OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The White House is risking a nuclear exchange with Russia if the Biden administration moves forward to offer offensive military capabilities to Ukraine so it can retake Crimea after Moscow’s forces occupied the region in 2014.
Dr. Ron Paul, the father of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), noted the potential escalation in a Twitter post containing a clip of an interview he did last week discussing the administration’s consideration and the potential for nuclear war, asking, “Are Americans okay with this?”
U.S. May Risk Nuclear Conflict, Over Crimea? Are Americans OK With This?
— Ron Paul (@RonPaul) January 19, 2023
The interview references a New York Times story published late last week, which noted that “the Biden administration is considering the argument that Kyiv needs the power to strike at the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014.”
The Times added:
For years, the United States has insisted that Crimea is still part of Ukraine. Yet the Biden administration has held to a hard line since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, refusing to provide Kyiv with the weapons it needs to target the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia has been using as a base for launching devastating strikes.
Now that line is starting to soften.
After months of discussions with Ukrainian officials, the Biden administration is finally starting to concede that Kyiv may need the power to strike the Russian sanctuary, even if such a move increases the risk of escalation, according to several U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive debate.
The paper noted further that, at present, there are tens of thousands of “dug-in” Russian troops stationed in Crimea at several military bases. The Times also noted that there has been no change in position from the Biden administration: Crimea is Ukrainian territory.
“We have said throughout the war that Crimea is Ukraine, and Ukraine has the right to defend themselves and their sovereign territory in their internationally recognized borders,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
Privately, administration officials questioned Ukraine targeting Crimea, saying that Kyiv had better target choices elsewhere.
“But the Biden administration has come to believe that if the Ukrainian military can show Russia that its control of Crimea can be threatened, that would strengthen Kyiv’s position in any future negotiations,” the Times said. “In addition, fears that the Kremlin would retaliate using a tactical nuclear weapon have dimmed, U.S. officials and experts said — though they cautioned that the risk remained.”
In October, some progressive Democrats pushed Biden to change his strategy on Ukraine and begin direct negotiations with Russia.
A group of 30 liberals in the House made the request of the president in a letter sent to the White House on Monday, the Washington Post reported.
“We write with an appreciation for your commitment to Ukraine’s legitimate struggle against Russia’s war of aggression. Your support for the self-defense of an independent, sovereign, and democratic state has been supported by Congress, including through various appropriations of the military, economic and humanitarian aid in the furtherance of this cause. Your administration’s policy was critical to enable the Ukrainian people, through their courageous fighting and heroic sacrifices, to deal a historic military defeat to Russia, forcing Russia to dramatically scale back the stated goals of the invasion,” they said.
“Crucially, you achieved this while also maintaining that it is imperative to avoid direct military conflict with Russia, which would lead to ‘World War III, something we must strive to prevent.’ The risk of nuclear weapons being used has been estimated to be higher now than at any time since the height of the Cold War. Given the catastrophic possibilities of nuclear escalation and miscalculation, which only increase the longer this war continues, we agree with your goal of avoiding direct military conflict as an overriding national-security priority,” the lawmakers added.
“Given the destruction created by this war for Ukraine and the world, as well as the risk of catastrophic escalation, we also believe it is in the interests of Ukraine, the United States, and the world to avoid a prolonged conflict. For this reason, we urge you to pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire. This is consistent with your recognition that ‘there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here,’ and your concern that Vladimir Putin ‘doesn’t have a way out right now, and I’m trying to figure out what we do about that,’” they said.