As soon as Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Westerners mobilized to support kyiv, which demanded arms and ammunition, while avoiding at all costs taking any action that could be seen as a provocation by Russia. – for fear that the conflict will spread beyond the borders of Ukraine.
Without saying so, they also feared that their advanced weapons would fall into the hands of the Russian army.
They therefore turned to the former Soviet bloc countries, which still had Soviet-standard ammunition, to replace those that the Ukrainian forces were firing at the Russian army.
But even these stocks have run out, and Europe’s Russian-made arsenal “has disappeared from the face of the planet”, a military official told AFP.
This is why the United States and the other NATO allies have decided to ignore the risks of the conflict spreading or technological leaks. Washington began handing over to Ukraine heavy equipment such as Howitzer howitzers at first, then advanced equipment such as Himars rocket launchers, high-precision artillery pieces with a range greater than those of the Russian army.
The allies are trying to coordinate their military assistance to kyiv, and to synchronize it so that the Ukrainian forces receive a “continuous flow of ammunition”, but also of spare parts and light weapons, another official explained American military.
This is the stated objective of the Contact Group for Ukraine created by US Defense Minister Lloyd Austin, whose first meeting was held in April in the presence of some forty countries in Ramstein, Germany.
After a second virtual meeting in May, Ukraine’s allies are due to meet on June 15 in Brussels.
And if Western armament seems to be trickling into Ukraine, it’s because the allies want to make sure that kyiv is able to absorb it safely and limit the risks of bombardment of its ammunition stocks.
The United States is therefore sending its military assistance in installments, the latest of which, of 700 million, announced on June 1, included four Himars artillery systems, but also 1,000 additional Javelin anti-tank missiles and four Mi-17 helicopters. , 15,000 shells intended for Howitzers, 15 light armored vehicles, and other ammunition of various calibers.
“We try to maintain a constant flow,” the second military official said.
– Trial balloon –
Asked about the low number of Himars as Ukrainians appear struggling in Donbass, US Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said on Wednesday that Washington wanted to make sure Ukrainian soldiers had them under control well before moving on. send more.
The Himars is a “sophisticated” system, and “you have to certify these boys, make sure they know how to use these systems correctly”, said the highest ranking American.
It is necessary to train the operators, but also the soldiers in charge of maintenance, as well as the officers and non-commissioned officers so that they are deployed where it is necessary, when it is necessary, he explained.
For Washington, this first shipment is above all a trial balloon to ensure that Himar technology does not fall into enemy hands and that the Ukrainians use this expensive and sensitive equipment wisely. But that does not prevent the Pentagon from preparing the next tranche of military aid.
Additional Himars and their ammunition are already prepositioned in Germany, and they will be sent to Ukraine if the experience with the first four copies proves positive, according to another American military source.
On the other hand, Washington has ruled out granting kyiv long-range combat drones like the “Grey Eagle”, whose range reaches 300 km, enough to hit a major Russian city, according to this source.