As Russia’s foreign minister made it clear that Moscow’s territorial ambitions extend beyond Ukraine’s eastern territories, the United States said Wednesday it would send four more advanced multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine.
Rocket launchers, which can fire salvos comparable in devastating effect to an airstrike loaded with precision bombs, are part of a slew of new, longer-range weapons the United States has provided to the Ukrainian military. They highlight Washington’s determination to help counter Russian military might and President Vladimir Putin’s goal of subjugating Ukraine, a sovereign nation.
But with Russia making gradual but steady gains on the battlefield until recently, and with Ukraine’s Western allies struggling to keep up with Ukraine’s seemingly insatiable appetite for weapons, Ukraine faces an uphill struggle to achieve battlefield parity. And there is disagreement between Ukrainian and US officials over what that would require.
At a press briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said four more advanced multiple rocket launchers would increase the total provided by the United States to 16.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in June that Ukraine needed, among other things, 300 multiple launch rocket systems and 500 tanks to better compete with the forces Russia could field. This is several times more than promised to Ukraine.
Michael G. Vickers, a former senior Pentagon civilian counterinsurgency strategy official, said this month that the Ukrainians need at least 60, and possibly as many as 100 people. HIMARS or other multiple launch rocket systemsto win an artillery battle.
In connection with the arms transfers, the question also looms as to how long America’s resolve will last in the face of high gasoline prices and growing demands for national sacrifices in Europe and the United States. The Biden administration was also hesitant to provide weapons that could penetrate Russian territory and possibly spark a larger war.
A dozen M142 HIMARS – short for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems – have already been delivered from Pentagon warehouses and have already made a difference on the battlefield. Austin said. Ukrainian soldiers used them to destroy Russian command posts and ammunition depots. Each M142 HIMARS truck carries six guided missiles loaded with 200 pounds of explosives that can hit targets 50 miles away.
“It affects the pace of the fight and potentially creates some opportunities here. Austin said. “There’s a lot more to be done – one HIMARS won’t change, win or lose a fight.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said this week that the Ukrainian military needs at least 100 U.S. launchers to “change the rules of the game on the battlefield.” According to him, HIMARS and other missile launchers already sent to Ukraine helped destroy about 30 Russian command posts and ammunition depots.
“This significantly slowed down the advance of the Russians and drastically reduced the intensity of their artillery fire,” he said. Reznikov said this on Tuesday in an online interview with the Washington-based research group of the Atlantic Council. “So it’s working.”
As debate continues in the West about what is needed to deter Russian forces, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine now extend beyond the country’s eastern territories, contradicting earlier statements by the Kremlin that it is not war for imperial expansion.
As Ukraine stepped up attacks on Russian forces in southern Ukraine in a possible prelude to big counteroffensive, Mr. Lavrov said that Moscow is also eyeing the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions of southern Ukraine, some of which are occupied by Russian troops, as well as “a number of other territories.”
Eric Schmitt made a report.