Behind Austin’s call for a ‘weakened’ Russia, hints of a Shift

“The first step in winning is to believe you can win,” said Philip M. Breedlove, who served as the top Allied Commander-in-Chief of Europe, the top NATO military officer, until 2016. He added that he was happy for Mr. Austin’s language, even if it risked provoking Russia because “the Ukrainians have to believe that we intend to give them what they need, because that’s what it takes for them to win. . “

What they needed was heavy artillery, and as the Biden administration and other NATO nations have hastened to get that weapon into Ukrainian hands, the Russians have become more and more vocal in their warnings that the shipments themselves is an aggression – and can be targeted.

The artillery, however, can be justified as largely defensive weapons – they can not strike far into Russia itself. But Mr Austin’s statement to prevent Russia from being able to invade again, in Ukraine or elsewhere, formulated a strategy that has been suggested, both in public statements and in the type of sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia. in the last eight. weeks.

The most damaging of these sanctions may be the export control of high-tech components that the Russian defense industry needs to produce new weapons. Unlike China, the United States’ other major opponent, Russia has limited capacity to produce its own chips, and almost no prospect of developing that capacity without Western technology.

Biden announced some of these export controls in early March, saying his goal with Russia was to “undermine its economic strength and weaken its military in the coming years.” Now there are anecdotal reports – eagerly amplified by the White House – about the Russian military-industrial complex, which is missing parts.

“Russia’s high-tech and defense sectors are suffocating from key inputs,” Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, told reporters as Mr Biden was on his way to a meeting with NATO leaders a month ago. So far, it is difficult to measure the effects on actual arms production, and it is unclear whether the Russians will succeed in finding alternative sources of supply.

Administration officials deeply involved in the sanctions strategy say it was designed to get worse over time. As capital dries up to investments in new capacity, as chip supplies dwindle and energy revenues fall, the pressure will become more apparent. Over time, it will soften into consumer goods, making it harder for ordinary Russians to buy the iPhones and Androids that seem almost as ubiquitous on the streets of Moscow as they are in New York.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *