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How to Make Putin Pay: Give Ukraine Weapons to Hit Russian Arms Factories

ATACMS like Ukraine wants firing back in 2006. Image Credit: U.S. Army.
ATACMS firing back in 2006. Image Credit: U.S. Army.

Don’t Block Ukraine from Targeting Russian Weapons Factories – The United States and many other Western countries continue to supply Ukraine with weapons to fight Russia’s invasion and occupation.

Ukraine has done an admirable job of exposing Russia’s weakness and degrading its armed forces. In less than a year, Ukraine estimates Russia has lost more than 100,000 soldiers, a figure greater than the entire military of Australia and equivalent to Canada’s entire army.

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In addition, Ukraine has destroyed or captured thousands of tanks and armored vehicles, 285 aircraft, 272 helicopters, and 16 ships and boats. That Global Firepower continues to rank Russia as the second most powerful military in the world is risible.

The White House, however, continues to impose restrictions on Ukrainian weaponry. It balks at providing Ukraine weapons systems that can strike into Russian territory, and even demands that Ukraine refrain from using American weaponry to strike into Russia-occupied Crimea.

After refusing for months to provide Ukraine with high-precision High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), the Biden administration finally reversed course but then secretly modified the system to prevent it from firing long-range rockets into Russia.

This is bad policy on two levels. First, if the White House seeks artificially to limit the conflict to within Ukraine’s borders, it removes the cost to Russia of continuing conflict. Second, while Ukraine degrades Russian equipment and shoots down or absorbs Russian missile strikes, numerous Russian factories work overtime to resupply the Russian military.

President Joe Biden may not want Ukrainian drones striking the Kremlin, and he need not worry about Ukrainians bombing Moscow apartment blocks the way Vladimir Putin did when he sought a casus belli against Chechnya.

Ukraine Needs a New Way to Pressure Russia 

There are still many military factories in the Moscow region that deserve to be hit: 

-The Lutch Design Office in Rybinsk, about 165 miles north of Moscow

-The Tactical Missile Corporation, Raduga Design Bureau in Dubna about 80 miles north of the capital

-The NPO Mashinostroyeniya rocket design bureau in Reutov, 14 miles to the east of Moscow

-The Tactical Missile Corporation, TRV Engineering in Korolev, 17 miles to the northeast of Moscow.

That the United States and many European states sanction each of these for their involvement in the Ukraine war only makes more illogical the fact that the White House shields them from the consequence of their action. At the very least, every employee in Moscow reporting to their factories should realize that each day could be their last.

The same holds true for Russians employed at the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant, which produces missiles ranging from Scuds to intercontinental ballistic missiles, in Votkinsk, 813 miles to Moscow’s east; or those working in similar factories in Yekaterinburg or Omsk.

Just as hundreds of thousands of Russian men fled their country to avoid conscription, enabling Ukraine to strike at even one of these factories could encourage military industry workers to consider the attractiveness of life outside Russia versus being burnt to a crisp in a factory for meagre pay.

Putin may froth and saber-rattle, but he is increasingly a laughingstock. His redlines have become increasingly meaningless. Ukrainians are willing to do the job. President Biden, let them. Stop opposing strikes into the heart of Russia.

Stop allowing Russia to resupply its missile arsenals.

Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he specializes in Iran, Turkey, and the broader Middle East. A former Pentagon official, Dr. Rubin has lived in post-revolution Iran, Yemen, and both pre- and postwar Iraq. He also spent time with the Taliban before 9/11. For more than a decade, he taught classes at sea about the Horn of Africa and Middle East conflicts, culture, and terrorism, to deployed US Navy and Marine units.

Written By

Now a 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).