Blinken’s ex-deputy says Russian bases should be ‘fair game’ for Ukraine

Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland on Sunday suggested Russian bases should be “fair game” for Ukraine to target amid a larger debate over reversing a ban on firing U.S. weapons at targets inside of Russia.

“I think there’s also a question of whether we, the United States and our allies, ought to give them more help in hitting Russian bases, which heretofore we have not been willing to do,” Nuland said Sunday in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week.”

When asked if she believes Ukraine should be hitting Russian bases, Nuland said, “I think if the attacks are coming directly from over the line in Russia, that those bases ought to be fair game, whether they are where missiles are being launched from or where they are where troops are being supplied from.” 

Russia recently launched its Kharkiv offensive from the neighboring Belgorod region, and some Ukrainian officials argued  the attacks could have been prevented if they had been permitted to hit targets in the Russian province. 

Nuland, who retired in March, has often faced criticism for her views about Russia and its actions in Ukraine. She argued on Sunday the attacks in Kharkiv have signaled it “is time” for the U.S. to be assisting Ukraine to hit Russian bases.

“I think it’s time for that because Russia has obviously escalated this war, including, as you said, at the beginning, attacking Russia’s second city, Kharkiv, which is not on the front lines, and trying to decimate it without ever having to put a boot on the ground,” Nuland said. “So I think it is time to give the Ukrainians more help hitting these bases inside Russia.”

A delegation of five Ukrainian members of parliament traveled to Washington last week to meet with Biden administration officials and congressional lawmakers in an effort to push the U.S. to reverse the ban.  

Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly argued that their own weapons are not nearly as effective at attacking legitimate military targets in Russia as American-made arms, including the missile launcher weapon High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) or valued long-range artillery like the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a trip to Kyiv last week, said the U.S. was committed to ensuring Ukraine can win the war against Russia but emphasized the embattled nation should focus on taking back Ukrainian territory. 

“This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz pressed Nuland on why she believes targeting Russian bases is a good idea, given the Biden administration’s concern it will escalate things further with Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Because it’s Russia that has escalated this war. Russia has learned how to pull its forces back out of the range where we have allowed Ukraine to use our weapons and get our support,” Nuland responded. “So, they are getting a direct advantage in this war from our hesitation, and they have escalated massively.

Nuland further contended the months-long delay of U.S. aid to Ukraine had a role to play in Russia’s recent advances. Following over a year of stalemate in Congress, lawmakers passed a national security supplemental last month that sent $61 billion to Ukraine.

“I think they [Ukraine] can certainly turn this around, Martha. But the six-month delay certainly made a difference. The frontline for Ukraine needs the artillery that we are sending,” Nuland said. “They need more air defenses. They need to be able to stop these Russian attacks that are coming from bases inside Russia.”

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