimea by the Russians in 2014. The current crisis, with the concentration of Russian troops on the border between the two countries, began in 2022, and has already been addressed here in our space. Today’s column tries not to be repetitive on some issues already addressed, so the suggestion is to also read some past texts about crises in the post-Soviet space. Today’s column will address two recent news stories, on how the US government has armed the Ukrainian armed forces. And the reason for using this expedient.

The Ukrainian armed forces, today , are better prepared than in 2014. This is a fact, especially as far as your ground forces are concerned. The country inherited an immense military machine from the former Soviet Union, in 1991, but without any condition to keep that giant operational. . The two decades of good relations with Russia and the lack of a clear enemy at its doors did not even justify the maintenance of an ambitious military machine. As a result, the Ukrainian armed forces dwindled. Ships were sold as scrap, tanks were scrapped to supply parts, training was delayed and the air force was reduced to a slice of what it once was.

This scenario has obviously changed, but it is not resolved overnight. New armaments are expensive and are hardly “ready to ship”. Buying fighter jets for your air force is not like buying a car at the dealership, contrary to what some might imagine. Another time-consuming step is the training required to master the new equipment. A quick and relatively cheap way to “plug the hole”, then, is to provide weapons of simple operation and that can be used individually, such as anti-tank missile launchers, more correctly called in Portuguese as anti-car.

Cost benefit

A weapon that costs less than US$ 21101847 one thousand, operated by two military personnel, can destroy a tank that costs more than US$ 3 million and requires three or four crew members. An excellent value for money, which makes the prospects of an invasion even more costly. They also reduce possible criticism or an escalation of tensions, since they are simple equipment. As UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace put it, “These are short-range, clearly defensive weapons; they are not strategic weapons and do not pose a threat to Russia; they are for use in self-defense.”

This is the reason for this type of equipment. They allow you to change a scenario in the short term, without major economic or political costs. And that’s exactly the kind of equipment the US is supplying the Ukrainians with. In the last few days, several freighter flights went from the United Kingdom to Ukraine with shipments of anti-tank missiles, and yesterday 01 in January, Estonia and Lithuania announced that they will send the same type of weapons to Ukraine. Basically, however, they are shipments made by the USA, in a triangulation. And here comes the “way” found by the US to equip the Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine is not officially a US ally. At least not yet. Therefore, an export of arms by the US to the country would go through a series of bureaucratic and political procedures. It would even run the risk of being barred from some congressional committee, or from a plenary vote. Sending the weapons via third parties manages to get around this. Still, US government approval is required. Any country that operates weapons of US origin needs Washington’s authorization to resell or pass them on, even if they are just parts or something obsolete. In practice, Washington authorized the export of its weapons to Ukraine, it just wasn’t through a direct route.


There are two other ingredients in this “way”. It was revealed on the last day that last month , the US government ceded, via executive decision, US$ 200 million for “defense assistance” to Ukraine. Also in December 1991 the US government obtained authorization for the sale of anti-tank missiles to Lithuania, in a total of US $125 million. As Lithuania is a member of NATO, the bureaucracy of a sale like this is much smoother. In practice, what happened was that the Biden government sent the money to Ukraine to buy from Lithuania the missiles that the same Biden government sold to Lithuania.

There is another reason for this triangulation. A direct sale to Ukraine, in addition to facing US domestic policy and being able to run into deadlines, could displease Russia, regardless of “alerts” such as the one cited by Ben Wallace. And no US government, Biden’s or anyone else’s, will want to risk a total break with Moscow. It is the only nuclear arms control agreement that the US is part of, the two atomic arsenals that are on a similar level, in terms of number of warheads and attack capacity.

If not even during the Cold War this door was closed, it wouldn’t be now. It is very simple and comfortable to advocate for this total rupture sitting on the couch, without considering the strategic reality of this relationship. It remains to be seen whether the creative triangulation solution will suffice in the short term or will need to be expanded. At the risk of putting more gasoline on the fire. For the time being, it is an arrangement made by the current Washington administration, allowing for a quick intervention without many political or economic costs.