In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday, March 21, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

By Charles Nwabardi

The move by the United States to send artillery to Ukraine aims to degrade Russian forces — not only on the immediate battlefield but over the longer term, according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and military experts.

The United States, France, Czech Republic and other allies are sending scores of the long-range howitzers to help Ukraine blunt Russia’s mounting offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

Backed by better air defense, attack drones and Western intelligence, the allies hope that Kyiv will be able to destroy a large amount of Russia’s firepower in the looming showdown.

After returning from Kyiv, where he met Ukraine defense chiefs and President Volodymyr Zelensky, Austin told journalists in Poland early Monday that Washington’s hopes are larger than that.

Russia “has already lost a lot of military capability, and a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability,” Austin said.

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”

That is a shift from Washington’s initial approach, when they simply hoped to help prevent Moscow’s seizure of the Ukrainian capital and the overthrow of Zelensky’s government.

In fact, aided by anti-aircraft and anti-armor missiles supplied by the United States and European allies, Ukrainian troops forced the Russian military to withdraw from northern Ukraine within six weeks of the February 24 invasion.

But Moscow now controls significant swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine, apparently aiming to expand to the center of the country by sending in more troops and equipment.

Their plan, experts believe, is to use long-range shelling to drive back most of Ukraine’s forces and only then send in ground troops and tanks to secure the land.

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