Ukraine Unleashed: Russian Army Faces Unrestricted Ukrainian Forces in the Northeast

Time to get out of Northeast before it is too late

Shankar Narayan
6 min readJun 21, 2024

I have a humble request for all my readers. I know there are many who can answer this. What just happened? What happened at the G7 summit? I have many dreams, but not once did I even daydream that June 20th would happen.

A flood of announcements in favor of Ukraine with a small cherry on top delivered from the White House.

It was none other than the National Security Advisor of the United States, Mr. Jake Sullivan, who announced that Ukraine can use American weapons to hit any Russian forces attacking from the border.

I have been watching Ukraine’s response after the United States partially relaxed its rules in May this year regarding the usage of its weapons. It was very specific. There were no public announcements, but the way Ukraine used the weapons was clear — they only used artillery and GMRLS weapons to attack Russian positions in Belgorod Oblast.

They did not use the ATACMS.

And the hits using American weapons were falling only on Russian positions in Belgorod Oblast. The other two oblasts, Kursk and Bryansk, where the Russians had massed some troops, were hit only with Ukrainian drones.

So, I added two and two and came to the conclusion that the United States told Ukraine they can use certain types of weapons against Russian troops targeting them from Belgorod Oblast.

I was kind of okay with it because Belgorod Oblast was where most of the Russian Northern Group forces was stationed. It was their staging area to conduct their northeast operations and advance towards Kharkiv City and Kupiansk.

But the ISW kept pressing the Biden administration on a very important question. According to their calculations only 16% of Russian territory came under threat due to the limits placed on the usage of American weapons inside Russian territory:

  • The Biden Administration’s limited policy change permitting Ukraine to use US-provided weapons to strike some Russian military targets in a small area within Russian territory has reduced the size of Russia’s ground sanctuary by only 16 percent at maximum.
  • US policy still preserves at least 84 percent of Russia’s ground sanctuary — territory within range of Ukrainian ATACMS.
  • US policy restricting Ukraine’s usage of US-provided weapons has effectively created a vast sanctuary — territory in range of US-provided weapons but that Ukrainian forces are not allowed to strike with US-provided weapons — which Russia exploits to shield its combat forces, command and control, logistics, and rear area support services that the Russian military uses to conduct its military operations in Ukraine.
  • US policy still protects the vast majority of Russia’s operational rear and deep rear, and US policy forbids Ukraine from using ATACMS anywhere in Russia.

The Biden administration has now transitioned out of its limited reversal policy to a bit more generous reversal.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told PBS on Tuesday that the agreement with Ukraine about firing American weapons into Russia extends to “anywhere that Russian forces are coming across the border from the Russian side to the Ukrainian side to try to take additional Ukrainian territory.”

Russia has in recent days indicated it may soon move on the northeastern city of Sumy, which is also near the Russian border. If that happens, the policy would apply there as well, Sullivan said.

“This is not about geography. It’s about common sense. If Russia is attacking or about to attack from its territory into Ukraine, it only makes sense to allow Ukraine to hit back against the forces that are hitting it from across the border,” Sullivan said.

Once again, an important decision by the United States that has the ability to sap a ton of energy Russia has accumulated in the northeast. Without a proper staging area, Russia’s northern grouping forces will struggle immensely.

The Russian army does not have any fortifications in the northeast to hide behind. Their frontline troops have proven time and again that they do not have the ability to hold the line without miles and miles of trenches and kilometers and kilometers of minefields. The safety of the rear areas was their only advantage in the northeast, which was finally removed yesterday.

Not just Belgorod, but also Kursk and Bryansk Oblasts. This decision by the United States will allow Ukraine to use weapons from other partners as well. Since the Russian plan to advance towards Kharkhiv failed, the Russians were probably planning to open another front near Sumy, which is located around 140 kilometers from the current frontline in the northeast.

Once again, I have to report to you that I am going to change my assessment due to these developments. For weeks, I had written that the Russians will not withdraw from the northeast as it is a matter of pride for Putin and it is also his last chance to convince the West to strike a deal with him.

But the balance of war in the northeast has irrevocably tilted in favor of Ukraine, making it sensible for Putin to quietly withdraw from the northeast and find an innovative spin to explain the decision.

I have an idea for the Kremlin: due to the plight of Kharkiv residents, who are all Russians anyway, Putin could decide to withdraw from the northeast as he does not want to punish people for the mistakes committed by the West. Or something along those lines.

But there is one small hiccup pending from our side. The United States is yet to allow Ukraine to use ATACMS missiles against vital targets inside Russian territory.

The policy of not allowing long-range strikes inside Russia “has not changed,” US officials told Politico.

That is a bit of a confusing statement. The only way I can read this is that the administration has not yet relaxed its rules on Ukraine using their ATACMS missiles to target Russian airfields spread across Ukraine’s eastern border.

There are plenty of airfields that Ukraine can reach using ATACMS missiles. If there are enough missiles on hand, all the Russian airfields can be rendered nonoperational in a short period of time.

Credit: ISW

It will be a devastating blow to the Russian air force, forcing them to pull their jets deeper into their territory. The extra time the jets need before approaching the frontline will help Ukraine’s surveillance systems prepare and launch their counter-attacks against the Russian fighter jets.

But little by little, the administration has moved forward. Politico reported that allies pressured the Biden administration to relax its rules on targeting Russian sanctuaries used to attack Ukraine. Initially, they relaxed these rules for Belgorod Oblast. Now they have expanded it to cover Bryansk and Kursk Oblast, and hopefully, they will relax their rules on ATACMS missiles as well.

That would be one of the best possible ways to defeat the Russian air force, which is an extremely important objective for Ukraine.

Nevertheless, Ukraine can still inflict maximum pain on the Russian air force. They have indeed mastered the art of using air-defense systems to knock out Russian aircraft. With ten long-range air-defense systems and an expected annual supply of 700 to 1000 Patriot interceptors, Ukraine can knock out a good number of fighter jets if they approach the frontline. ATACMS can still be used to take out Russian air-defense systems stationed within range to hit the Ukrainian jets flying inside their territory.

I think I will gladly take this week’s position compared to our position two months ago. A whole lot of things have changed in a short period of time, and I really want to know what happened at the G7 summit.

Please share your thoughts. I would like to hear your views.

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Thanks for reading. Making critical information on Ukraine accessible is one way to fight misinformation. That’s why I’ve made 210 stories free to the public in 2024, including this one. Feel free to share it with anyone.

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Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.