Why does Biden keep on poking the Russian bear?
In what is becoming a routine occurrence with this White House, President Biden says one thing, and the next day the White House "walks back" the president's statement, and then the president follows up by confirming the "walk back." If the American people find all of this confusing, just imagine what our allies and adversaries are thinking. And in the midst of a war, such confusion can be downright dangerous.
On May 30, the president responded to press questions by saying, "We are not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia," thereby rejecting a request from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials. That statement brought immediate and public criticism by Obama's ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who called it a "losing strategy" that will prolong the war.
The next day, administration officials announced that the United States would supply medium-range rockets, but not long-range rockets in an apparent attempt to show support for Ukraine but to allay Russia's fears that Ukraine will have the capacity to strike deep into Russian territory.
In fact, the "high mobility artillery rocket systems" that the U.S. has agreed to supply, according to Reuters, "can accurately hit targets as far away as 80 km (50 miles)," according to an unnamed Biden administration official.
The administration followed this up with an op-ed piece in major newspapers purportedly written by the president in which he states, "I've decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine." Of course, there is nothing to prevent Ukrainian forces, once armed with those rockets, from striking targets inside Russia.
This latest Biden reversal of policy comes on the heels of U.S. support for the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO, which would add more than 800 miles of new territory along Russia's border to the Western military alliance. This was done in the face of Russia's threat to move hypersonic nuclear-armed missiles closer to the border of those Scandinavian countries. And now, in response to the administration's decision to supply medium-range rockets to Ukraine, Russia, according to Fox News and Newsweek, has conducted nuclear-launch drills near Moscow. The Interfax news agency quoted Russian officials who said that "Strategic Missile Forces" performed the drills in the Ivanovo province, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov remarked that Russian leaders "believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire" by its decision to send Ukraine medium-range rockets.
Where this all ends is anybody's guess.