But it has amplified fears in the region, and in the United States, that a miscalculation could drastically widen the war. Thousands of US troops have been sent to Poland and other countries along the alliance’s eastern edge, and President Biden and other Western leaders have maintained that a Russian attack on one would invite a ferocious response.
The senior US defense official said Russia’s fusillade targeting the International Peacekeeping and Security Center has not altered the US force posture in Poland. The official said that “more than a couple dozen” missiles were launched.
The facility has been used in the past by US and NATO troops to provide training for the Ukrainian military and currently houses about 1,000 foreign volunteers who have traveled to Ukraine to aid in its war with Russia. The senior defense official said the Pentagon would “not have a way of knowing or tracking” whether any American citizens were among those killed or wounded in the attack, though he affirmed earlier statements indicating that no US troops, government officials or defense contractors were at Yavoriv when the strike occurred.
The facility is not a transit point for Western military aid, the senior US defense official said, contradicting Russian Defense Ministry claims that the base was used as a weapons and equipment depot. Russian officials have warned that they consider weapons shipments “legitimate targets.”
US and European officials have not disclosed any shipment routes into Ukraine, so it is unclear whether the facility had been a hub for weapons in the past.
“I would just tell you that we have multiple routes to get security assistance into the hands of the Ukrainians,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a news briefing Monday afternoon. “This was not one of them.”
That the attack originated in Russian airspace underscored the limitations of enforcing a no-fly zone in Ukraine, the senior defense official said. The Biden administration has refused repeated pleas from Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and some US lawmakers who support using American warplanes to police the airspace. Others in Congress concur with the Pentagon’s assessment that such an operation would risk a direct confrontation between US and Russian aircraft.
“A no-fly zone would not stop all of the air activity,” the senior defense official said Monday. “It would engender US pilots in combat with Russia.”
Western Ukraine and its major city, Lviv, have become a transit point for civilians fleeing the war elsewhere in the country, but recent strikes have shattered the notion that the area will remain a refuge.
“This is the third now military facility or airfield that the Russians have struck in western Ukraine in just the last couple of days,” Kirby said Sunday. “So clearly, at least from an airstrike perspective, they’re broadening their target sets.”