To execute the FOFA strategy Ukraine requires items that the United States is uniquely situated to provide: the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone. To date, Washington has declined to provide either platform.
While Ukraine has launched impressive strikes on Russian logistics using existing Western-supplied Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) and Turkey’s TB-2 drones, ATACMS enjoy more than triple the range of Ukraine’s current High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). For its part, the MQ-1C’s advanced sensors and its AGM-114 Hellfire missiles would mark a true leap for Ukraine. Particularly, the Gray Eagle’s synthetic aperture radar, along with its moving target indicator, would assist Ukraine’s HIMARS and other MLRS units by providing sensitive, real-time intelligence to support strikes. After briefly considering transferring four Gray Eagles to Ukraine in June, the administration ultimately decided against it over the summer. Now is the time to revisit that decision.
Most ambitious of all, the Biden administration should support these efforts with an F-16 fighter aircraft capability development program for the Ukrainian Air Force. After scuttling Poland’s offer to provide Ukraine with MIG-29 fighter jets in the opening phase of the conflict, the United States has since transferred to Ukraine the AGM-88 anti-radiation missile to attack enemy air defenses. The United Kingdom recently announced that it would send AMRAAM missiles for air defense. Both assets can be fired from F-16s. In fact, the AGM-88 can only reach its full potential if paired with the F-16s’ targeting pods, while F-16s armed with AMRAAM missiles would give Ukraine superior aerial warfighting capabilities. If the Biden team needs a reason to justify an F-16 program, the AGM-88 and AMRAAM missiles are it.
Third, the United State should supply Ukraine with advanced armor for combined-arms warfare. The most obvious candidate for Ukraine today is the German Leopard-2 tank, of which more than 2,000 exist across thirteen European countries that are all supported by a robust market in spare parts. At times, some of these countries have shown interest in supplying the Leopard-2s but Germany has resisted. Time and again, Berlin has argued that it will not supply Ukraine with new weapon systems unilaterally but only as part of a coalition and only after other Western powers initiate the first transfers. This makes it crucial that the United States deliver even a single M1 Abrams tank to Ukraine to unlock the formation of a European consortium with enough capacity to immediately donate at least ninety Leopard tanks to Ukraine—large enough to outfit an armored brigade. At a time when Russia is fielding obsolete tanks on the front lines, such a brigade could make a significant difference.
From Empire to Nation-State
In Putin’s KGB-indoctrinated mind, the vast areas stretching from Turkic Asia to the Baltic Sea are mere geographic expressions. If he succeeds in Ukraine, he will set his sights on other former Soviet republics, and possibly even on former Warsaw Pact states. The Western playbook should therefore be to break Russia’s claims of empire and force it into a world of nation-states. The future of the European order is being decided on the battlefields of Ukraine. The United States should empower Ukraine to expel Russian forces from its territory. So long as Ukraine has the will to fight, the United States should support it.
Peter Rough is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, where he directs the Center on Europe and Eurasia. Previously, Rough was the director of research in the Office of George W. Bush, in whose administration he also served. He holds a Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Dr. Can Kasapoglu is a non-resident senior fellow at Hudson Institute, and the director of the Security & Defense Research Program at EDAM. Dr. Kasapoglu holds a Ph.D. from the Turkish War College and an M.Sci. degree from the Turkish Military Academy. Previously he was an Eisenhower Fellow at the NATO Defense College in Rome and held a visiting research post at the NATO Cyber Center of Excellence in Tallinn.