Ukraine’s demands for more weapons run counter to US fears

WASHINGTON. The Ukrainians say they need faster deliveries of long-range artillery and other advanced weapons to halt Russia’s relentless advance. The United States and Europeans insist there will be more, but fear sending too much equipment before Ukrainian soldiers can complete their training. The Pentagon is concerned about the potential depletion of its stockpiles in the coming months.

The Biden administration and its allies are trying to balance their priorities with Kyiv’s demands as Russian forces intensify their bombing of towns and villages in eastern Ukraine, according to US and other Western diplomats, military officials and lawmakers.

U.S. officials say Ukraine could mount a counterattack and reclaim some (though not all) of the lost territory if it can continue to inflict bloody casualties on Russia until new weapons arrive from the West. But some officials are concerned that withdrawing too many Ukrainian artillerymen from the front lines for weeks of training in the new weapons could weaken Ukraine’s defenses, speed up Russia’s advance and make future counterattacks more difficult.

“There are no good options in a situation like this,” said Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee. “You should take your best artillery officers and enlisted personnel and send them out for a week or two of training. But in the long run, I think it’s probably the smarter move.”

In addition, Pentagon officials have expressed concern that US combat readiness could suffer if the war continues for months or longer. After two decades of supporting mostly counterterrorism missions, America’s defense industry has all but stopped making the weapons Ukraine will need to survive a long war of attrition. USA allowed $54 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine and sent more than $7 billion worth of weapons extracted from existing Pentagon stockpiles.

Ukraine’s urgent requests come at a time when the United States appears to have reached a breaking point in terms of the advanced weapons it provides. The following deliveries are to include truck-mounted multiple launch rocket systems called HIMARS, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and accurate Howitzer shells Excalibur. But fighter jets and advanced armed drones on Ukraine’s wish list have been shelved for now as too provocative for Moscow or too labor-intensive for Ukrainians to learn how to use.

The nearly five-month war is at a critical juncture, according to US officials and others familiar with the intelligence assessment. Between 100 and 200 Ukrainian soldiers have died every day since Russia shifted its military campaign to eastern Ukraine in the spring. But in general, about 20,000 Russians were killed. Wounds carried away from the battlefield about 60,000 more people. Almost a third of Russian equipment was destroyed in the course of the war, according to Western officials, including several who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

To replenish its military forces, Russia will have to mobilize more of its population by declaring war (officially the conflict remains a “special military operation”) or by moving troops and equipment from the High North or Far East to Ukraine.

That President Vladimir V. Putin is reluctant to take any action is a sign that he believes time is on his side, officials say. Instead of this The Kremlin is trying to fill the shortage of personnel with a ragtag mix of Ukrainians from separatist territories, mercenaries and National Guard paramilitaries, and the promise of large cash bonuses for volunteers.

mr. Putin may also think that Western support for Ukraine will soon reach its limit as Americans and Europeans become increasingly worried about energy prices, which have skyrocketed since the start of the war.

One sign of Mr. Putin’s current approach, according to people briefed on campaign assessments, is that the Kremlin is no longer pushing for quick wins on the battlefield, as it did at the start of its attempt to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. mr. In recent weeks, Putin has once again shuffled his top warlords in Ukraine, and US officials say the Russians have moved on to a slow, hard-line tactic that the Kremlin seems pleased with.

The Russian military relied heavily on its vast advantage in long-range artillery in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, strafing Ukrainian soldiers as well as cities and towns before attempting to engage.

In recent days, some Russian forces have reportedly taken on a strategic breakthrough. evaluation by the Institute for the Study of War, while others started shelling cities in Donetsk, territories in the Donbass.

Many of these Russian troops are slowing down their rearmament and reorganization after brutal artillery duels in the Luhansk part of Donbass, while The Kremlin is trying to fill the shortage of personnel continue the war.

“The Russians are literally scratching the bottom of the barrel looking for replacement soldiers and equipment,” said Frederick B. Hodges, a former senior US Army commander in Europe who now works at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

U.S. officials say it will be difficult for Ukraine to launch a counteroffensive in the near future, but it still has advantages. Throughout the war, the fighting has mostly benefited the defenders, who can inflict heavy casualties from well-defended positions. The Ukrainians used modern weapons of American and European design, including HIMARS and anti-tank missiles such as Javelin and NLAW, with deadly effectiveness against the Russians. But Russia’s superior firepower allowed her battered forces to advance.

The key to Ukraine’s survival and further slowing Russia’s advance will be additional Western training and equipment.

The first batch of Ukrainian soldiers arrived in the UK last week for a new program that officials say will eventually train up to 10,000 Ukrainian recruits in weapons handling, patrol tactics, first aid and other skills, the Defense Secretary recently said. UK Ben Wallace. .

“The UK’s response to Ukraine’s changing demands concerns both the equipment needed to create and maintain an effective response to Russian aggression, and the training needed to use the corresponding capabilities,” said Air Vice Marshal Meek Smith, British military attache in Washington.

U.S. intelligence agencies have struggled to gauge how quickly Ukrainian forces can absorb and use sophisticated U.S. hardware. HIMARS, a highly mobile artillery missile system, is the centerpiece of a slew of new Western long-range weapons that the Ukrainian military is moving to as their arsenal of Soviet howitzers and rocket munitions dwindle.

Truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers fire satellite-guided missiles that have a range of more than 40 miles, more than anything Ukraine has. First two games destruction of Russian ammunition depots, air defense and command posts said American and Ukrainian officials deep in the rear.

“HIMARS has already achieved HUGE results on the battlefield,” said Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov. tweet message on the weekend.

On Friday, the White House said it would send four more HIMARS from Pentagon warehouses. joining the eight already in Ukraine with their American-trained crews of about 100 Ukrainian soldiers. Administration officials privately report that more will be sent. Britain and Germany have pledged to supply three of these launchers.

Ukrainian officials, however, say they need as much like 300 multiple launch rocket systems to fight Russia, and some former Pentagon officials say 60 to 100 launchers are needed to thwart a Russian offensive.

BUT report Released last week by the London-based research organization Royal United Services Institute, warned that the well-intentioned supply of various artillery systems to Ukraine leads to unforeseen consequences.

“The current approach, in which each country donates a battery of guns piecemeal, is quickly turning into a logistical nightmare for Ukrainian forces, as each battery requires a separate training, maintenance and logistics system,” the report says.

The authors of the report, Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds, also concluded that Ukraine needs electronic warfare capabilities, such as jamming devices, to combat advanced Russian systems. The report says Ukrainian reconnaissance drones that help target Russian troops will only last about a week before Russian defenses force them to crash or shoot them down.

“Ukraine has the will to achieve the operational defeat of the Russian military,” the statement said. “However, at present, several of Russia’s strengths and Ukraine’s weaknesses are leading to a conflict of attrition that risks escalating into a protracted war, ultimately in Russia’s favour.”

John Ismay made a report.