Britain prepares to send long-range missiles to Ukraine

President Volodimir Zelensky visited British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in February this year. (PHOTO: Dan Kitwood/REUTERS) (POOL/)

Britainwhich has prided itself on being ahead of its Western allies in introducing new weapon systems into Ukrainenow it looks like thisr ready to send long-range missiles to kyiv that the Biden administration has long denied him.

In a takeover notice published last Tuesday by the International Fund for Ukraine led by Great Britain, a group of northern European countries that has established a mechanism for sending weapons to the battlefield, the UK Ministry of Defense has requested “expressions of interest” to provide strike capabilities with a range of up to 300 kilometers, or nearly 200 miles. The notice called for responses within three days.

No final decision has been made, according to a British official who declined to confirm the type, timing or amount of weaponry under consideration. But the notice is a substantial step for Britain itself to supply such munitions, and the requested specifications and capabilities closely match its cruise missiles Storm Shadow airdropped.

Ukraine has long pleaded with Western nations for longer-range missiles, arguing that such weapons could turn the tide of the war by allowing its forces to target Russian command centers, supply lines, ammunition and depots. of fuel in the depths of crimea and Russian-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. As kyiv prepares to launch a great counteroffensive as soon as within the next few weeks, the ability to strike well behind Russia’s front lines would help clear the way for a ground assault with tanks and infantry troops.

Storm Shadows can be mounted on Soviet-made aircraft from Ukraine and reach Russian territory. kyiv has long sought such a capability and tried to assuage fears of a Western escalation with promises that it would refrain from using donated weapons in such attacks.

“If we could attack at a distance of up to 300 kilometers, the Russian army would not be able to provide defense and would have to lose,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Told Europeans. Oleksii Reznikovat the beginning of this year. “Ukraine is ready to provide any guarantee that its weapons will not be involved in attacks on Russian territory.”

A tank with the letter
A tank with the letter “Z” identifying Russian troops is seen in front of a residential building that was damaged during the Ukraine-Russia invasion. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File) (ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/)

Moscow has accused kyiv of adapting drones for long-range use in what have been sporadic attacks deep into Russia. kyiv has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, but has claimed its right to attack internal Russian targets with its own weapons.

Concern that Ukraine will fire missiles at targets in Russia is a key reason the administration has repeatedly rejected Ukrainian pleas to supply US long-range munitions.

USA has provided multiple launch precision rocket systems, including the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, but only with ammunition whose range is limited to about 50 miles. In an arms package announced earlier this year, the Pentagon It said it will send ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDBs) with twice that range to Ukraine. They can also say goodbye to HIMARS, but delivery is not expected until the end of this year at the earliest.

HIMARS also has the ability to fire the Army Tactical Missile Systemeither ATACMS, a munition with a range equal to the 300 kilometers of the Storm Shadow. But the Biden administration has been adamant in denying Ukraine’s orders for those weapons, with Pentagon officials, adding to fears of an escalation in the conflict, citing supply shortages in US arsenals.

British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has dismissed talks among Ukraine’s benefactors about its depleted reserves. “If there is a moment in this conflict where we can make a difference, why not take advantage of it? What are we waiting for?”. he asked the European allies in the Munich Security Conference in February. “What is the purpose of these arsenals? If the weapons are degrading the Russian armed forces, that is increasing our security.”

Weeks before those comments, according to a previously unreported file included among classified US documents leaked online via the Discord messaging platform, US intelligence confirmed that Britain intended to send an unspecified amount to Ukraine. Storm Shadow missile strike, along with British personnel to assist in targeting.

“The UK will be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer-range weapons,” Sunak said in his Munich speech.

The US, like the Western allies, have provided Ukraine with weapons for its defense against Russian attacks.  (PHOTO: REUTERS)
The US, like the Western allies, have provided Ukraine with weapons for its defense against Russian attacks. (PHOTO: REUTERS) (RITZAU SCANPIX/)

Being first is something Britain has strived for throughout the war, starting with the former prime minister Boris Johnson. After the United States, Britain has been Ukraine’s second-biggest provider of military aid, contributing $2.5 billion worth of munitions last year. Although that is only a fraction of what Washington has provided, The British have claimed the vanguard, sending some of the first shoulder-launched anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to combat the invasion of Russia in February 2022, and more recently training pilots in the standard of the NATO in fighter planes.

In mid-January, Britain overcame the Allies’ reluctance to send heavy tanks to Ukraine by unilaterally announcing that it would send 14 Challenger tanks British made. The United States, Germany, and others in Europe eventually followed suit by promising to send their own heavy armor.

“It is a position that the UK can uniquely make [ya que] Russia doesn’t like us very much anyway.” said the British official, speaking on condition of anonymity about the alliance’s internal problems. “We know that if we give something, it makes it a little easier for others.”

“There is definitely a different risk tolerance between different countries. We are often in an earlier place,” the official said, citing pilot training, despite the fact that no country has yet agreed to provide standard NATO jets, particularly F-16s. , which Ukraine has requested.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.  (PHOTO: REUTERS/Heiko Becker)
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Heiko Becker) (HEIKO BECKER/)

While US policy remains unchanged, Pentagon officials did not express concern when asked about the possibility of Britain sending long-range missiles to Ukraine. “Each country makes its own sovereign decisions about what kind of security assistance and what kind of equipment it provides,” Pentagon press secretary General Patrick Ryder said. “We commend the significant support that allies and partners around the world, including the UK, are giving Ukraine.”

US lawmakers from both parties who support an aggressive stance have repeatedly urged the administration to provide Ukraine with ATACMS and F-16s. In a statement issued after Germany and the United States announced in late January that they too would send tanks, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) and Lindsey O. Graham (RS .C .) urged “the Biden administration and our allies to send in more long-range artillery, like ATACMS and fighter jets.”

“I have long been pushing for the longer range, ATACMS, for example,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a military veteran who served in Iraq, in remarks at the Hudson Institute two weeks ago. “I think it’s time to do that. We see less and less talk of escalation” as Russian President Vladimir Putin has crossed “all the red lines,” Crow said. “Ukrainians have proven to be responsible partners” and “have every incentive” to comply with restrictions on the use of long-range weapons, so as not to lose Western support.

The distance between the territory controlled by Ukraine and Sevastopolthe largest city in Crimea and headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, is within range of Storm Shadow, which was originally developed as an Anglo-French project in the early 1990s and takes place at the arsenals. from several countries in Europe and the Persian Gulf. Used by Great Britain in Iraq in 2003, and by Great Britain, France and Italy in Libya as of 2011, it has been adapted to fit a number of different aircraft.

The weapons would allow kyiv’s forces to take tactics that Russia already uses, launches cruise missiles [desde aviones] inside their own territory to be beyond Ukrainian air defenses,” said Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Affairs. He studies the International Security Program which has specialized in the weapons systems used in the Ukrainian war.

“All you need to do is give it ten-digit coordinates,” Cancian said of the missile’s target. “There’s nothing more you need to do intelligence-wise.”

(c) 2023, The Washington Post.

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