Defense expert Ko Colijn has been providing the Dutch with information on armed conflict for over forty years. For NU.nl he follows the match in Ukraine and answers our (and your) questions. This time, the question is: why is America not delivering long-range missiles, something that makes Russian President Vladimir Putin rub his hands?
In recent weeks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called for so-called HIMARS missiles. Thus, his army can torment the Russians and even hit targets in Russia. HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) is a kind of mobile missile system that far exceeds the current limitations of land cannons. They can hit targets more than 500 kilometers away.
These types of missiles are of great importance to the Ukrainian army, which is under great pressure in the Donets basin. There it is bombarded by Russian artillery located further behind the front. The HIMARS missiles can take out those cannons. It is therefore logical that Ukraine hoped for US support.
But – and this is a major setback for Ukraine – US President Joe Biden has said he has no intention of delivering these missiles. Apparently, the White House does not dare, for fear of crossing a red line.
As early as December, the Kremlin demanded a new treaty offensive strike systems from Ukraine, which did not turn into anything. In Dutch talk shows, the missiles were widely hailed by military experts as a next step in the war. It turned out to be the wrong analysis.
The Russians gain territory
The war drags on, but the Russians are no longer pushed back. They are now winning in the Donets Basin, but their success is relative. They destroy the targets they want to conquer with their artillery.
The Russians have lowered their targets after three months of setbacks and heavy losses. They learned their lesson after the May 11 drama at the Pontoon Bridge over the Siverskyi River. 400 of the 550 Russian soldiers were killed because they had forgotten the air support for a while (“We are dealing with seated ducksshouted astonished Ukrainian grenadiers).
It was a setback for the Russians, but in the meantime battalions are slowly moving up the front in the south, cutting off Ukraine from the Black Sea. They also surround smaller cities that isolate parts of the Ukrainian army. But control is not in the hands of the Russians: An insider says that the remaining Ukrainians still retain home advantage and continue to push the trenches a little in their favor.
Russia is now deploying soldiers aged 50 and over
According to Kiev, the Russian army has already lost almost 30,000 men (including 120,000 wounded and thus ‘useless’ men). According to the Oryx website, material losses are now close to 4,200 tanks, planes, drones, helicopters, cannons and combat vehicles. That’s more than this year of war in Afghanistan. And then, of course, there are the sunken warships in the Black Sea.
The Russians are running out of precision ammunition and men. They compensate for this with the recruitment of soldiers aged fifty and older and with heavy artillery. So it will be a battle of exhaustion where it is crucial who can last the longest. It is not possible to predict a winner here, although it is already clear that Putin has lost the war morally.
Zelensky rages at former US Secretary Kissinger
In the absence of Western consensus, the Americans have almost monopolized the gun air bridge to Zelensky’s grenadiers. They belong – at a safe distance from the battlefield – to the packing house.
The Ukrainian president is also a goalkeeper: he will not negotiate if he has not recaptured (a large part of) his country. Last week, he insulted the old Henry Kissinger, once the United States Secretary of State. He advised Kiev to give up and give the Russians some land for God’s sake. “It’s 2022, Mr Kissinger, not 1938,” Zelensky gasped.
Biden now appears to be listening to Kissinger instead of embarking on Zelensky. The big question is whether the Ukrainians can survive on the battlefield without the long-range missiles. And the question is whether the Americans will still come up with a list to supply their allies in Kiev with other weapons to push the Russians back.