Eight weeks after the war, the Biden administration’s decision to increase artillery supplies to Ukraine is a sign of America’s deep commitment at a pivotal stage in the fight for the country’s industrial heartland.
It also markedly downplays Moscow’s warning that continued US military aid to Ukraine would have “unpredictable” consequences, suggesting that Russia views the international wave of arms as a growing obstacle to Ukraine. with their invasion as well as a Western provocation.
“We’re in a critical time,” US President Joe Biden said on Thursday when he announced that he had approved $800 million in additional battlefield aid including 72 of the US’ 155mm cannons. The US military, along with 144,000 artillery rounds and more than 120 armed drones, will require training for Ukrainian operators.
This amounts to $3.4 billion in security assistance provided since Russia began its invasion on February 24. That’s an unusual total of US military aid to a single country. to which the United States has no defense treaty obligations.
Considering US support and US expectations of what they will achieve:
WHY IS ART IMPORTANT NOW?
Heavy weapons such as artillery are taking shape as a major feature of the ongoing battle in the eastern Ukraine region known as the Donbas. The relatively flat terrain is suitable for what the military calls mobile warfare – the movement of tanks and other ground forces supported by long-range artillery such as 155mm howitzers.
In recent days, the Russians have deployed more artillery of their own to the Donbas area, along with many ground troops and other material to support and sustain what could be a long battle for terrain in the industrial center of Ukraine.
The artillery that the US sends to Ukraine will be the latest US model, called the M777, to be used by the Army and Marines. Smaller and more maneuverable than the older model, the M777 can be deployed on the battlefield by heavy helicopters and move relatively quickly between positions using 7-ton trucks also being supplied by the Pentagon.
“What makes it important is the type of combat we expect in Donbas. Because of the terrain, because it’s open, because it’s flat, because it’s not urban, we can expect the Russians to rely on it. into long-range fire — artillery in particular,” said John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary.
The first of 72 gunboats is expected to begin shipping to Europe later this week, a senior US defense official said. Of the other 18 155mm artillery pieces Biden approved last week for shipment to Ukraine, an unspecified number have already been shipped to Europe and US howitzer training for Ukrainian personnel has begun. on Wednesday in an undisclosed country outside Ukraine.
IS THIS ENOUGH ENOUGH TO KEEP RUSSIA?
Probably not, and Biden said he has asked the Pentagon to work on additional potential military assistance.
Biden said this phase of Russian aggression would be “more limited geographically but not in terms of brutality.” He also acknowledged that he needs Congress to approve the funds needed to continue supplying vital weapons to Ukraine beyond the latest $800 million package, which he says will ensure a steady supply of weapons in just a few weeks. next.
American officials say the Russians are trying to adjust their approach in Ukraine after initial setbacks, suggesting the war could be protracted.
After failing to capture the capital Kyiv in the early weeks of a multi-pronged invasion, Russia has narrowed its targets by focusing on the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014. and on a stretch of coastal territory along the Sea of Azov from Mariupol to the Crimean Peninsula. One Russian advantage is that the area is close to Russian territory, which allows for shorter supply lines than in previous battles in northern Ukraine.
WHAT IS THE US SUPPLYING?
In addition to the 72 artillery pieces and the vehicles needed to move them around the battlefield, the new weapons package for Ukraine includes artillery shells and armed drones from the US Air Force’s arsenal. Still on the way from a separate $800 million weapons package announced just last week is a series of articles, including radars used to enable targeting by Russian artillery, as well as surveillance radars. close to the air and coastal unmanned aircraft.
“Artillery and drones are exactly what Ukraine will need as Russia moves into its next campaign in the East and South,” said Mark Montgomery, a retired Navy post-Marine who served in the US Navy. US European Command in helping to improve US-Ukrainian military relations, said. Montgomery is currently an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The drone included in the latest package is called the Phoenix Ghost, manufactured by a US company, Aevex Aerospace, which bills itself as a leader in “full-spectrum aerial intelligence solutions” . Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to describe the drone’s capabilities other than saying it was used “mostly but not exclusively to strike targets.” It also has a built-in camera.
Kirby said the drones are particularly suited to the terrain in which Ukrainian troops are fighting in the Donbas.