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Ukraine Must Be Allowed to Hit Inside Russia to Stop a Possible New Offensive

Switchblade Drone
Switchblade drone. Image Credit: Industry handout.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may soon announce a second mobilization drive in advance of a new offensive against Ukraine. While Ukraine has, over the past year, driven Russian forces out of much of Ukraine, it has only done so at a tremendous human cost

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Putin Tries to Reset the Iron Curtain

Putin’s dream of a two-week victory may be gone, but he still believes he can win a war of attrition.

Ukraine, after all, has less than one-third of Russia’s population. Even with Western resupply, Ukraine is burning through munitions faster than Western governments can supply them. Moscow also knows that European unity is transitory: Within the European Union, there is usually one member-state government—take your pick among Berlin, Paris, or Rome—that will seek to cash in on commercial opportunities while cynically citing the need for diplomacy. 

The political situation is even worse in NATO, given the consensus-based nature of its diplomacy. Türkiye already seeks to both leverage its de facto veto to extort diplomatic concessions while simultaneously seeking to profit from conflict. For Putin, all these factors together lead him to believe that he can win his war if he only transforms the entirety of Ukraine into a 21st-century Stalingrad. 

Russian Troops Prepare for Next Big Push?

With this new Russian approach looming on the horizon, it is time for the United States and its allies to change fundamentally their approach to Ukraine. To date, the White House has carefully calibrated its military aid to allow Ukraine to fight Russian forces on Ukrainian land, but not take the fight directly into Russia. The logic of this move was to enable Ukraine to defend itself without provoking Russia to expand its war and perhaps even use nuclear weapons. Diplomats also hoped that restraining Ukrainian resistance would give Putin a diplomatic way to save face and compromise.

That has not worked. Not only does Putin still bluster, but he interprets U.S. restraint as a green light to continue his assault with the end goal of erasing independent Ukraine off the map.

Western Commitment and Support

I have argued before that the United States must not only give Ukraine the platforms it needs like Abrams tanks, but also training on platforms it might need in the future, like F-16s. Simultaneously, it has both a moral and military duty to enable Ukraine to strike the factories Russia utilizes to produce rockets and artillery, even if these are deep inside Russia itself. Otherwise, President Biden is doing the equivalent of allowing Putin to shoot fish in a barrel. 

With a new Russian offensive potentially looming, the same logic applies. Assuming a new mobilization effort proceeds more efficiently than the last one, or is even 25 percent more effective, then Ukraine will soon face a new onslaught of Russian troops. Most will be poorly armed and have low morale, but numbers matter. The Russian Ministry of Defense will need to assemble them, equip them, and transport them into Ukrainian territory. The best way to blunt their impact and protect Ukraine is to allow Ukraine to strike them as they assemble and move toward the Ukrainian frontier. 

Expand Ukraine’s Capabilities

Rather than limit Ukraine’s arsenals to relatively short-range missiles, the United States and western countries should allow Ukraine to strike by plane, drone, missile, or artillery into the assembly areas and columns in which Russian forces might gather.

Providing Kyiv alternatives would also mean less temptation to utilize cluster munitions against advancing Russian and mercenary forces. Neither Ukraine nor Russia, let alone the United States, are parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Putin cannot launch nuclear weapons himself and every single aide knows that to facilitate their launch would mean near-instant death. For the Biden administration to self-deter does not bring peace; it only affirms to Putin that bluster and blackmail work and encourages him to believe his dream of bringing Kyiv under Russian control is attainable. If Putin does not want escalation and another 12 percent of his army buried hastily in muddy Ukrainian fields or brought home in body bags, he has a single option: End hostilities now.

It is now up to the White House and its European allies to convince him this is his only choice. The best way to do this is to allow Kyiv to strike where it most matters and end Russia’s offensive before it ever reaches Ukrainian soil.

Dr. Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

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).



  1. Tamerlane

    January 18, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    The neocons like Rubin haven’t ever met a war they didn’t want to expand. Why anyone would listen to them now, after 35 years of being existentially wrong on every major issue, boggles the mind. Following his prescriptions would make the United States a participant in WWIII.

  2. Trevor R Martin

    January 18, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    Agree 100 percent- anything else is a fool’s errand.
    Its time we stop fooling ourselves as to what Putin is up to he must be stopped now otherwise we will pay a much greater price later.
    Lets not make the same mistake we made with Hitler.

  3. Paul Hoffman

    January 18, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    More insane by the hour

  4. Jeff

    January 18, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    The article states “Simultaneously, it has both a moral and military duty to enable Ukraine to strike the factories Russia utilizes to produce rockets and artillery, even if these are deep inside Russia itself.”

    We have no moral or military duty to the country of Ukraine. The war is being shoved down America’s throat by our politicians. Striking deep in Russia does America any good and may widen the war.

  5. David Chang

    January 18, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    God bless people in the world.

    American Enterprise Institute is an atheism company, but I wish big fireballs will not be true.

    But because of this, Dr. Kissinger give up his first hope, and Ukraine will join NATO. Although Putin, Biden, Zelenskyy wanna conflict escalation, and B-1, B-2, B-52, C-17 are on the way to the Ukraine socialism warfare, but I pray to God for people in Europe.

    God bless Europe,
    God bless America.

  6. Commentar

    January 18, 2023 at 7:07 pm

    High time Russia starts employing tactical nukes or nukes in the kiloton range against the varied NATO targets in Ukraine.

    The best NATO sites or targets are Odessa, kyiv and lviv.

    They are what one would regard as today’s Hiroshima or Nagasaki of fascist Europe.

    Happy 2023 and make sure your larder’s well stocked up.

  7. Alan Simmons

    January 18, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    No doubt about it. The US, under Reagan, gave Israel F16s to defeat Russian Migs in the skies above Syria that effectively ended the cold war. We can do it again.

  8. D T GRAY

    January 18, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    I have been thinking Ukraine needs to go into Russia as to slow Russia’s progress down. I agree 100 % .

  9. Johnny Ray

    January 18, 2023 at 9:10 pm

    Let Ukraine make it’s own rules. Let the European countries send weapons, munitions and TROOPS to Ukraine to fight the Russians. This war is being dragged out by creating STUPID dis-engagement rules like every U.S. war since WWII. Fight to win. Fuck the rules.

  10. TG

    January 18, 2023 at 11:07 pm

    Well, first of all, I don’t care. My country – the United States – is being betrayed and invaded by swarms of third world refugees. This open borders policy surpasses all other cheap-labor immigration policies, the rich have declared total war on the working class, and they will win. So as far as the autocratic state of Ukraine goes, why should I care?

    But back to the point at hand: OK sure, a war is a war, Ukraine should be free to attack the entirety of its opponent. But then why should not Russia? If the industries etc. supporting the Russian war effort are in Russia, and are fair game, are not the industries etc. supporting the Ukrainian war effort in Poland and England and the United States? Are not these also – by the “laws” of war – fair target for Russia?

    Are we really sure we want to go there?

  11. Ezra Teter

    January 18, 2023 at 11:52 pm

    This sounds like some completely irresponsible brinkmanship to me. The American Enterprise Institute should have been completely discredited decades ago already.

  12. John

    January 19, 2023 at 3:57 am

    The woky Biden administration now aided by the GOP radicals are playing to loose by not providing Ukraine the weapons it is asking for.
    Incremental help has added years to this conflict increasing the chance that Russia will start a nuclear war which it now believes is winnable given the sorry state of US nuclear forces. 2 nuclear 100 megaton Poseidon torpedoes will take out the entire US East coast killing 100 million Americans instantly.
    The US needs to mobilize munition production through the defense production act, but that is not happening. Nor are we trying to produce sig numbers of conventional ballistic missiles to counter China. Instead we are wasting billions on surface ships including aircraft carriers which will not survive in a conflict with China. P

  13. Jim

    January 19, 2023 at 9:51 am

    If you can’t win the war, as it’s currently going…


    If you’re losing the war…


    This article is an admission of desperation.

    It’s the closest to an admission of failure you’ll ever get from a full-on war supporter.

    Russia does not want a wider war… the current buzz saw approach achieves attrition, which as the author states, is the Russian approach… and it seems to be effective… causing a “strangulation” of the Ukraine army over time and containing the war to the smallest geographical footprint possible.

    The temptation for warhawks to escalate is immense… they never admit failure.

    The time is coming for warhawks to own up to their strategic failures of planning & prediction in this whole sorry affair… nothing happened as they predicted it would, which should tell you something about their further recommendations, such as the present suggestion from this author.

    For all the drive by, yahoos who thought this war would go according to script as written by “the smartest people” in the room… you were led on into a losing game. When do you realize you were taken for a ride… and made into a sucker?

    It’s easier to dupe someone than it is to convince someone they’ve been duped… everybody knows that.

    When do you look in the mirror and realize you’ve been duped?

    Do you trust someone (their advice & counsel) after they have repeatedly given you bad advice?

    How many times do you let Lucy pull the football… how many times do you sit on your butt like Charlie Brown?

  14. Andrew M Winter

    January 19, 2023 at 11:57 am

    The silliness of this headline is absolutely amazing.

    Allowed????? Who the hell is the governing body that could actually enforce a “DIS” allowal?

    Guys there isn’t one. Russia and Ukraine share over a thousand kilometers of BORDER, Ukraine can literally hit Russian Territory with a DROPPED rock. They don’t even have to throw it.

    Now lets get real. To Date: Russia and the World have yet to identify who struck the Kerch Bridge and all those targets in Crimea. NO one knows how all those fuel and ammunition storage areas dozens of miles inside Russia just sort of CAUGHT FIRE!

    NO one knows who is flying those cheap little alibaba bought drones into Russia and striking the odd refinery or two.

    NO one has ID’d the culprits yet! No one will be able to stop Ukriane from doing whatever they think they need to do inside Russian territory in order to get Russia the hell out of Ukraine. The idea that Ukraine will have to confine their actions to UKRAINE is insanely ludicrous given RUSSIA IS ALL OVER UKRAINE LIKE WHITE ON RICE!

    Get real people. This is a non question.

  15. mawendt

    January 19, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    “Simultaneously, it has both a moral and military duty to enable Ukraine to strike the factories Russia utilizes to produce rockets and artillery, even if these are deep inside Russia itself.”

    No. Just…. no.

    Ukraine is fighting a ‘Defensive’ war – protecting the homeland. Once Ukraine projects force into Russia proper, it becomes and Offensive war, built on the premise of deterrence through range of force on infrastructure, the next step being Total War.

    Presently, Ukraine is more or less the good guy, defending their homes and hearths from evil Russians who destroy and kill at whim, shooting missiles and incendiaries into civilian areas with no military purpose. Once Ukraine emulates that, and being as successful as they have been. the conflict truly escalates. Russian mindset would cause a response the West refuses to consider – bio, chem and nuclear.

    Ukraine has a ‘secret’ agreement with the west to not use Western weapons against Russia proper meaning keeping targets to within a dozen kilometers of the Ukrainian border and having justification that the targets were supporting the Russian invasion; Ukraine also may deep strike select targets with SOF and special weapons, in order to disrupt Russian planning and cause Russian assets to be reassigned to defense. If Ukraine ignores that, and does as the author suggests, the war escalates and probably expands.

    I get the sense Dr, Rubin is not especially qualified to use his credentials to comment on Ukraine.

  16. Fred T Adams

    January 19, 2023 at 1:03 pm

    Most of these comments are stupid and utterly ridiculous Russian propaganda. Russia started this war, there is no choice for Ukraine but to win it, or be destroyed. Ukraine’s allies must accept the risk of an angry Russia. It is an existential question.

  17. Rick Sanchez

    January 19, 2023 at 2:25 pm

    Maybe Dr.Rubin isn’t right at all but the absolute m0r0n here is Fred T Adams.

    That’s Russian propoganda, pidor. But all the comments above are just real human opinions. Svalyaurkanie lol

  18. YS

    January 19, 2023 at 3:15 pm

    “Ukraine Must Be Allowed To Hit Inside Russia” = “US personnel manning and targeting MLRS Must Be Allowed To Hit Inside Russia”

    Are you insane?

  19. Jim

    January 19, 2023 at 3:19 pm

    Mr. Winter, the distinction is deniability/disavowal of action by the U S.

    All the actions you mention don’t use trade mark U. S. Military weapons.

    What the present author wants are U. S. weapons provided to Ukraine who then strikes Russia with those weapons…

    Trade mark weapons remove any fig leaf from the White House.

    Quite possibly with U. S. personal targeting, aiming and firing those weapons (because of the complexity of the weapons system).

    Then there is no indirect conflict anymore. It’s direct conflict between the U. S. and Russia… WAR.

    The Russo-American War of the 21st Century.

    My sense is that Washington D. C. doesn’t want war against Russia… hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

  20. mcswell

    January 19, 2023 at 7:53 pm

    @YS: What, the Ukrainians can’t figure out how to man MLRS systems or target those systems themselves? You think they’re too stupid, or what?

    The Ukrainians don’t need US personnel to do it for them; with a little training, they are quite capable of doing it themselves. So get off your racist high horse.

  21. WillLongfield

    January 19, 2023 at 8:07 pm

    JIM -your comment in reference to US personnel launching attacks on Russia using “contractors” – “the distinction is deniability/disavowal of action by the U S.”

    Do you think the Russians are that stupid? The response will be unidentified militias “operating independently of the Russian Government” will launch massive strikes on NATO bases in Poland and Romania. The 101st Airborne, currently stationed in Romania will be a very tempting target.

    “Independent militias” in the Baltic states will then rise up and declare independence for Russian-areas.

    This is an unserious comment.

  22. Jon

    January 19, 2023 at 9:45 pm

    US, EU and NATO diplomacy and military policy has been bending over backwards to repudiate the Russian claim that they are at war with NATO, and that this is an attack on Russia. Rubin’s recommendations would repudiate that, and provide Putin his back door fig leaf, should he launch nuclear weapons.

    Russia would be well advised to see the West’s public discussions and debates about provision of arms to Ukraine, as a measure of their moderation, not as weakness. Russia has rather few new resources to throw into the fight, except from poorly trained new conscripts. The EU and NATO, while running low on some stored supplies, has far more and far more modern and powerful weapons that can be brought into the war. Russia has been provided any number of opportunities to disengage and withdraw from Ukraine. Delay will only increase the cost and humiliation to Russia.

  23. Злой пьяный русский медведь с балалайкой

    January 20, 2023 at 4:47 am

    “I listened to you for a long time, patiently and attentively and realized – well, you are all fools!“ — Arkady Isaakovich Raikin (my joke, no offense!) .
    Tovarschi! Don’t you see that the world is multifaceted, that the deceitful imperialist policy of Western countries is leading the whole world to collapse?
    “World domination,” Lenin pointed out, “is, in short, the content of imperialist politics, the continuation of which is the imperialist war.”
    Ukraine, supported by the West, armed, trained by the West, is a sacrifice in the name of the destruction of Russia in order to preserve the hegemony of the decrepit imperialist world of the so-called “golden billion”.
    Oil was poured into the Russian-Ukrainian conflict from all sides.
    Now Merkel, Hollande Poroshenko themselves have admitted that their goal was to deceive Russia. And prepare Ukraine for war. They did it.
    So do not blame the sick head of the West on the healthy head of Russia.
    “Disarmament is the ideal of socialism. There will be no wars in a socialist society, therefore, disarmament will take place,” wrote V.I. Lenin (Op., vol. 30, p. 152).
    It was necessary to talk about peace. to look for ways to preserve it, and not to overthrow the legitimately elected president, squeeze people in Odessa, threaten the eastern regions of Ukraine with destruction.
    He who sowed the wind will reap the storm!

  24. Sam Smith

    January 20, 2023 at 1:55 pm

    Smells like the politicians who lost Vietnam with imposed restrictions and lost Afghanistan, WAIT! That was Biden..

  25. Scott

    January 20, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    American tanks use too much fuel to be practical for the Ukrainians. German tanks are a better fit.

  26. suspicious person

    January 20, 2023 at 5:12 pm

    Ah yes, the “widen the war to win it” gambit. Of course, when Russia sends in their autonomous Doomsday torpedo drone into the North Chesapeake, that too will be a “widening of the war.”

  27. dave

    January 20, 2023 at 11:02 pm

    They need an army this ones been destroyed! From more than 600,000 to 140,000 last week. WINNING!

  28. A.Jordan

    January 26, 2023 at 3:07 pm

    Zelensky must have blackmail material on every NATO country. Ukraine is not & has never been a Democracy. It has been the illicit playground for NATO. Killing, raping, disappearing ethnic Russians has been accepted by NATO for years. The US needs to back out of this fiasco & every elected official supporting escaping needs to be investigated for collusion in illicit activity in Ukraine. US troops have been in Ukraine for months & cannot a count for even 40% of armaments sent there.

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