Rasmussen will meet with US officials in Washington this week. He is on assignment from Kyiv, where he worked with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s top adviser, Andriy Yermak, to develop the Kyiv Security Pact. The plan encourages Western powers to commit to long-term security guarantees with Ukraine, including continued material support for the war effort and reconstruction of the Ukrainian defense industry so that the country can start manufacturing and providing its own weapons. in the next years.
“We need to hand over all the assets that the Ukrainians need to protect themselves against these missile attacks from Russia,” he added.
No new air defense capabilities were included in the Biden administration’s $625 million military aid package announced Tuesday, which instead focused on precision rocket and artillery systems and munitions. Those weapons and ammunition will be critical in the coming weeks as Ukrainian forces continue their counteroffensives.
However, Kyiv is scheduled to receive two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems made by Raytheon by November, Defense Department officials said. The systems can shoot down drones, missiles and helicopters, which is just what Ukraine is after.
However, there are concerns that those systems, along with six more scheduled to be contracted and delivered in the future, may not arrive quickly enough to give Ukraine the air cover it needs.
The first two NASAMS this fall “are not air defense enough,” said a Ukrainian adviser who asked to speak anonymously to discuss the weapons deliveries. “We’re not talking about Stingers here. We are talking about something that has medium and high ranges”.
Those weapons will likely take time to arrive. Western countries are reluctant to give up their own advanced missile defense capabilities. Also, hiring, building, and training teams on how to operate them takes years.
The Biden administration has been deliberately arming Ukraine, sending artillery and ammunition for the immediate fight and contracting with the defense industry for weapons like NASAMS. It’s a two-pronged strategy that officials say meets Kyiv’s immediate needs while establishing a steady stream of weaponry for years to come. The United States is also holding quiet talks with Ukraine and the defense industry about whether it will eventually acquire capabilities like Patriot batteries and F-16 fighter jets.
Asked for comment on the Ukrainian requests for the winter, a senior Defense Department official noted that the United States has provided air defense radars for Ukraine along with the two NASAMS. The US also helped with the transfer of a Slovakian S-300 air defense system in April, after which the US, Germany and the Netherlands deployed their own Patriot batteries to Slovakia to support the country’s air defense. .
The US and its allies have fallen short on Patriot air defense systems, and in the US Army, Patriot batteries have for years been the most widely deployed unit, as commanders around the world They cry for the gun. Likewise, NATO allies operating the system have been careful about when and where to deploy their own batteries.
If Putin launches a new missile campaign against critical infrastructure, the dangers to civilians will be greater than ever, the Defense Department official said, as “Russian stockpiles of precision-guided munitions are running low, so attacks are becoming even more indiscriminate.
The official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said “Russia has targeted civilian infrastructure throughout this campaign, so it’s not a leap to think they will continue.”
And the Russian missiles continue to fall. One of the deadliest attacks in recent months came last Friday, when at least 30 people were killed and more than 100 wounded when Russian missiles hit a convoy of civilian vehicles near the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia. Amnesty International confirmed that the vehicles were providing humanitarian aid far behind the front lines.
Given Ukraine’s sheer size and hundreds of kilometers of front lines, it is impossible to protect everything from missile attacks launched by Russian submarines in the Black Sea and long-range bombers flying close to Ukraine’s borders.
However, the lack of capabilities is not just Ukraine’s problem, which could cause further delays in urgently shipping equipment to the country. Over the past two decades, the US and its allies have “deprioritized short-range air defense and domestic cruise missile defense, and regional cruise missile defense lags far behind,” said Tom Karako of the Center of Strategic and International Studies. “So what has Ukraine taught us? It turns out that there is a huge demand for anti-aircraft defense” that cannot be met easily or quickly.
“We can help the Ukrainians with javelins and stingers because they have been sitting in the barn for decades, but we don’t just have things in the barn” for cruise and ballistic missile defense, Karako said.
The attack in Zaporizhzhia strikes at the heart of Ukraine’s concerns and the difficulty of predicting Putin’s next moves. The attack came on the same day that Russia declared it was annexing four territories in Ukraine, even as Ukrainian forces continued to push deep into those areas.
Putin’s announcement and his promises to defend Russian territory corner the Kremlin. “It represents a point of no return for the [Russian] regime where its minimal war goals are fundamentally incompatible with Ukraine’s and cannot now be easily revised,” said Michael Kofman of the CNA think tank.
One of the capabilities that can be delivered to Ukraine relatively quickly and in large numbers is German-made Leopard tanks, Rasmussen said, though Berlin still refuses to deliver them, citing a lack of heavy armor donated by other major powers.
The issue, as well as air defenses, is expected to be on the table at next week’s NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels, which will also feature a meeting of Ukraine’s 50-nation Defense Contact Group while deals with how to equip Ukraine. for the next steps in the war and the long and uncertain winter months ahead.
“As a European, I am embarrassed by what I would consider very modest European contributions” to the fight in Ukraine, Rasmussen said. “While I have to admit it has increased in recent months, the Germans could do more. They should deliver the Leopard tanks and France should deliver more Caesar mobile howitzers.” “The Ukrainians desperately need those capabilities, so I hope the two countries step up their efforts.”
Rasmussen said the plan he and Yermak delivered to Zelenskyy would ultimately remove pressure from Europe and the US to equip the Ukrainian military, since rebuilding the shattered Ukrainian industrial base would allow Kyiv to provide its own defense. Rasmussen kicked off his tour of Western capitals in Washington, visiting the White House and Capitol, before heading to Europe to present the plan.
“It is important to tell Putin that this is not just a year of arms deliveries from the West, and we are not talking about deploying our troops on Ukrainian soil,” he said. “It’s really to make them capable of defending themselves” in the long run.