DENVER – Congressman Jason Crow said Wednesday Russia is regrouping and will likely ramp up its attack on Ukraine and resort to what he called “siege tactics,” but he was adamant that attempting to set up a U.S. and NATO “no fly zone,” as some have suggested, is not tenable.
The Democratic congressman, who sits on the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees, provided an update to reporters Wednesday on the latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the American and transatlantic response after House members received a classified briefing on Monday night.
Crow said the U.S. has now either approved, allocated or delivered more than $1 billion in military provisions and supplies for Ukraine, which he called a vast increase, and he praised what he called the “unprecedented response” by the international community to sanction and isolate Russia.
“Never before in history have we seen the quantity, the scope, and the type of sanctions that we’re seeing levied by European countries, the international community against Russia,” Crow said. “…It’s never been more clear and [the NATO] alliance has never been more unified about its purpose, about its moral thrust and the resolve that it must show to stand against autocracy and assaults on democracy, both literal and figurative.”
Crow said the international response, including Finland and Sweden talking about joining NATO, shows that Putin grossly miscalculated his own military’s capabilities as well as the Ukrainians’ will to fight back. Putin also misjudged what the international response would be to his invasion and his plans to drive a wedge into NATO nations has conversely led to increased cohesion, Crow said.
He was part of a House Intelligence Committee delegation that traveled to Ukraine in December to meet with Ukrainian officials to determine what kind of support they might need as U.S. intelligence continued to predict a Russian invasion.
Crow also attended the Munich Security Conference in the days leading up to the invasion to talk with NATO countries and other U.S. partners on how to work together in the face of what the U.S. was saying was an imminent invasion, though some other countries still doubted the intelligence released by the U.S. and discussed publicly by President Joe Biden.
Crow could not discuss the classified and more sensitive information he learned at Monday’s briefing Wednesday but was able to discuss some of the latest developments that are unclassified.
Crow said Russia has faced substantial supply chain issues moving into Ukraine and said it was “clear” that many Russian soldiers had not been briefed that their exercises amounted to an invasion of Ukraine – a notion that has been backed up by some videos released of Russian soldiers telling Ukrainians they did not know they were invading Ukraine. Russia had staged what it called military exercises in Belarus in the weeks before the invasion.
Crow said that has left morale low among Russian soldiers. Russia has also failed to establish control of the airspace and supply chains, and has not kept good momentum during its invasion – partially because what Crow called the “surprise” of how fierce the Ukrainian resistance has been.
The congressman and former Army Ranger said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has risen to the occasion and “proven himself to be one of the most effective wartime leaders of certainly the 21st Century, but of several generations.”
“[Zelenskyy] is doing an amazing, amazing job,” Crow said.
He said the U.S. officials believe Russia has allocated about 80% of its troops into battle thus far. But based on the latest briefings on Ukraine, Crow said he believes that despite the initial miscalculations from Russia on the invasion, the Russian military is reinforcing itself, re-equipping itself, adapting to Ukrainian tactics and regrouping.
“I think we have every reason to believe that Vladimir Putin will continue the aggressive push and will actually ramp up the brutality of the invasion and resort to siege tactics and indiscriminate attacks on civilian population in violation of international law to achieve his ends,” Crow said.
Crow said the Ukrainian resistance remains “fierce” but said NATO and the European Union must continue to supply more weapons and equipment as Ukraine run low. He said he believes Ukrainian army and volunteer forces will shift to more of a resistance-type warfare and hopes that Ukraine will move more of its of forces from the east to the west to help Kyiv and Kharkiv, which have faced heavy attacks the past few days.
Crow believes the current invasion has been on Putin’s mind for decades.
“This is the culmination of his life’s work and legacy, in his own mind, in taking Ukraine and reestablishing the Soviet empire as he sees it, as essential to his legacy,” he said.
But as some discuss committing U.S. and NATO forces to join the air fight in Ukraine to help keep the Russians from overtaking the Ukrainian airspace, Crow said he does not believe that is a legitimate option.
“My thought is very clear. We do not have the capability, nor should we attempt, to set up a no fly zone. Those that are talking about that don’t fully understand what that means and how you do that,” Crow said. “…That would immediately put us in to a war time footing with Russia. And we’d be in a position of the two largest nuclear powers being in all-out war in Europe. That is not a tenable situation. It’s incredibly escalatory and extremely dangerous.”
But he said the western allies should focus on upping the humanitarian relief efforts for the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have already left the country and those who will in the coming days and weeks should the Russian invasion continue and should Russians continue targeting civilians.
Crow said between 500,000 and 700,000 Ukrainians have already left into nearby countries, including Poland, Romania, and Moldova, and that he believes that number “will balloon to several times that in the weeks ahead.”
Colorado’s U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper were among 39 senators who wrote to President Biden earlier this week calling on the U.S. to give Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainians already in the U.S. so they don’t have to return to Ukraine during the invasion and ongoing conflict.