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Arm Ukraine Now: Game Changers In Russo-Ukrainian War – Analysis

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By Yuri Lapaiev*

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On July 20, Sergey Lavrov, minister of foreign affairs for the Russian Federation, declared that Moscow had new objectives in Ukraine, as it now wants to expand its gains beyond the borders of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” by capturing Kherson, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia regions. Lavrov underlined Western military equipment transfer and the alleged need to protect the occupied territories from long-range weapons as main reasons for this shift (TSN, June 20).

On the Ukrainian side, Alexey Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, stated in an interview that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued orders to liberate the occupied portions of southern Ukraine (YouTube.com/RadioFreeEurope-RadioLiberty, July 12). One potential area where Ukraine could launch an all-out counteroffensive is in Kherson region. Some progress has already been made, such as the liberation of several villages close to Kherson city and the destruction of the Antonovsky bridge on July 26 (Slovo i Dilo, June 26).

Despite official claims on the Russian side regarding successful air defense countermeasures, High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) missiles successfully hit multiple portions of the bridge, making it impassable for heavy military technical vehicles. Before that, on June 23, another important bridge in Kherson region, Dariiv, was eliminated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), making the reinforcement of Russian occupational forces to the region much more difficult (Interfax, June 23). The destruction of the bridge has made Russian forces much more dependent on a single-lane bridge near Nova Kakhovka, which has almost been cut off from reinforcement.

On July 15, Oleksii Reznikov, minister of defense for Ukraine, stated that the first M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) had arrived in the country, but he did not specify the number of systems available. According to Reznikov, M270s “could be in good company with HIMARS” (Twitter/GeneralStaffUA, July 15). Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, added that the AFU have destroyed more than 30 Russian logistical objects in a few weeks with HIMARS. At the same time, he stressed that, despite the recent successful attacks, the AFU still needs many more similar long-range MLRS systems (ZN.ua, July 15). Edgars Rinkevics, minister of foreign affairs for the Republic of Latvia, expressed a similar idea in a tweet: “More HIMARS and other [similar] modern weapon systems are needed to stop the war” (Twitter/EdgarsRinkevics), July 24).

HIMARS became a real game changer due to their high precision, distance, maneuverability, and speed of reloading. Destroying key command centers, logistics objects, and air defense, the missile system remains almost wholly safeguarded from countermeasures. This makes them a top-priority target for Russian forces. As such, on July 18, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu ordered Russian forces to focus on destroying HIMARS in Ukraine (Lenta, July 18). Later, the Kremlin even claimed that four HIMARS had already been destroyed (Deutsche Welle, July 28). However, these claims were later refuted by General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley countered that, in reality, at the time of speaking, Russia had yet to destroy any of the HIMARS now situated in Ukraine (Business Insider, July 22). Meanwhile, according to Ukrainian intelligence, groups of Russian special forces have been deployed to Ukraine to focus specifically on hunting HIMARS.

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Yet, according to Justin Kramp, a military expert and head of strategic advisory firm Sibylline, despite their early success, HIMARS are not a “silver bullet” that alone will turn the tide of the war (Deutsche Welle, July 28). This perspective is shared by Mykola Bielieskov, research fellow at the National Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of Ukraine. On July 28, Bielieskov wrote that the Guided MLRS (GMLRS) munition with 85-kilometer range currently used by the AFU is not enough to target all Russian military objects in the temporarily Ukrainian territories and a wider range is needed. Therefore, Kyiv urgently needs ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile Systems) to liberate the southern region. In his opinion, sending ATACMS to Ukraine runs no risk of escalation from Moscow, which has been shown already by the AFU’s use of its own Tochka-U short-range ballistic missiles (120-kilometer range) (Twitter/MBielieskov, July 28).

Furthermore, air supremacy remains a critical issue. By launching a counteroffensive, Ukraine first needs to destroy as many of Russian air defense systems as possible. On the other hand, Kyiv needs to protect its own forces from possible Russian airstrikes (Kyiv Independent, July 19). This requires a strong and multilayered air defense grid. According to Zelenskyy, Ukrainian representatives “have not stop working for a single day to obtain an effective air defense system” (President.gov.ua, July 20). Kyiv needs advanced antiaircraft defense systems, such as the IRIS-T, which could be provided by Germany before the end of 2022 (Defense Express, July 27). The first Gepard anti-aircraft self-propelled artillery units recently arrived to Ukraine, which should start to make a difference (Mil.in.ua, July 25). In truth, air defense is crucial not only for future counteroffensives but also for protecting civilians, as 70 percent of Russian airstrikes have hit civilian objects (Livyi Bereh, July 26).

Meanwhile, Ukraine is witnessing an information campaign aimed at undermining weapon supplies from Western countries. The Kremlin understands the importance of these Western supplements and seeks to limit supply by feigning threats of escalation. This disinformation activity involves several politicians, experts, media personalities and organizations from various regions. They specifically push publications and analysis that claim arming Ukraine will pose a major danger for the whole of Europe (Bild, July 29). Such efforts originate mostly in Germany and France and are most likely being directly orchestrated from Moscow, or at the very least, have some link to Russian authorities.

Indeed, the success of future Ukrainian counteroffensives depends heavily not only on the professionalism of Ukrainian soldiers and the speed of new weapons shipments but also on the ability of Ukrainian diplomats to more thoroughly explain the importance of new, and continued, armament support to Western leaders. Even so, it will be up to Western leaders to display the courage necessary to supply Ukrainian forces on the front lines with the adequate weapon systems and munitions needed to drive back Russian forces.

*About the author: Yuri Lapaiev is currently the editor-in-chief of Tyzhden (The Ukrainian Week) magazine. He graduated from the Ivan Kozhedub Air Force University in Kharkiv, with an MA in computer network engineering. Between 2006 and 2011, he served in Ukrainian Defense Intelligence, including as an analyst. In 2011-2015, Lapaiev worked as a marketing analyst in the head office of one of Ukraine’s largest mobile operators. From 2015 to 2016, he served in the Ukrainian Special Operation Forces and participated in the Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO) in eastern Ukraine.

Source: This article was published by The Jamestown Foundation’s Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 19 Issue: 116

The Jamestown Foundation

The Jamestown Foundation’s mission is to inform and educate policy makers and the broader community about events and trends in those societies which are strategically or tactically important to the United States and which frequently restrict access to such information. Utilizing indigenous and primary sources, Jamestown’s material is delivered without political bias, filter or agenda. It is often the only source of information which should be, but is not always, available through official or intelligence channels, especially in regard to Eurasia and terrorism.

4 thoughts on “Arm Ukraine Now: Game Changers In Russo-Ukrainian War – Analysis

  • August 2, 2022 at 3:58 am
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    Europe must arm Ukraine without any restrictions or fear of nuclear weapons, Russia is using weapons on civilians in a manner that nuclear weapons will do, they will never use nuclear weapons if they wanted to commit suicide they would have done so without invading Ukraine they invaded for economical gain and they need to be alive to enjoy the ill gotten gains therefore there should be no hesitation if the weapons hit deep inside Russia so be it Russia is hitting deep inside Ukraine since 2014

    Reply
    • August 4, 2022 at 4:54 am
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      Ken, Europe is a pawn who is losing badly, like Ukraine.
      Western Europe would be much better off working with Russia for a new security system.
      You seem to be advocating killing for no gain, do you own stocks in weapons companies?
      Free Assange, until then no good will come from USA

      Reply
  • August 2, 2022 at 5:33 am
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    Pumping in of High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) missiles or any other systems will in no manner be game changers.However, they will cause attrition on the invading Russian forces as it is Ukraine continues to lose territory and cities.Ukraine war has become a testing ground to test the weapon systems. A sad story where Ukraine and the Ukrainians continue to suffer for the West to fight their war with Russia.Why is UN not able to stop this war?

    Reply
  • August 5, 2022 at 6:17 pm
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    Why should Russia be allowed to recolonise an independent country.

    I am genuinely ready to listen to answers to this question.

    Reply

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