While Russia’s foreign minister has made it clear that Moscow’s territorial ambitions extend beyond Ukraine’s eastern territories, the United States said on Wednesday it would send four more advanced multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine.
The rocket launchers, which can unleash salvoes that rival the devastating effect of an airstrike from an aircraft loaded with precision-guided bombs, are part of a set of new, longer-range weapons that states United supplied the Ukrainian army outdated. They underscore Washington’s determination to help counter Russian military might and President Vladimir V. Putin’s goal of subjugating sovereign Ukraine.
But as Russia until recently made incremental but steady gains on the battlefield and Ukraine’s Western allies struggled to keep up with Ukraine’s seemingly insatiable appetite for arms, Ukraine faces an uphill struggle to achieve parity on the battlefield. And there are disagreements between Ukrainian and American officials over what that would take.
During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said the four more advanced multiple rocket launchers would bring the total number provided by the United States to 16.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in June that Ukraine needed 300 multiple rocket launchers and 500 tanks, among other things, to better compete with the forces Russia can deploy. This is several times more than what was promised to Ukraine.
Michael G. Vickers, the Pentagon’s former top civilian counterinsurgency strategy official, said this month that the Ukrainians need at least 60, and possibly as many as 100, HIMARS or other multiple launch rocket systems, to win the artillery battle.
The question of how long American resolve will last in the face of high gasoline prices and growing demands for national sacrifice in Europe and the United States also arises on arms transfers. The Biden administration has also been reluctant to supply weapons that could reach Russian territory and, potentially, spark a wider war.
The dozen M142 HIMARS – an acronym for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems – already supplied from Pentagon stockpiles have already made a difference on the battlefield, Austin said. Ukrainian soldiers used them to destroy Russian command and control centers and ammunition depots. Each M142 HIMARS truck carries six guided rockets loaded with 200 pounds of high explosives that can hit targets 50 miles away.
“It affects the tempo of the fight and potentially creates opportunities here,” Austin said. “There’s a lot more to it – HIMARS alone won’t change or win or lose a fight.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said this week that Ukraine’s military needs at least 100 of America’s launchers to be “a game-changer on the battlefield.” The HIMARS and other rocket launchers already shipped to Ukraine helped destroy about 30 Russian command posts and ammunition storage units, he said.
“It significantly slowed the Russian advance and greatly reduced the intensity of their artillery bombardment,” Reznikov said in an online interview Tuesday for the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based research group. “So it works.”
As debate continues in the West about what is needed to rein in Russian forces, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine now extend beyond the eastern territories of the country, a departure from the Kremlin’s earlier assertions that it is not waging a war of imperial expansion.
As Ukraine stepped up its attacks on Russian forces in southern Ukraine as a possible prelude to a full-scale counteroffensive, Lavrov said Moscow was also monitoring the Kherson and Zaporizka regions, in southern Ukraine, parts of which are occupied by Russian forces. , as well as “a number of other territories”.
Eric Schmitt contributed report.