Ukraine has been using its long range cruise missiles against targets in Crimea. It managed to score hits on important military targets. A Russian submarine and a landing ship was damaged when storm shadow missiles managed to hit them when docked in Sevastopol. Recently, the Black Sea Fleet headquarters was targeted as well. However, all is not well on the frontline and these attacks have virutally no immediate effect on the battle fields along the frontline which begs an important question. Why is Ukraine homing in on high value targets in Crimea which carry little significance as far progress on the frontline is concerned?
The Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea has been instrumental in Russia's ability to launch long range cruise missiles deep into Ukraine. Moreover, the air bases in Crimea has been used for the same purpose by the Russians. Strategically, Crimea is vital for the Russian capability to strike Ukraine's high value military targets. The Ukrainian attacks in Crimea not only blunts Russia's capability to strike Ukraine in an unrestrained manner but also reduces its Naval power in the Black Sea. However, the Ukrainians have recently increased the frequency and intensity of strikes in Crimea and there is another aspect to why it is so keen on doing it.
Thanks to the US support, Ukrainians have been able to sustain itself against the Russian onslaught but that might change now. The US congress stands divided over funding the war in Ukraine and it has put the fate of entire Ukrainian counteroffensive in limbo. Given the great disparity between the aid provided by the US and the European nations to Ukraine, it would be wise to assume catastrophic consequences for Ukraine’s military campaign if the US limits its military support to Ukraine.
This is a real possibility and the recent visit to the US by the Ukrainian president Zelensky only displays the desperation. It was reported that Zelensky admitted the certainty of losing the war without the US aid. His plea hasn’t gone well with all. The US congress controlled by the Republicans refused to host Zelensky in the house. Ukraine’s minimal gain in its bid to retake the territory occupied by the Russians has been the biggest impediment in convincing the US polity. No one wants to fund for a losing cause. The reality is sinking in. Ukraine needs to come up with some progress that can convince the US lawmakers that Ukrainians are capable of a victory against the Russians.
It was report that Zelensky tried to persuade the lawmakers by assuring that Ukraine had effective strategy to win the war and that they were winning at the moment. However, he wasn’t able to secure any promise of additional funding that was proposed by President Biden. All that the President Biden could do was assure Zelensky of doing his best to “ensure the world stands with…” him. However, if there was any consolation, it was in the $325 million dollar military aid primarily for strengthening the Ukrainian air defense. However, this military aid package was already a part of the previous aid that was ratified by the US President without any congressional approval. In sum, Zelensky's visit was nothing short of a disappointment.
Ukraine stands vulnerable to the US domestic politics. It’s reliance on the US support has been a ticking bomb. Ukraine had no other alternative if it wanted to continue fighting the Russians. Ukraine’s production capacity and the number of available manpower is no match to Russia’s. Given the superiority of Russians in conventional warfare, Ukraine was doomed to fail without a robust support system. Ukraine not only needs to concentrate on the battlefield but has an additional work. It has to work on convincing the opposition leaders in the US house for the help. This is the limitation of democracy. Ukraine claims to fight for democracy but it is precisely this democratic nature of the US politics that has threatened to cut support for its war against Russia. It’s an irony.
Now this brings us to Crimea. Since the start of the counteroffensive, Crimea has been regularly targeted for valuable Russian military assets. The Ukrainian forces have been able to achieve success in some of the operations destroying a multitude of targets. In August, a large number of military aircrafts were destroyed by Ukrainians on an attack on the Saki air base. The Ukrainians have made most use of the British supplied Storm Shadow missiles on Crimea. These cruise missiles are expensive and are used sparingly. The recent attacks on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters also saw the use of Storm Shadow missiles.
It’s no denying that the Russians have suffered heavy losses in Crimea but Ukraine is in reality waging a propaganda war by striking Crimea. The immediate consequences of these strikes on the frontline is negligible but it creates a big noise in the west. What Ukrainians want is a show of strength that demonstrates to the US congress its resilience against all the odds. A semblance of victory in progress is needed even if the ground realities are unfavorable. At the same time, we hear news of “major breakthrough” on the frontline time again which when observed minutely is nowhere close to being a major one. The Ukrainians need to put on a show infront of the entire world and they believe attacking Crimea can help them with that. In adition to that, the strikes work to boost morale of the Ukrainian Forces who have been reeling with a lack of progress.
The Ukrainians are lagging in their effort to win back their territories. The Russians defenses have taken a toll on their Armed Forces. They are in urgent need of assistance but the mood in the US congress is not in their favour. They want to convince these politicians of their capabilities and the only way they can do it is by creating buzz on the news. The message needs to be big and that is why they are eyeing on expensive equipment and the big guns of the Russian military in Crimea.