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After completing the conquest of Lugansk province in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to rest and issued a sort of challenge to Ukrainian NATO supporters. “Today we learn that they want to defeat us on the battlefield,” he said on Thursday. “What can you say? Let them try. President Biden responded to Mr. Putin a day later in exactly the right way: by announcing a additional military aid package for Kyiv worth $400 million, which included four new HIMARS long-range rocket launchers. This will bring the total number of US HIMARS transferred to Ukraine to 12; the German and British governments have promised similar systems.

Mr. Biden’s announcement, which was not unexpected, makes sense both tactically and strategically. Tactically, the war in Ukraine turned into a bloody artillery duel, with Russia maintaining the advantage due to its superior amounts of weapons systems and ammunition. Repelled four months ago by its failed attempts to engulf the entire country – including Kyiv, the capital – via a combined air, sea and land attack, Russia has found greater success in bombarding entire swaths of south- east of the Ukraine to subjugate them, though at great cost to his men and material. The HIMARS system, capable of firing precisely targeted missiles at a range of more than 40 miles, can help Ukraine counter primitive attacks from Moscow, primarily by blowing up depots where it stores ammunition. Admittedly, it takes a few weeks to train Ukrainian troops to operate the HIMARS, but they have reportedly used them to destroy many Russian weapons warehouses in recent days, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noting that they are “work very powerfully.”

The ramping up of HIMARS supplies is right in a longer-term strategic sense, because the only hope for an eventual peace on terms favorable to Ukraine lies in making this war too costly for Mr. Putin can continue. On this too, Mr Putin was full of bluster on Thursday, saying he “is not rejecting peace talks, but those who are should know that the longer it goes, the harder it will be to reach an agreement with we”. His belief that time is on Russia’s side is both seemingly sincere and—unfortunately—not without rational basis. Economic sanctions harm Russia but also the Western countries that imposed them; Ukraine is suffering huge losses. Mr. Putin has long believed that the fall of the Soviet Union was a failure not of the system but of the will of its leaders, which he will not repeat. There may be no way to cure him of these beliefs, but if there is, it is to completely punish his aggression.

The other reason to build Ukraine’s capabilities, urgently and substantially, is that Kyiv forces must have a chance to counterattack after the Russian offensive has stalled, which it is. maybe already doing. The Ukrainian army is pushing towards Russian-held territory in the southwest, near the strategic city of Kherson, and there is hope that it can still be retaken. The decision to negotiate an end to the war rests, as Mr. Biden has repeatedly acknowledged, with Ukraine. However, it is up to Washington to allow Ukraine to do so from a position of strength.