Politics

US plans to send rocket systems to Ukraine

The White House wrestled for months over whether to send weapons to Ukraine that would allow for greater offensive capabilities. The Biden administration, and the West more generally, have so far refused to provide the longer-range munitions that Kyiv desperately wants, including air power. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke out against the US decision not to fill Poland with F-16s when Ukraine requested Polish MiG-29 fighter jets early in the war. But despite sending billions of dollars worth of military equipment to the front, Washington fears pushing Vladimir Putin to commit further atrocities or switch to chemical or nuclear weapons if Ukraine launches larger-scale attacks inside. of Russia.

A new military and humanitarian aid program is expected to be announced next week, the first tranche of the A $40 billion package approved by Congress and signed by Biden this month.

On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stressed that no final decision has been made.

“When it’s decided, it’s decided, and then we’ll – then we’ll talk about it,” Kirby said.

CNN reported Thursday that the administration is taking steps to approve MLRS for Ukraine. POLITICO reported this month that the White House had grappled with the request, which frustrated Ukrainians.

The approval of the rocket system would be the latest in a series of on-the-fly revisions to what the Biden administration has said it is comfortable supplying Ukrainian forces with, from defensive weapons to howitzers and helicopters armed drones.

Part of the gradual change in mentality results from the duration and nature of the war. Before the Russian invasion, Western governments gave the Ukrainian army only a few days before it collapsed under the weight of the Russian army once they crossed the border. But a combination of staggering Russian incompetence and relentless Ukrainian resistance bolstered by Western weaponry has now pushed the war into its bloody fourth month.

While the fighting has taken nearly everyone from Moscow to Washington by surprise, it has also meant that Western nations eager to help Kyiv have had to constantly reassess what they are prepared to send.

It remains unclear how many MLRS might be sent to Ukraine and when. Fourteen countries currently operate the M270 MLRS manufactured by Lockheed Martin, which was first produced for the US military in 1983.

The mobile tracked system can fire 12 guided rockets in less than a minute and can move quickly again before enemy artillery can concentrate on its location. This mobility would probably play a huge role in the fighting in the Donbass, which turned into a long-range artillery duel.

Ukrainian forces are already using multiple rocket weapons inherited from the former Soviet Union, and the United States recently financed the purchase of the MLRS “Smerch” from an unnamed allied country to send to the front lines. The Smerch can fire rockets up to 50 miles.

Kyiv officials have been asking for the MLRS and the lighter, high-mobility artillery rocket system since before the Feb. 24 Russian invasion, but the Biden administration has so far held back.

The White House worried about the range of the MLRS, which if placed near the border could fire deep into Russia, which Biden’s team thought would be too provocative for the Kremlin.

There is also the cost. The $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian aid approved by the White House in early March provided millions of cartridges, errant drones, 105 howitzer guns and around 200,000 artillery shells. An administration official said the idea was that the huge artillery package could have a bigger impact than sending in a handful of MLRS which the Ukrainians would likely need more training on.

In Donbass, howitzers played a key role in crushing an entire Russian brigade as it attempted to cross a pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River, potentially killing more than 400 Russian soldiers and destroying dozens of tanks and of armored vehicles.


Politico

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William

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