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Ukraine War: US And Allies Contemplate Supplying Longer-Range Missiles

Story Highlights
  • Danilov kept track of how Ukraine's needs changed from the beginning, when it was fighting desperately against Russia's invasion force
  • Russia has shown that it can adjust to changes in the way the Ukrainians do things.

Sounds coming from Washington suggest that US President Joe Biden may soon change his mind about not giving Ukraine the long-range weapons it needs so badly.

September 11 that “an official familiar with the discussions” said that a final decision had not yet been made about sending army tactical missile systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine. But there is “a much bigger chance of it happening now than there was before… I don’t know when though.”

The slow progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the spring and summer has shown the need for more weapons. In particular, Ukraine wants missiles that can hit Russia’s “deep rear,” which would let Kyiv go after Russian field offices and supply depots.

In a piece for Geopolitical Intelligence Services (GIS), a think tank based in Lichtenstein, that came out in August, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, made a list of weapons systems that the country needs. This included different kinds of ammo and artillery shells, missile systems with a longer range, cruise missiles, multipurpose planes, helicopters, and drones (Danilov said Russia had five times as many drones as the U.S.).

Kyiv is also looking for high-tech robots to help clear mines, and it wants its friends to set up places where western weapons can be maintained and fixed in countries that border Ukraine.

In the summer of 2022, the US sent guided multiple launch rocket systems, which are 70km-long missiles that can be fired from Himars (high-mobility artillery rocket systems). These were used to hit Russian supply centers that were previously too far away for artillery fire to reach. This meant that Russia had to move ammunition stores and other important places.

But ATACMS, which can also be launched from Himars and have a range of up to 300 km, would make it very hard for Russia to protect its lines in the south. This could be very important as Ukrainian troops try to break through and move 100 km toward the Sea of Azov.

Change of heart

Biden was at first reluctant to give the US longer-range missile systems because the US was worried that the ATACMS could be used to hit targets deep in Russian territory, which could lead to a bigger conflict. But Ukraine’s plan to use drones made in Ukraine to hit inside Russia shows that it knows why the US is hesitant.

And Ukraine already has some missiles with a longer range, like the Storm Shadow cruise missiles that came from the UK and are thought to have been used in a recent attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet bases in Sevastopol. Two ships, a Ropucha-class landing ship and a Kilo-class submarine, were damaged so badly that they might not be able to be fixed.

Biden’s decision to change the US position on letting NATO allies give Ukraine F-16 fighter jets shows that the US and, by extension, NATO are aware that Ukraine needs a lot more weapons if it wants its 2023 counteroffensive to be successful sooner rather than later.

At the same time, the German government is thinking about giving Ukraine Taurus cruise missiles, which can move toward their targets on their own. Taurus rockets can hit targets up to 500 kilometers away.

Again, range and the fear of escalation seem to be a problem, and the German government is thinking about changing the system to make it less powerful. It is said that the Taurus flies 35 meters above the ground, which makes it hard for radar systems to track, and that it can fly at 727mph.

Pressure from Kyiv

Since Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, the story has always been about how the country needs more and better weapons. Oleksiy Danilov said in his August piece, “Why Ukraine Needs Weapons Right Now,” that it was “clearly in the self-interest of UN members to help Ukraine defend itself.” He based this on piece 51 of the UN Charter.

Danilov kept track of how Ukraine’s needs changed from the beginning, when it was fighting desperately against Russia’s invasion force, which had much better weapons, to the present, when Ukrainian forces are trying to break through Russian defenses.

He also said what many people have been saying for a long time: “If Ukraine can reach the goals of its current offensive operation, it will be able to keep the attention and help of western countries for a long time.”

Russia has shown that it can adjust to changes in the way the Ukrainians do things. But if Ukraine used ATACMs, Taurus cruise missiles, and other missiles with a longer range, it would be able to hit targets all over the part of Ukraine that is controlled by Russia. This includes Crimea, as shown by the recent attack on Sevastopol, which was a success.

To do this, Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, keeps putting pressure on Biden and other NATO leaders. He said recently that his country is thankful for any help from the west, but that delays caused by politics are costing Ukraine a lot in terms of the lives of its troops and the speed of its counteroffensive.

“We waited… for too long. That’s right. I’m grateful to the United States, the European Union, and other partners. I’m very grateful to President Biden and Congress, but we have to realize that we waited too long and the Russians put in mines because of it.”

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