Did New Ambassador Bridget Brink Undermine President Biden’s Ukraine Rockets Policy Her First Day on the Job?

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Spoiler: Readers, you’ll get a throw a flag on the Betteridge’s Law violation. But I’m not completely sure that my chain of logic has no weak links. Please follow me into the wonderful world but minutely detailed world of media critique during wartime.

* * *

Let’s begin with President Biden’s policy on “rockets,” by which I mean High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a wunderwaffe light multiple rocket launcher, four of which we are sending to Ukraine. Biden took the unusual step of writing a New York Times Op-Ed to make his policy clear:

[W]e 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.

That is, not outside Ukraine’s borders. (Ukraine does consider Donbas and Crimea within its borders, but most importantly, Biden rules out firing these rockets into Russia or Belarus.) Biden underlines the point:

We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.

Ukraine is not thus enabled because the HIMARS platform supports rockets with several ranges, and we’re only giving them short-range ones:

The officials said the HIMARS will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometers (49 miles).

Some context: That is far less than the maximum range of the systems, which is around 300 kilometers (186 miles), but far greater than anything Ukraine has been sent to date. The M777 Howitzers the US sent to Ukraine last month, for example, marked a significant increase in range and power over previous systems, but even those top out at around 25 kilometers (18 miles) in range.

(OK, Ukraine could fire a rocket 50 miles into Russian territory, causing a diplomatic incident, but not (say) 101 miles from Sumy to Kursk, which would be a full-fledged provocation. One does wonder how many Russian logistics centers are within 50 miles of the border, however.) Nevertheless, the United States seems to be enforcing its policy through technical means, not by relying on Ukrainian assurances, so we haven’t completely lost our minds. [1]

Now we turn Bridget Brink’s ambassadorial imbroglio, if imbroglio it was. Ukraine had been without a US Ambassador for three years. Brink was confirmed by the Senate on May 18, 2022. She presented her credentials to the Ukraine Foreign Ministry on May 30; not, as it would appear from this tweet, on June 2, when she met with Zelensky and seems to have presented her credentials a second time. She held a press conference immediately afterwards, also on June 2.

At the June 2 presser, Brink is reported in some sources to have made the following statement:

“President Biden yesterday signed a $700 million military aid package that includes HIMARS long-range artillery. This will help Ukrainian forces to deliver more accurate strikes and [shoot] to a greater distance. So the Ukrainian troops will decide what distance to shoot,” she said.

You will see at once that “Ukrainian troops will decide what distance to shoot” directly contradicts Biden’s policy that “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.” So this is a diplomatic gaffe of the first water, but only if it was made, and only if it was not intended to be made.

There is no transcript of the presser on the US Embassy in Ukraine’s site. (Oddly, there’s not even a press release on Brink presenting her credentials. Or anything on Brink at all after April 25, the day her nomination was announced.) I can find no larger transcript that includes the quote[2]. AP reported briefly on the presser on June 2, but doesn’t include or mention the quote. The Canada-funded Kyiv Independent covered the presser but doesn’t include the quote either. Normally, I would regard that as near dispositive, but we’re living under wartime censorship, and a major diplomatic gaffe is just the sort of thing they’d censor.

So where does the quote appear? First, in a number of bot-like venues with sketchy About pages and no visible means of support: Here, here, and here. The quote also appears, complete with “[shoot]” in Al Mayadeen. None of these sources link to an original. More importantly, the story — but not the exact quote — appears on June 3 in Russia Today, “Ukraine to decide range of Washington’s rockets – US ambassador” (the deck: “The new envoy to Kiev has shrugged off Biden and Blinken guarantees”):

Brink held a press conference on Thursday, after presenting her credentials to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky…. Asked about the HIMARS multiple rocket launch systems (MLRS) that the US is supplying to Kiev as part of a $700 million military aid package, she volunteered the details about their command and control. “The range itself is going to be up to the Ukrainian side,” Brink said. The remark, translated into Ukrainian and re-translated into English, quickly made the rounds on social media, to the effect that the US would not “regulate” the range of the HIMARS.

It occurs to me that the translation/retranslation is an additional reason this quote is so difficult to run down. (Other sources pulled the RT story off the wire, but did not advance it in any way.)

Next, and even more interestingly, we have this story on June 2 from Ukrainian News, “Ukraine Itself Will Decide At What Distance To Use HIMARS – U.S. Ambassador To Ukraine“:

U.S. Ambassador To Ukraine Bridget Brink has commented on the new U.S. package of military assistance to Ukraine during a briefing in Kyiv on Thursday, June 2.

“President Biden yesterday signed a USD 700 million military aid package that includes HIMARS long-range artillery. This will help Ukrainian forces to deliver more accurate strikes and [shoot] to a greater distance. So the Ukrainian troops will decide what distance to shoot,” she said.

I think Ukrainian News is the origin of the story, because Ukrainian News is actually located in Kyiv (About Page). Moreover, the story has a byline: Таня Герасимова (Tanya Gerasimova). So who or what is Ukrainian News?

WikiPedia says[3] that Ukrainian News, which has been around since 1993, is owned by Inter Media Group, a subsidiary of the Russian-based GDF Media Ltd. Even under new ownership, I can’t imagine why they are allowed to continue to operate, unless they serve some useful purpose to Ukraine’s government. However, the editor, Dmytro Kuzmin, doesn’t seem cut out to be a lacky. Even more interestingly, Ukrainian News’ building at 20 Esplanadna Street in Kyiv also houses the American Councils for International Education in Ukraine, which has “has administered numerous programs sponsored by the US Government [and] developed projects in civil society building.”

Summarizing: A Ukrainian wire service, funded at least at one time by Russia yet spunky enough to have one of its reporters badger Putin, still in business under Zelensky, oddly close to a major American NGO, is the source for a diplomatic gaffe picked up by Russian and Russia-adjacent venues but not reported and/or suppressed by American sources.

Finally, and most interestingly, we have this tweet, which gives us a second source, with different wording. From Radio Svoboda (Google translation) on June 2, “The firing range of the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) depends on the Ukrainian military who will use it, new US Ambassador Bridget Brink said at a briefing on June 2

The firing range of the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) depends on the Ukrainian military who will use it, new US Ambassador Bridget Brink said at a briefing on June 2.

Thus, she answered the journalist’s question about how the range of HIMARS impressions will be regulated.

“As President Biden said the day before, he has just signed a $ 700 million package of defense aid, which includes HIMARS, which is the artillery of long-range destruction. This will help the Ukrainian army to aim more accurately at longer distances. Therefore, the range of the shot will depend on the Ukrainian side.” Brink said.

(This is the version RT picked up.) Radio Svoboda is Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, funded by the United States government. Note that Radio Svoboda is not reporting from the press conference; there’s no byline. They, like so many, are simply repeating words with no sourcing.

* * *

So, did Bridget Brinkmanship say the words of the gaffe, and was it a gaffe? Jake, it’s Ukraine.

I think Brink said the words. I find the existence of Ukrainian News as a firm inexplicable, but — or rather, and so — I believe the reporting.

But were the words a gaffe? I think not. First, here’s one fact about Bridget Brink that I haven’t mentioned:

Current and former government officials I have spoken to identify her as a protege of undersecretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Nuland, perhaps the State Department’s premier Russia expert, and among the most forceful and skilled advocates for U.S. global hegemony.

If Nuland is Brink’s mentor, that automatically removes any presumption of good faith. So let’s review the sequence of events, and then we can speculate:

1) I presume Nuland’s involvement, because Radio Svoboda is not in Brink’s scope, and Radio Svoboda wouldn’t have picked up the story from Western sources, because it wasn’t there to be picked up. So Nuland planted the “gaffe” with them.

2) The “gaffe” was not reported in the Western Press;

3) The gaffe was reported to Ukraine, and to any subscribers to Ukrainian News (for example, Al Mayadeen);

4) The gaffe was megaphoned to Russia via Radio Svoboda, a Russian-language station.

So why would Nuland set this little operation in motion, and on Brink’s very first day? These people are as twisty as corkscrews, so it’s not possible to say. It feels rather like an arbitrage opportunity; Nuland and Brink would be among the few who understood what the West heard and what Russia heard. So, again speculating:

1) The “gaffe” undercuts Biden with Putin as an interlocutor. If Brink remains in office after undercutting Biden, that means Biden isn’t running the show.

2) The “gaffe” encourages Ukraine to “poke the bear,” hence leading to more war or even escalation (both good in Nuland’s mind). However, since the Western press did not report the “gaffe,” our hands are clean.

3) The “gaffe” may encourage Russia to believe that Biden was lying[4] when he said that the missiles had limited range; afer all, 50 miles is not a lot of range to “regulate.” This again raises the possibility of escalation, good in Nuland’s mind.

I’m not Machiavellian enough to work out all the convolutions that Nuland’s arbitrage entails; perhaps readers have thoughts!

Finally, if Biden genuinely doesn’t want a hot war with Russia — or simply wishes to avoid appearing to be a cuck — he should fire Brinlk and stuff Nuland back in her box. From The Department of Fat Chance, I know, but a man can dream.


[1] Of course, we could promote the HIMARS from a 50-mile pawn to a 186-mile queen by sending Ukraine more rockets, but even so, Moscow would be out of range.

[2] Sadly, I don’t know Russian or Ukrainian.

[3] They play for high stakes in the Ukrainian media: “On 18 November 2002 the body of founder Mykhailo Kolomiets was found dead hanging from a tree near Molodechno, Belarus, after being missing for four weeks. He met with Volodymyr Hranovskiy just before he deleted all files on his computer and left for Minsk on 22 October 2001. On 30 October 2001, his body was found and he was buried two weeks later as unidentified.”

[4] I think Biden is less nutty than the Ukrainian irredentists, among them Nuland, running State (since we don’t have “boots on the ground,” at least not officially). So I don’t see a reason for him to lie. And he can always send longer-range missiles later.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. digi_owl

    I find myself thinking about how right after Stalin’s death, Eisenhower would make a speech suggesting a thaw of the cold war, only for the Dulles State Department delivering a much harshly worded letter to Moscow.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Or Trump ordering troops out of Syria and the Pentagon not doing it. “You can observe a lot by just watching,” as Yogi Berra said, and I think that’s what Biden did. Hence the Op-Ed.

  2. Carolinian

    Patrick Lawrence says Biden accidentally on purpose said the US would defend Taiwan because they are playing good cop/bad cop and sometimes it’s the same cop–confusing to the poor perp under the hot lights.


    As for HIMARS, does it really matter given the Ukies will need three weeks of training and by then either the war will be over or the HIMARS will have been blown to atoms?

    BTW off topic but linked in the Lawrence this free to read FT think piece on the new Mission Impossible and American imperialism. Worth a look.


    1. Samuel Conner

      > the HIMARS will have been blown to atoms

      IIRC, before one of DJT’s strikes in Syria (in response to the first alleged gas attack during his time as POTUS), there was back-channel communication to make sure that there were no R casualties at any of the targeted sites.

      Me thinks it likely that, one way or another, the Rs are going to know exactly where these systems are and what munitions accompany them, and they will never get within firing range of the R border, and probably not of any R ground forces.

      So the U leadership definitely has the discretion to decide the range at which to fire them, but perhaps not the ability to act on any determinations that are made. Agency without ability.

      1. Acacia

        Agree that the Russians will be following these systems very closely, and with Carolinian’s observation that the “game-changer” will likely get blown away before it even sees battle.

        Also, I know there was some question of how Dmitry Medvedev’s recent statement should be interpreted, but I thought it rather sounded like he was saying if any of these HIMARS rockets happen to land on RF territory, the US-NATO is on notice that it will be taken as a direct escalation and that Russian attacks on US-NATO weapons outside of the Ukraine may be expected in the future.

        1. Old Sovietologist

          I think you can take it as red that should those rockets land on RF territory, I suspect that would that includes Crimea, there will be blowback that goes beyond Ukraine. You would expect that Washington has been warned by Moscow through the usual channels. There’s an illegal US military base in Syria that would like a rather nice target.

  3. Lex

    “The state department’s premier Russia expert.” That’s kind of the problem, isn’t it? And of course a Nuland protege got that post. But I wouldn’t call it undermining. Biden worked with Nuland in the Obama admin, and he gave her the even higher level post when he became POTUS. He likes her. They all imagine they’re playing 11-dimensional chess.

    Excellent investigation, lambert, this is the kind of stuff that allows us to make our own, informed opinions. I still don’t know, but I do worry that a few long range munitions will get snuck into the shipment. That would be Biden/Buland level stupid.

  4. David

    Brink is a career diplomat so she knows about being careful with language. But she’s not a pol/mil specialist and has probably never had to answer detailed defence questions before.
    But if you put the three statements together, you get:

    Biden: “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”
    White House: “HIMARS will be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometers (49 miles).”
    Brink: ” …HIMARS, which is the artillery of long-range destruction. This will help the Ukrainian army to aim more accurately at longer distances. Therefore, the range of the shot will depend on the Ukrainian side.”

    I don’t think these are actually at odds with each other, because each is talking about something different.
    Biden’s assertion amounts to stressing that only the shorter-distance munitions will be supplied. Whilst in theory, these munitions could be fired from the border and explode in Russia, there are no useful targets to hit, and anyway the Ukrainians have been instructed not to use them that way.

    The briefing makes it clear that the range of the munitions supplied with HIMARS is a maximum of 80km. Now NC’s expert military staff may want to correct me, but in principle artillery doesn’t have just one range, you adjust the range depending on where the target is. A missile system that could only strike at a distance of 80km would be useless: the enemy would just need to move a bit closer. I read, but can’t now remember where, that these missiles will destroy everything within 100 metres of the impact point, which sounds a lot, but consider how many potential circles 200m across there are in 80km: you have to be able to calibrate them very precisely.

    Brink was saying that the greater range of the missiles will enable the Ukrainians to strike targets accurately at a longer range than they already can, but obviously those targets can’t be further than 80km away with the munitions supplied. She didn’t say “in any direction they like”, which would have run counter to Biden’s statement.

    I suspect this is our old friend a translation problem, given that we only have an unofficial back-translation of a Ukrainian translation of a verbal reply. It’s entirely possible she said something like:

    “HIMARS is a system capable of destroying targets at long range. This will enable the Ukrainians to choose and engage targets at longer distances than they now can.”

    The alternative is that Biden was simply lying and that it’s actually the longer-range warheads that will be sent, but given all the public agonising, it’s hard to see why he would do something that will quickly become public knowledge anyway. And Ukraine doesn’t get to choose which warheads it receives.

    1. David in Santa Cruz

      I’m also reading the Brink statement as a Lost in Translation version of “the Ukies will decide what to target with their new 80km-range missiles” rather than a suggestion that they have targeting options beyond 80km.

      President Putin has reacted to all this in an interview by stating that these missiles add “nothing new” to “Ukrainian” capabilities. https://tass.com/politics/1460781

      It’s clear that the Nuland faction are controlling Biden’s messaging, but a ghost-written FailingNYT OpEd appears to be a reliable gauge of their agreed upon rules of engagement against Russian targets using U.S. missiles.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I’m also reading the Brink statement as a Lost in Translation version of “the Ukies will decide what to target with their new 80km-range missiles” rather than a suggestion that they have targeting options beyond 80km.

        That won’t wash. There are two translations, one from Ukrainian News, the other from Radio Svoboda, and they reinforce each other.

        the Ukrainian troops will decide what distance to shoot


        The range itself is going to be up to the Ukrainian side

        Both include the concept of range (or distance). Range is obviously not the same as target, any more than speed is the same thing as velocity. Again, all Brink had to do was repeat Biden’s words, with which she was familiar, because she quoted them.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      What I would like to know is would Russia be able to track the arrival and placement of these launchers by satellite and then either take them out in transit or before any serious damage is done? Also, If they can be hidden in transit, can they be hidden once placed in a firing position given their size? Finally, if they can evade detection up until firing, underground bunker or what ever, would the trajectory of the missile once fired not give away the location?

      Russia may have a general idea of where they are likely to place these launchers and could thus focus satellite attention on more precise areas for example.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        A little foggy on “mobile”, but the launcher is nevertheless quite large. Would they be susceptible to recognition or could they change location before a response could be made?

      2. Polar Socialist

        Probably yes, yes and yes. Russia also seems to have pretty decent HUMINT from the Ukrainian side regarding many of their targets. So far Russia claims to have destroyed about 4 to 5 Ukrainian multiple rocket launchers per day, so the odds are not good for these ones, either.

        One must remember that these rockets follow a ballistic trajectory, so to reach the maximum range they go up to 2000 meters, where a Russian radar will pick them up and a counter strike will be on it’s way while the Russian air-defense starts to intercept the rockets. Of course Donbass forces do not have the same capabilities so they may be more likely target for these.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Thank you Polar Socialist, good summary. So indeed, sending these launchers with missiles to Ukraine does little. What is Biden thinking if he is indeed thinking? Establishing a post president honey hole with arms manufacturers? Fantasizing in less hazy moments that being a war time president is going to overcome 10 dollar a gallon gasoline? Flogging student debtors with teasing thumb on nose while wiggling fingers at them just for the “hey” of it?

          1. marku52

            Speaking of $10++ gasoline. What happens when we need another digit on the gas pumps? My son suggested just put a masking tape and magic market “1” in front of the existing display, but that won’t work buying with anything but cash. Any card transaction for say, $10.35/gallon, would only get debited as $.35/gallon

            And we know THAT aint going to happen. Do we have another Y2K software problem coming up?

            1. T_Reg

              Maybe they could go hexadecimal. And eliminate that idiotic .9 cents while they’re at it.

      3. countrumford

        Counter fire radar will note the location of the launch and recommend return fire coordinates. Both sides have this capability so the process is to “shoot and scoot”. The artillery the USA shipped required a truck to tow it away to a new shooting location. They were dead by the time they hooked up the truck. These new rocket system are self mobile. Shoot and then hit the gas and get the hell out of the way of return fire. Mostly these are more mobile. They dont seem to add any new capability to the rooskie stuff that both side already have in use and have trained on and have ammo for. Maybe they integrate with western drones and sat intelligence? Maybe the Polish volunteers have already trained on them. Maybe this is a real escalation to put more effective nato volunteers because the ukies are running out competent troops. If comm is in Polish we have a whole new ballgame.

          1. hk

            Except, I suppose, we are playing the Soviets? I’d figure that Poles could pretend to speak Ruthenian much better than Russians trying Korean, though, if they wanted to put up that deniability thing.

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          Thank you countrumford. Interesting potential twist in high mobility and possible Polish operators. These launchers are not tracked by satellite regardless of rapid mobility?

    3. Yves Smith

      See my comment below. HIMARS can deliver missiles that travel different distances, but the reports are we are sending only the type that goes 70 km.

      The fact that we are sending only 4 or at most 12 with allies’ contributions says this is all optics. Ukraine had Russian weapon systems in much much bigger supply that could strike at those distances.

      But the issue here is Crimea which Ukraine does not concede is Russian territory. Ukraine cut off much of the water to Crimea, which perversely has given Russia a pretext for extending its SMO beyond Donbass.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Brink was saying that the greater range of the missiles will enable the Ukrainians to strike targets accurately at a longer range than they already can, but obviously those targets can’t be further than 80km away with the munitions supplied. She didn’t say “in any direction they like”, which would have run counter to Biden’s statement.

      I’m afraid this is nonsense. Career diplomat Brink knew what the script was, because she tweeted it out on June 1, one day before her presser:

      That is the script Biden gave her, and by extension Nuland and the entire State Department:

      …enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield

      That’s all Brink had to say. Instead, she gratuitously added, depending on the translation:

      the Ukrainian troops will decide what distance to shoot


      The range itself is going to be up to the Ukrainian side

      There’s absolutely no question that Brink’s addition contradicts Biden’s script, which she not only understood, but quoted, while linking to it.

  5. JTMcPhee

    And nobody says nothing about what $700 million spent on the real US economy and to meet the needs of ordinary Americans might accomplish. Not a flipping word. But the war gamers playing RISK ™ level idiocies with the lives of millions, maybe billions if they stumble over one of the bright red lines that have been so articulately set by the Evil Rooskies…

    And we mopes are led to parsing opaque and idiotic and unschooled texts spewed up by Ambassadors from Nuilandia…

    I would offer a hopeful notion that Brink’s words, whatever they are established to be, just might show nothing more than military ignorance — an MLRS-launched rocket can be fired at a lot of spots at varying distances from the carrier, so maybe all she meant, (nudge nudge wink wink) is that the Empire of Lies would not be setting geofences on the targeting decisions of the Ukies, within the constraint of not firing at targets “outside the borders of Ukraine (including Crimea and Donbas, of course.)” Of course there’s the history of April Glaspie’s ambiguous encouragement of Saddam Hussein’s ambitions to create a Greater Iraq, starting the windup to Gulf War I, II, III…. n.

    Here’s hoping the RU forces “dismantle with extreme prejudice” all of these thingies as soon as they enter the Battlespace as Russia has demarcated it. I would hope their espionage and intelligence-gathering would know exactly where these thingies are located, and will not be chary about shooting down “NATO” aircraft or blasting trains or heavy-haulers delivering them. Not that this will choke off the margins of the Empire’s efforts to “drain Russia dry” and expand the military materiel options the Uikies can field on the way to being wrecked and dismantled.

    But Germany has been “kept down,” the EU is an Imperial satrapy, and another $700 million goes into the pockets of the MICIMAT…

  6. timotheus

    It is entirely consistent with the USG’s recent conduct to let Biden say one thing (for example, in a call with Xi) and then promptly contradict him from State or through a “senior official” comment from the NSC or the Pentagon. Whether Biden is aware enough of what is going on around him is almost beside the point–though interesting in a let’s-watch-that-train-go-over-the-cliff sort of way.

    Putin says he is open to talking to anyone from the West who calls, but that doesn’t mean he’ll take what they say seriously. Why should he?

  7. Glen

    Wow, just wow. Thanks for posting this. I have nothing useful to add in the diplomatic world, never having worked there.

    All I can add is some rather dated anecdotal experience about some of the “NATO” pressures at play in this whole mess to try and help people understand:

    So I was at an American base where we once had representatives from the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy – the Red Chinese Navy) and the ROCN (Republic of Chinese Navy – Taiwan Navy) touring the base AT THE SAME TIME. Needless to say there was very high security, and a rather elaborate dance performed by the base representatives to keep the visiting dignitaries at the far ends of the base from each other, and for us dweebs that worked there to keep our mouths shut about the whole thing. We were sure both teams knew what was going on which is how the whole circus got created in the first place.

    But that was no where near to the highest security I ever saw imposed at the base. That occurred when representatives of the Royal Navy, our NATO partners, toured the base. And that high (and expensive) security was mandated by the American MIC vendors that worked on site. They were adamant that any details of their weapons systems not be leaked to our allies because hundreds of billions in defense contracts and what would be the NATO standard weapons was on the line.

    So I don’t doubt at all that the deployed grunts sharing a foxhole or on adjacent frigates when the missiles are flying are brothers to the very blood and bone – they have to be. But the CEOs running our MIC, bottom line, you are all just dead meat and profit, and that’s about it. They couldn’t give a flying [family blog] for patriotism or stand by your country. I’m sure they would have outsourced the whole mess to China by now if laws hadn’t prevented it.

    1. Jams O'Donnell

      You’ve hit on something there. If the US outsourced it’s defence capabilities to the PLA it could save billions, while becoming more effective and much safer for the rest of the world.

  8. timbers

    Former Russian President has said US long range missiles to Ukraine should/could produce a Russian missile strike on Western Cities who’s command centers made the decision to provide these missiles. That would be Washington. Putin was typically more restrained and vague on targeting Western cities and command centers but America doesn’t seem to have enough intelligence to understand hints or see the need for an off ramp. Hopefully the Pentagon does and will overrule, lose, misplace or otherwise see to it the forbidden missiles never reach Ukraine.

  9. Paradan

    Prediction fun time: I think that they are going to use these HIMARS rockets to target the court house in Donetsk where the war crimes trails are being held. The fact that this little country is gonna put NATO mercenaries on trial has gotta be making steam come out of neo-con ears. They can’t be allowed to set that precedent, so there gonna try to level the court house while the tribunal is in session.

  10. The Rev Kev

    The whole point of the HIMARS rockets is to ’cause Russia pain’ as the Biden White House puts it. In other words to kill Russians. Remember when people went crazy when somebody launched that bs rumour that the Russians (then later the Iranians) were giving bounties for American soldiers killed in Afghanistan? You would think that they would be used to take on Russian artillery which is devastating Ukrainian formations but even though fighting for their lives, they still cannot resist the temptation to kill civilians that have no military value and would do the same with those HIMARS-


    But if Blink actually said that, the White House should have demanded that she fly to Washington on the first available plane, brought straight from the airport to the White House, told by Biden ‘Don’t do that again!’, and then driven direct back to the airport for the next available flight back to the Ukraine. But Biden is weak and really only a figurehead. Blink has had problems with boundaries before. She was suppose to be Ambassador to Georgia but she was such a supported of former-President Mikheil Saakashvili that the Georgians deep-sixed that nomination.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > But if Blink actually said that

      Radio Svoboda, which is funded by the US government, said she did albeit only in Russian. This is the quote that RT picked up (without citing it). I would argue that “If the US government said she did, then the US government believes she did,” but since the story never made it into the English press, I doubt the knowledge rises about Nuland. Nobody’s gonna run into Biden’s office waving an English-language newspaper, yelling “My gawd, did you see what Brink said?” So it’s really something like a Schrodinger’s gaffe.

  11. drumlin woodchuckles

    As I wish Hunter S. Thompson would have said . . . ” these people are so crooked, they need a pneumatic torque wrench to put their socks on.”

  12. The Rev Kev

    About those game-changing HIMARS systems-

    ‘We quote a – frank – US Army Pentagon source:

    “Without ATACMS, the [HIMARS] system’s maximum range is 50 miles. There is no danger of it striking Russia. That said, it will vanish in minutes when it launches the first salvo. Russian counterbattery fire will destroy it pronto.

    “Also, how in the hell can the Ukrainians operate it unless they’ve been through extensive training in the USA. A HIMARS driver must perform roughly 1,000 specific tasks during operations. These must be memorized. Training for the driver takes at least five weeks. Batteries must train to fire, relocate immediately to avoid destruction and fire again.

    “Are Americans operating these systems? What are the communication links? Who’s collecting and refining the firing data? How will the systems be resupplied? HIMARS can go through hundreds of rockets in an hour.

    “You need maybe 100 HIMARS to make a real impact. We only have 358 ourselves.” ‘


    1. Soredemos

      People, maybe all the way up to the level of the Pentagon, don’t seem to understand the scale of this war. Maybe twenty years of fighting farmers with AKs where you actually could end a firefight with a single airstrike or artillery barrage has completely warped people’s sense of scale. The original Lend-Lease numbered in the tens of thousands of tanks. While the current war isn’t quite that scale, Ukraine would still need many hundreds of vehicles, all at once. Even being extremely generous and assuming all the donated NATO heavy equipment gets to the fighting, it literally doesn’t matter. It’ll buy them a week or two, at most.

  13. Dave in Austin

    There is some confusion here. The rocket launcher system is 40 years old and originally was designed to use M26 (?) unguided rockets with a 50 mile range. The unguided rockets disperse bomblet to cover as much as 1 square kilometer. This is the MLRS system and is what we are giving the Ukrainians. Since 2018 there has been a GPS guided missile version (the GMLRS, “G” for guided) and versions of that have been tested out to almost 200 miles. The GMLRS is not an area weapon (the Commander’s shotgun) it is a precision GPS guided missile of the “take out the second house on the left” type. We are apparently not sending these rockets to the Ukraine.

    So both Biden and the new Ambassador are correct, The system we are giving the Ukraine can’t be used against Russian territory unless the Ukranian government moves the trucks up to the front line and decides to cover 1 quare kilometer of nearby Russia with bomblets (2-5% don’t explode and are left for the kids to play with). But it will be good against dispersed Russian units and ammo dumps near the front line inside the Ukraine. The precision guided, long range GMLRS is, for good reason, off the table.

    1. Yves Smith

      You have your facts wrong. The discussion of GLRAS is around the missiles we are sending, not weapons system, and we ARE sending them to Ukraine.

      And we most assuredly ARE sending GMLRS, per Defense News:

      While any weapon can shoot into Russia if it’s close enough to the border, the aid package would send an undisclosed number of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rounds, which have a range of 70 kilometers (43 miles), instead of the Army Tactical Missile System projectile, which has a 300 km range .

      The Pentagon prepositioned HIMARS in Europe in anticipation of the announcement and plans to conduct three-week trainings for Ukrainian forces on their operation and maintenance. Kahl said the U.S. will be able to send more systems as the fighting evolves.


      The US has committed to deliver 4 HIMARS and there are supposed to be 4 coming from the UK and 4 from Germany. The HIMARS is a much newer system, developed in the late 1990s. And it can deliver missiles as far as 500 KM but we are supposedly not delivering the missiles that are capable of going that far but only 70 KM.


      The concern has been that the US will supply the longer-range missiles with the HIMARS. The distance from Mykolayiv. which is still Ukraine control, to Crimea is 178 KM. It also is not clear whether the UK, which has been more hawkish than the US, would try to send the longer range missiles to Ukraine. They’ve been mum on that topic.

      From the DoD on June 1:

      The Defense Department announced June 1 it would send four HIMARS systems to Ukraine as part of the latest military aid package. The M142 HIMARS system allows for the launching of multiple, precision-guided rockets


      See here at 3:35 that the UK and Germany are expected to provide 4 each:


      The HIMARS are logistically very demanding because the missiles themselves are huge.

      Please do not make authoritative statements, particularly a bogus attack on a site author, and force me to waste time correcting your factually false claims. We have a stern warning at the top of Links every day about exactly the sort of thing you just did and we are not playing favorites.

      1. marku52

        Plus the Russians have very active GPS jamming at the front lines. It’s not even clear that the GPS guidance adds anything.

  14. Ben

    Is it known if these weapons or any US drones in Ukraine can be (and are) targeted from Arizona?

    1. JTMcPhee

      Re drones at least, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zacharysmith/2022/06/01/us-reportedly-aiming-to-sell-ukraine-faster-and-more-powerful-armed-drones/ . I believe the MQ-1C Gray Eagles have multiple guiding options, and of course could be directed via satellite comms from US or anywhere else their guidance trailers are located. Who will be flying these things— the CIA? US Air Force? I doubt the Ukies have trained pilots. These can carry a variety of weapons, including Hellfires of course. https://theaviationist.com/2022/06/02/u-s-plans-to-sell-armed-mq-1c-gray-eagle-drones-to-ukraine-in-the-coming-days/

      Skating close to one of those triggers of wider war, where NATO weapons operated by NATO/US personnel are “engaging” Russian/LDNR forces.


  15. John k

    I wonder if there’s a method here…
    Perhaps a faction sees the destruction of weapons as desirable, as the us will just have to replace it all with even better and pricier stuff? Incredibly profitable.
    Imo a major objective of our wars is not to win as much as to enrich mic, which is certainly an outcome. A minor disadvantage is us casualties; so a proxy war is quite ideal, massive profits and nobody from us gets hurt.
    But while poking a bear in a cage is fun (I was stupid enough at 10 to do that with a foot, nearly lost it… did lose the shoe) there can be a downside if the bear gets out. So poke the the bear in secret but don’t tell anybody? Wait a bit, then tell Russians, just kidding?
    Interesting if we hear what’s delivered.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > the the bear in secret but don’t tell anybody

      Poke the bear secretly, then when the bear responds, they are the aggressor. Worked in the Gulf of Tonkin. If you squinted hard.

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