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Interview: What’s going on in the White House? Why won’t Biden hand over long-range HIMARS?

Weapons on the agenda in negotiations between the US and Ukrainian officials.
Weapons on the agenda in negotiations between the US and Ukrainian officials.
Interview: What’s going on in the White House? Why won’t Biden hand over long-range HIMARS?
Article by: Radio Novoie vremia
Translated by: Matt Wickham

Valeriy Chalyi, former Ukrainian ambassador to US 2015-2019, spoke to Radio NV about what is going on in the White House, why we should not give in to Putin’s threats of escalation but tackle them head-on, why the US President ought to listen to military experts and hand over long-range HIMARS missiles (ATACMS), and why statements made by Congresswoman Spartz may be more dangerous to Ukraine than we realize.
Link to interview

Interviewer: Many high-level officials have discussed this issue, the most recent being Andriy Yermak, reminding his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, that Ukraine requires long-range HIMARS missiles (ATACMS) capable of striking further than the [current] 80 km systems that Ukraine has already been provided. They require long-range ATACMS missiles capable of hitting targets at 270 kilometers.

This, however, is nothing new. Discussions on this subject have been going on for over three months. Nonetheless, the US has expressed its satisfaction with the Ukrainian military and its ability to effectively employ HIMARS to date. So, who and for what reason, in the highest echelons of the White House, is frightened of handing Ukraine longer and more lethal artillery, as it has requested for the last three months?

Valeriy Chaly: Everyone feels that, in theory, the only way to win now is by strong military means. But, on the front, extremely difficult victories are being fought. So, of course, we talk about these things rather openly, which yields results.

When a government official says Ukraine requires a specific piece of weaponry, look, in my opinion, pretty much every Ukrainian knows that we need them. You don’t have to be an official to know this.

Jake Sullivan, Yermak’s counterpart in Washington, has established very consistent contact, occuring on a regular basis. It is no longer just the two of them but also, as I recall, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba, and the leader of the military forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi. Negotiations are well underway, but Sullivan has publicly declared his opposition to such a choice [granting Ukraine long-range weapons], and he has reported his opinion to the President.

Minster of Defense for both US and Ukraine after weapon negotiations.
Minister of Defense for both US and Ukraine after weapon negotiations. Source:

These two-way phone calls are required in order to remove whatever obstacle is preventing us from [getting the go-ahead] from the White House. The approval to supplying these weapons is currently being blocked from the White House only. Congress approves the transfer, and even more than the needed majority believe that these weapons should be handed over to Ukraine.

Even Elissa Slotkin earlier confirmed that everyone supports the concept. She knows what she’s talking about as a high-level civil servant who formerly held posts high up in the Pentagon.

So she clearly understands the geography in our region, implying that her point of view is professional. So why are they dragging their feet? I’ve got my own opinion, and it’s a really simple explanation. Well, rather, it is their explanation…

There is one word here, Escalation. They are dragging their feet because the White House is afraid of escalation. Jake Sullivan, in my opinion, has made a huge error. I believe this block is still in place due to him and numerous other White House aides.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, former CIA, supports weapon transfer to Ukraine
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, supports weapon transfer to Ukraine. Source:

Let us not forget that they [the White House] were previously wrong about the date of the invasion. Plus, they failed to correctly foresee how Ukraine would respond to a Russian Invasion.

Yes, they warned that a war is imminent, and they were completely correct; the Ukrainian side wasn’t, but they [US officials] made other mistakes after that. I’m just hoping they aren’t making another one. 

The White House underestimated Ukraine and incorrectly predicted how the war would unfold, when speaking about how Ukraine would cope and the resistance that Ukraine would provide. [Here, he refers to the White House giving Ukraine three days to surrender to Russia, with Zelenskyy out and a pro-Putin puppet in.] 

Interviewer: Is Jake Sullivan correct in expressing his concern about Ukraine receiving long-range weapons and claiming that this is the President’s position? Is it really Biden who is impeding long-range weaponry delivery, or is it all Jake Sullivan’s fault? Is he the one in charge of persuading the White House?

Valeriy Chaly: I can’t prove it, but the President appears to address these issues more correctly than his aides. He is a seasoned politician with the right to express himself. He won’t always listen to his advisers.

As we saw when he branded Putin a murderer, they then scrambled to figure out what to do and how to justify Biden’s position to Moscow. This is not normal or appropriate behavior.

He [Biden] talks about the right things and absolutely understands what needs to be done. The adviser’s sole purpose is to assess the situation. I am not even blaming them; they are just going on the recent research that has been produced.

I read the report very carefully, and there are four scenarios of potential escalation.

I know the co-author who wrote this report and I am fully aware of these points of view. They were the same as in 2014. We had all of these scenarios and warnings about what we should and should not allow, and what happened? It wasn’t what they had predicted. As a result, they must alter the approach.

Perhaps they will realize that prolonging the war and allowing Putin to escalate horizontally is actually worse than taking rapid resolute action

HIMARS ATACMS capable of striking targets at 300km launch.
HIMARS ATACMS capable of striking targets at 300km launch. Source:defence-ua

I also conducted my own research into their report and discovered that numerous elements were overlooked. They speak about escalation. Escalation is the crucial term here. Perhaps they will realize that prolonging the war and allowing Putin to escalate horizontally is actually worse than taking rapid resolute action.

Cluster munitions, for example, were recently deployed in Mykolaiv and killed people. They employed prohibited weapons and cluster munitions, which, just like WMDs, are prohibited. Humanitarian law considers these to be on the same level as WMDs. There is only one position we take regarding the use of nuclear, chemical, bacterial, land mines, and cluster munitions in warfare [that they are prohibited].Why? Because they indiscriminately kill people.

In contrast, the weapons we’re talking about (HIMARS ATACMS) are high-level, high-accuracy weapons.

It is a sniper’s weapon but just in an artillery form, nothing more, nothing less.

So my advice would be to tell Biden, and if someone did this, the situation would improve instantly, remove Putin’s ability to threaten escalation. What needs to be done for this to happen?

You must say one thing for this…”We will provide Ukraine with everything that you are already using. Except for the prohibited items, everything else will be given.” We will not use prohibited weapons, we don’t need them. 

We’ve kept all of our commitments and strictly adhere to all guidelines set. Whereas, Russia murders everyone and everything by any means.

We will not provide weaponry capable of reaching Moscow, but we will supply the types you [Russia] are presently using. Then, and only then, will you see Putin stop
The US only needs to say that, “Russia uses these long-range missiles, and so we can provide Ukraine with an analogy of the same weaponry. We will not provide any further assistance. We will not provide weaponry capable of reaching Moscow, but we will supply the types you [Russia] are presently using.” Then, and only then, will you see Putin stop, and it will be immediately.

Interviewer: You claim to know the people behind the report; do you believe those telling Biden it will lead to an escalation are perhaps, I don’t want to say Russian lobbyists, but perhaps people who have a bias toward Russia that prevents them from assisting Ukraine.

Valeriy Chaly: I believe there were Russian agents; it was like this in the past, but not now. I know there was a time when there were many Russians. Today, though, is a different story.

Stephen Blank of the Atlantic Council is saying the same thing as me. We cannot dither any longer, and all weapons must be supplied immediately, as they are both necessary and legitimate. He even goes further and speaks about providing jets.

I’d say there’s a mixed group of individuals surrounding Biden, and I know Jake Sullivan is all about China. For him, China is the most important issue since he has always been more involved with this region than with ours. It was Russian aggression that drew attention to the region. I think it is also good because I believe his position has already shifted from the beginning to the present.

I don’t remember how long it has been since Kissinger stated Ukraine should concede territory, but now he is saying no to this, and suggesting that if Ukraine concedes territory, there will be another war in the future.

Interviewer: Congresswoman Victoria Spartz, a lawmaker, sent an email to Biden two days ago, once again, urging him to pay attention to the latest situation in Ukraine and her concerns about stripping citizenship from Hennadiy Korban, as well as Yermak’s circle of trustees in the Office of the President.

I thought, at first, she was playing an insider’s political game when she made these assertions, but now she’s speaking a lot and she’s speaking loud. Is it having an effect, and if so, what and how?

Victoria Spartz, Congresswoman wearing the colours of the Ukrainian flag whilst making a speech. Source:
Congresswoman Victoria Spartz wearing the colors of the Ukrainian flag whilst making a speech. Source:

I’m not going to say anything specific about this case because so much has already been said. But, they [Ukrainian officials] underestimated the [weight of the] situation.

US Congress and our Ukrainian Parliament are two very different things with different structures of influences on politics, and no [Ukrainian] congressman or lady has the political clout to make a difference, unlike in the US.

In the beginning, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs took a completely incorrect approach by brushing aside the congresswoman’s concerns.

If a journalist or a congressman gets hold of something and uses it to make their own case, it will not disappear for quite some time. Especially if there weren’t proper conversations from the get-go to figure out their position and their reasoning. And so now, it is likely to continue for a long time.

I don’t know her; she arrived after I left, and it’s difficult for me to comment on her because I haven’t met her.

But what she wants from Biden is for Republicans to have access to the White House. If Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, they will not only be able to write emails to the President, but they will summon his representatives to Congress. It would be a very different scenario.

Interviewer: Just to clear up the topic regarding Spartz. Do I understand correctly that Kyiv underestimated the impact a congresswoman can have, regardless of which political party she represents, because she is a powerful figure in the American political establishment?

Valeriy Chaly: Ukraine should not underestimate the power of members of Congress.

[bctt tweet=”Ukraine should not underestimate the power of members of Congress.” username=”Euromaidanpress”]

Yes, the impact will grow, but I must reiterate that it is no longer safe to constantly repeat these stories publicly because doing so, we may destabilize the situation and it could pose a serious threat to the process of supplying Ukraine with weapons.

Unfortunately, this topic could linger and spiral out of control, influencing more than just the, kind of, control mechanism. It is now undeniably a Russian special operation in progress. And, unfortunately, some things do sound plausible. It is not beneficial to us at all, and we must respond differently than how we do it now.

Interviewer: Kyiv has asked the White House not only for weapons but also gas, stating that they wanted a “gas lend-lease.” What can the US do to assist Ukraine? Can they help with gas?

Valeriy Chaly: They [the Ukrainian government] must act immediately to reassure and calm the public. What should we expect from the United States?

I believe we have enough gas for Ukraine; concerning Lend-Lease, we need that for weapons, first and foremost, and then for financial support because paying those who fight and work may soon be a major problem.

I don’t see us having a catastrophe. We are currently supplying energy to Europe. In this regard, we are a country that took several steps ahead of the Germans and the Hungarians because of the Russians. Ukraine was significantly better prepared because Russia had been acting in this manner for a long time, [threatening] to force the complete shutdown of gas delivery.

The battle for energy will heat up soon because it is a tool in Russia’s war, bringing us back to our previous concerns about escalation

As a result, we must prepare for a complete shutdown of Russian gas delivery. The Nord Stream is a question that keeps cropping up, but the battle for energy will heat up soon because it is a tool in Russia’s war, bringing us back to our previous concerns about escalation.

“We don’t want to give weaponry because we want to avoid escalation,” they say. So, why don’t you hand over these weapons? Because you keep the situation from escalating, but are you succeeding? No? It is regarded as a weakness. Escalation continues.

Related:Bolton’s appointment ‘a positive signal for Ukraine,’ Portnikov says

They should read about the traditional methods of conducting war. I believe that the problem with the White House is, and I can allow myself to say this, military experts are not being listened to enough.

When H.R McMaster was National Security Advisor, it was simpler for me to speak with him since he was a former soldier, unlike John Bolton, who wasn’t a soldier but an experienced diplomat who was very well versed in military things.

Biden now needs to listen to more reliable, military experts. He would make the correct judgment if he listened to more Pentagon specialists like Austin. Furthermore, elections are approaching, and the majority of people want the White House to take greater action in Ukraine. 

Read More:

Translated by: Matt Wickham
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