A Crimea First Strategy For Ukraine – Analysis


By Luke Coffey

In 2024, Russia’s main objective on the battlefield will be to capture the remaining parts of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts not already under its control. As a priority, Ukraine needs to stabilize the front lines in this region. However, Ukraine will never be safe until Russia loses control of Crimea. Policymakers in the United States should recognize that the most direct path to victory for Ukraine runs through Crimea—so they should arm, train, and equip Ukrainians accordingly. Russia’s war on Ukraine began with the annexation of Crimea, and it will only end when Ukraine regains control of it. Specifically, US policymakers should:

1. Rearm, resupply, and train the Ukrainian military to stabilize the front lines in 2024 and prepare for counteroffensive operations in 2025. 

This should include, but certainly not be limited to, (1) large numbers of long-range fires such as the 190-mile version of the ATACMS, (2) additional air-launched cruise missiles from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and others, (3) F-16s and associated munitions, (4) more infantry fighting vehicles and main battle tanks, (5) demining and engineering equipment, (6) more air defense systems, and (7) a steady stream of 155mm artillery and 120mm mortar rounds. Simultaneously, the US and its allies should continue to train tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in maneuver warfare.

2. Enable Ukraine to pursue a Crimea-first strategy. 

This strategy would mean arming Ukraine with the weapons needed (1) to destroy all bridges connected to the peninsula, (2) to make bases in Crimea uninhabitable for Russian forces, and (3) to strike key facilities inside the Russian Federation, especially along the Black Sea coastline.

3. Isolate Crimea from Russia. 

Crucially, Ukraine needs the ability to destroy the Kerch Bridge. The bridge was constructed by Russia after the annexation of Crimea and includes a four-lane road and a double-track railway. Additional bridge targets include the Henichesk, Syvash, and Chonhar Bridges, which connect occupied Crimea to Kherson Oblast.

4. Target Russian bases. 

Occupied Crimea and Russia’s Rostov Oblast and Krasnodar Krai are home to several naval and air bases. Russia is even building a naval base in occupied Abkhazia in Georgia. The US and its allies need to arm Ukraine to make these bases uninhabitable for Russian forces.

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