The time to "escalate" lethal weapons aid to Ukraine to "push Russia out" is now, because the costs of a prolonged conflict are ultimately going to be more the longer the conflict goes on, according to retired Gen. Wesley Clark on CNN.
"This war is going to go on a long time, and our problem is we are not giving the Ukrainians enough of what they need to get a jump on the Russians before the additional reinforcements coming in," Clark said Saturday.
"As this drags on and the casualties mount, it becomes harder and harder to be able to keep the Ukrainians supplied, winning, and going after this," he added, noting NATO Secretary Gen. Jens Stoltenberg is making the same plea from the European members in the alliance to end this sooner than later.
"So there is a weakness now in the Russian forces, and what the secretary general is saying and what I'm saying is get that support escalated now, so they can take advantage of the weakness before we end up with a one-year, two-year, or three-year struggle on the front lines of Ukraine."
President Joe Biden has balked at supplying longer-range missiles to Ukraine, perhaps because Russia's Vladimir Putin has threatened against attacks on Russia territory might lead them to use tactical nuclear weapons.
"The best way to avoid it is to escalate our assistance to Ukraine now, so they can push the Russians back out," Clark said.
"We should tell Russia very clearly: 'You have to get out. Aggression is not permitted. You cannot absorb Ukraine. We need to have the courage to say this. Whether or not we want to enforce it tomorrow, or next month or whenever, it's still what we stand for in the rules-based international order."
There is plenty the U.S. can do to step up its weapons supplies to Ukraine, according to Clark.
"Well, they've talked about tanks, more artillery, more artillery ammunition, longer-range missiles," he said. "They need aircraft. They need more effective kamikaze drones, like the Switchblade 600, which we've been talking about for six months but still is not there.
"So there are many different tools we could provide, but we seem to modulate it, because we're afraid that they will do too much and will provoke Mr. Putin to do more."
Being cautious against increased Russian aggression is a failed approach by the Biden administration, Clark continued.
"I think we're at the stage in this that we can see that that strategy is only going to produce a prolonged conflict," he said. "We have a window of opportunity here. We should take it to get military leverage and then put a diplomatic team together that tells the Russians, 'You've got to leave; it's over.'"
The U.S. has a limitless ability to "indefinitely" supply Ukraine, so it might as well do it now to end the conflict sooner, Clark concluded.
"There is no question we can keep this level of support at where it is and we can ramp it up considerably," he said. "We just have to get our industrial bases mobilized just a little bit more, produce a little bit more."
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