Ukraine Won’t Get Key Weapons From $1 Billion Aid For Months
Russia’s artillery fire in Ukraine has intensified, and President Joe Biden said Wednesday that America would provide $1 billion of military aid to Ukraine. Artillery, rocket systems, coastal defense weapons and ammunition will be part of the latest arms package, which Ukrainian officials have pleaded for amidst Moscow’s attack.
Two Harpoon anti–ship missiles will be delivered to Ukrainian forces. This will be the first-ever delivery of two Harpoon vehicle-mounted anti-ship missiles. Kyiv is hoping that it will push aside 20 Russian warships blocking their Black Sea ports. Ukraine is one of the most important grain suppliers in the Middle East and Africa. The new land-based weapon may allow it to resume supply to these regions.
Despite Ukraine’s urgent need, however, the Harpoons won’t reach the battlefield for several months, U.S. officials told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday. To allow Ukrainian troops to use this weapon, the Pentagon first needs to purchase Harpoon launchers. Then, European allies must prepare to deliver missiles or other equipment. After that, Ukrainian troops will go through a weeks-long training course outside of Ukraine at other European military bases on how to operate the systems—just as they do with other high-end, American-made arms.
This slow process frustrates Ukrainian leaders, who claim that the weapons take too much time to reach the frontlines. Officials on both sides agree that speeding up deliveries is essential, particularly in this stage of the four-month-long battle with Russia. Over the last several weeks, Russian forces have captured new territory in Ukraine’s eastern industrial Donbas area as the grinding conflict takes a turn in Moscow’s favor.
“The losses, unfortunately, are painful. However, we must keep going. This is our state,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday in his nightly address. “It is vital to hold on there, in Donbas. The more losses the enemy suffers there, the less power they will have to continue the aggression.”
As he did almost every night, he called on the West to provide more weapons faster to defend his homeland against the Russian opponent that outnumbers him and outguns him. “Delay with its provision cannot be justified,” he said. “I will constantly emphasize this when talking to our partners.”
Continue reading: TIME’s Interview with Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said in a televised address Tuesday that military forces have received only 10% of military assistance requested from Western allies. Weapons are crucial to changing the course of war which has turned into an artillery duel. Malyar explained Ukraine fires 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day—while Russia fires 10 times as many. “No matter how much effort Ukraine makes, no matter how professional our army, without the help of Western partners we will not be able to win this war,” Malyar said.
However, the U.S. is planning to send 18 more M777 Howitzers as well as 36,000 rounds (150 millimeter) of ammunition along with them. It’s unclear if this will happen soon enough. “We’re likely to be in this phase for a while, the Russian gains continue to be incremental,” a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday. “And we believe that when these capabilities do arrive, they will make a significant difference and that they will arrive in time to do so.”
Russian forces now control the eastern city Sievierodonetsk. The Russians have blocked exit routes to thousands of civilians. Getting increased firepower is essential to blunt Russia’s advance, Zelensky told fellow Ukrainians, and determine “who will dominate in the coming weeks.” At least 4,452 civilians, including more than 200 children, have been killed in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion, according to the United Nations human rights office, though the agency acknowledges the real death toll is likely much higher.
Continue reading: ‘Hope Gives You the Strength to Act.’ Portraits of Russians Risking Everything to Support Ukraine
U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke Wednesday at a Brussels conference where over 45 nations met to discuss Ukraine support. Austin stated that NATO and the United States are working together in order to provide Ukraine with what it needs. “We have on a number of occasions gone down line by line what they need that is relevant in this fight,” Austin said. “So we feel pretty confident that we’re working hard to give them what they think is relevant.”
Austin, a retired four-star Army general, who was standing next to U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley, offered his personal reflection on the Ukrainian military’s feelings about the lack of weaponry. “General Milley and I have been in a number of fights,” he said. “And when you’re in a fight, you can never get enough.”
Although Ukraine is not part of NATO, the Biden Administration gradually increased the number and quality of arms that they will provide Kyiv. Over $6 billion has been provided to Ukraine by the U.S. since Biden assumed office in January. In many cases, the weaponry is much more advanced than the Soviet-era systems that makes up Ukraine’s existing arsenal. It requires intensive operational and maintenance training—and even then, front-line troops may not feel as comfortable using the fresh equipment.
Biden Administration on June 1 announced that four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems would be sent to the frontlines. This will roughly double the range for the Ukrainians’ current artillery. HIMARS takes several weeks of training, however, and the weapon is not expected to arrive to the frontlines—at the earliest—until the end of June.
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