NATO turns to sending Ukrainian air defenses after Russian missile attacks

In response, the alliance plans to discuss how best to protect Ukrainian infrastructure from deadly strikes, Ambassador Julianne Smith said. Air defenses appeared as the most likely delivery in the near future.

“Now we come back to air defence,” Smith told a briefing hosted by his office, noting that in previous phases NATO’s response focused on what Ukraine needed at specific times. of war, namely ammunition and coastal defence. Air defenses will form the “heart of tomorrow’s conversation”, the first of two days of meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Events will include a meeting of NATO defense ministers, as well as the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group, a gathering of military leaders led by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The challenge: The West has few air defense systems available for immediate donation, said Tom Karako, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. For example, Ukraine requested the US Patriot missile defense system, but Washington repeatedly refused due to the relative rarity of the system, among other reasons.

Other immediate possibilities include the tail of the German infrared imaging system, a short and medium range infrared homing air-to-air missile, or the American Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system. Israel’s Iron Dome would also do, but Tel Aviv would have to reject this proposal.

“There’s not enough room for everyone,” Karako said.

The vast majority of strikes in Ukraine over the weekend were carried out using cruise missiles launched by bombers flying deep into Russian airspace, spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. of the National Security Council. Ukrainian air defenses were able to shoot down some of the incoming missiles, Kirby said, but noted that “there is no silver bullet weapon system” to counter the threat.

The US military still hasn’t fully solved the problem of protecting its own people from missile and drone attacks, especially in the Middle East. Iranian drones and cruise missiles pose a continuing threat to American personnel and infrastructure.

The West could “MacGyver” together an air defense solution for Ukraine by combining different capabilities, Karako said. But the question is what different countries will be willing to give up of their own supply.

“We and the Ukrainians are now paying the price for the last two decades of inattention to air defense and cruise missile defense,” Karako said. “We’ve taken air superiority for granted for far too long and this is what it looks like when you come up against an enemy with lots of air power and missiles. Lo and behold, air defense is in high demand.

Yet Zelenskyy is pressuring G-7 nations to quickly provide air defenses. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was “urgent” for these systems to arrive in Ukraine.

“There is a range of priority capabilities that this phase and the next phase of the war would suggest emphasizing, and some more advanced air defenses would be among them,” said Barry Pavel of the RAND Corporation.

Following its successful counter-offensives in the east and south, Kyiv reshuffled its weapons wish list as it prepared for Russia to strike civilian targets, POLITICO reported last weekwith air defenses firing at the top of the list.

Kyiv has renewed its urgent request for these capacities Monday, according to a congressional aide and Ukrainian adviser, who was not authorized to speak officially. Foreign Police broke the news for the first time. Ukraine is specifically pushing the United States to expedite the delivery of two national advanced surface-to-air missile systems expected to arrive next month.

Kyiv also requested C-RAM and the Avenger, a vehicle-mounted short-range mobile air defense system, according to the congressional aide.

US officials said they were moving equipment to Ukraine as soon as possible and noted that Ukraine was already using existing systems to defend against missile attacks. For example, a video on Twitter showed the Ukrainian army shoot down an incoming cruise missile with the shoulder-fired Igla surface-to-air missile system.

Kirby pointed out that the United States and Western allies have already provided air defenses to Ukraine, including shoulder-fired American Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and an S-300 missile system from Slovakia. The United States has also contracted Raytheon to build eight more NASAMSs, Kirby said, but the Pentagon has said the systems won’t arrive for years.

“We will continue to work with them on additional requirements in the future and that would include continuing to talk to them about additional air defense capabilities,” Kirby said. “I have no other announcements to make.

Lawmakers also called on the Biden administration on Tuesday to send more sophisticated weapons to Kyiv immediately after the barrage of Russian missile attacks. Sen. jim risch (R-Idaho) urged Biden to send longer-range air defenses and fighter jets.

“Putin’s barrage of strikes against civilian structures in Ukraine today, including a children’s playground and water and electricity plants, is proof that Russia is a terrorist state committing acts genocide,” Risch said in a statement. “Better armament and equipment from Ukraine will help save lives and give Ukraine the ability to end this war sooner. The Biden administration can and must do more to defend Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) urged the West to send in longer-range artillery and additional air defense systems.

“Putin must be made to understand that such a brutal escalation and war crimes will not break the support of the United States and the free world for Ukraine,” he said in a statement.

Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.

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