U.S. Confirms Ukraine Can Continue Using Western Weapons After Russian Referendums and Nuclear Threats: As the referendums in Russian-occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson come to an end, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that Ukrainian forces can continue using U.S.-supplied weapons to fight. The news is significant as Russia is expected to declare the occupied regions of Ukraine a part of the Russian Federation, despite continued fighting in the region.
Responding to a question from a CNN reporter at a press conference on Tuesday, Blinken explicitly defended Ukraine’s right to defend itself whatever the outcome of Russia’s “sham” referendums.
“I’ve also been equally clear that Ukraine has the absolute right to defend itself throughout its territory, including to take back the territory that has been illegally seized in one way or another by Russia,” Blinken said, before adding that he would “never” recognize Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, or Kherson as Russian.
“Because there is no change at all in the territory that is being annexed by the Russians as a matter for us or for the Ukrainians, the Ukrainians will continue to do what they need to do to get back the land that has been taken from them. We will continue to support them in that effort,” the White House official continued.
Did the White House Have Any Choice?
As a result of the referendums, and the expectation that the Kremlin will declare the territories to be Russian, speculation arose about whether the United States would continue to send equipment to be used to defend the territory. The Kremlin may well still consider Blinken’s announcement an escalation, but the United States has few other choices.
Telling Ukraine to stop using U.S.-supplied weapons in the region would effectively mean handing over the territory to Russia, setting back Ukrainian troops after weeks of advances in both southeastern and northeastern Ukraine. Had the United States instructed Ukraine to stop using the weapons, the Ukrainian Armed Forces may also have chosen not to listen.
Fighting for their lives and territory, and knowing that no more military aid or supplies were coming their way, the Ukrainian Armed Forces may have simply plowed ahead with their military campaign to push back Russian invaders to the border.
Already committed to preventing Russia from gaining territory through a military invasion, the United States now enters dangerous waters and risks the possibility of direct conflict with Russia. It is just a matter of time – possibly only hours – before the West knows whether Russia considers the continued supply of weapons, and the continued use of NATO weapons by Ukraine, to be an escalation in the conflict.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.