December 14, 2021

Rep. Moulton’s plan to defend Ukraine from Russia

Rep. SETH MOULTON (D-Mass.) is worried the United States isn’t doing enough to deter Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN from launching a renewed invasion of Ukraine.

After a whirlwind Saturday-to-Monday trip to Ukraine, in which he met with local and U.S. officials alongside four other lawmakers, the retired Marine and current House Armed Services Committee member told NatSec Daily what he heard was “concerning.”

“In many ways, we're taking the right approach, but we need to move more quickly,” he said. “We're focused more on responding to a Russian invasion rather than preventing it.”

He has a four-step proposal for President JOE BIDEN, but he only told us of three — asserting the fourth step isn’t appropriate to say in public.

First, Moulton said the U.S. and its allies should finalize the sanctions package now — not keep drafting one — before Russia potentially sends 100,000 troops into Ukraine. “I want Putin to know that he's gonna have a tough time buying a snack from a vending machine 10 minutes after he invades rather than worry about the NATO allies convening a conference and developing a sanctions plan over a course of a few weeks," he said.

Second, the former presidential candidate said the U.S. should speed up the transfer of lethal weapons to Ukraine like anti-tank missile systems

The final public recommendation, somewhat related to the second, is to reach the Russian public with messages about the larger costs for Russia. “We shouldn't be hesitant to tell the Russian people the truth, the truth about how bloody this conflict could be, how costly it could be, both economically and in terms of dead Russian troops,” he said. 

Moulton came to this conclusion after finding that Ukrainian and U.S. officials focus more on preventing a limited Russian action than a “blitzkrieg,” as he termed it. Relatedly, he said the U.S. military advisers currently in Ukraine are doing “incredibly valuable and important training, but we need to make sure it's focused on the short-term threat, not just the long-term development of their military.”

Lt. Col. ANTON SEMELROTH, a Pentagon spokesperson, told NatSec Daily that the Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade is now in charge of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine mission, assisting Kyiv’s forces with “internal defense capabilities and training capacity while providing realistic training under a NATO interoperable framework.” He also said U.S. special forces help their Ukrainian counterparts via “regular validation training exercises.”

That’s good, says Moulton, but arguably not enough: “We have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario and, most importantly, we have to do everything we can to prevent the worst-case scenario."

By:  Alexander Ward and Quint Forgey
Source: POLITICO National Security Daily