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1) Isabelle Khurshudyan, Annabelle Timsit and Kostiantyn Khudov, “Drones hit Kyiv as Russia aims to destroy Ukraine power grid before winter,” Washington Post, October 17, 2022 (updated at 12:55 p.m. EDT);
As we feared might occur, President Joe Biden and NATO have caved in to Putin’s nuclear threats and latest acts of escalation.
Beyond the nuclear threats, the “Partial Mobilization” on September 21, and the massive missile attacks on targets all across Ukraine beginning on October 10, Vladimir Putin has now adopted a strategy based on the systematic commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of genocide by targeting civilian infrastructure and civilian targets in Ukraine.
So far, Biden and NATO appear to have caved in to Putin’s nuclear threats. Putin has been emboldened by the success of these threats, which so far have achieved the objective of scaring Biden so that he doesn’t authorize the provision to Ukraine of long-range artillery rockets (ATACMS), fighter jets, or battle tanks and armored personnel carriers (from Germany).
Flush with the success of his nuclear threats, Putin has escalated even more with very significant military steps. In essence, he has abandoned any pretext (always thin) of aiming only at military targets in Ukraine.
Now he quite openly espouses a strategy aimed at destroying civilian infrastructure, and in particular the electrical grid, which is a strategy built on the commission of war crimes on a broad scale.
So far, Biden and NATO have not reacted in any significant way. Under the cover of Putin’s nuclear threats, the Russians remain free to destroy Ukrainians and Ukrainian critical infrastructure, like shooting fish in a barrel.
If Putin’s escalation is allowed to proceed unopposed, Russia may well succeed in destroying so much critical infrastructure that Ukraine will not be able to convert its gains on the ground in Kharkiv province, in the Dunbas, and in the region of Kherson into victory.
It is late but even at this late date the U.S. and NATO need to react to Putin’s nuclear threats and acts of escalation.
NATO should now take the following steps, on an urgent basis:
1) Immediately supply Ukraine with the long-range artillery rockets (ATACMS) for the HIMARS artillery pieces.
2) Announce publicly that if Putin continues his attacks on civilian infrastructure and other civilian targets in Ukraine, the U.S. will release its restrictions on the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to hit targets in Russia, maintaining only the restriction that they be used in compliance with the inherent right of self-defense under international law and Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.
3) The U.S. and the EU should adopt “secondary sanctions” against transactions prohibited by the current economic sanctions against Russia, with the goal of further crippling the Russian economy.
4) The U.S. and the EU should expand the list of exports and transactions covered by sanctions against Russia, and actively enforce the secondary sanctions against countries which violate them.
Joe Biden and NATO have always done “too little, too late” in adopting sanctions and seeking to deter Putin from committing further acts of barbarism.
If Biden and NATO continue down the path of caving in to Putin’s nuclear threats and not responding to his acts of escalation, recent Ukrainian gains on the battlefield may be wiped out by the total destruction of Ukraine’s electrical grid and other critical civilian infrastructure such as dams, or even nuclear power plants.
The war has reached a new stage.
If NATO does not respond to counter Putin’s nuclear threats and acts of escalation, while there is still time, the war and much more could be lost in the next round of escalation by an emboldened Putin–which could include the detonation of a nuclear device.
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