Russia has yet to slow down the shipment of Western weapons to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The influx of Western weapons into Ukraine has helped blunt Russia’s initial offensive and looks certain to play a pivotal role in the looming, potentially decisive, battle for Ukraine’s disputed Donbass region. Yet the Russian military is making little headway in stopping what has become a historic gun express.

The US numbers alone are growing: more than 12,000 weapons designed to defeat armored vehicles, some 1,400 shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to shoot down planes, and more than 50 million rounds of rounds, among other things. Dozens of other nations add to the totals.

The Biden administration is preparing another, more diverse military support package, potentially totaling $750 million, to be announced in the coming days, a senior U.S. defense official said on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet publicly announced. The additional aid is a sign that the administration intends to continue extending its support for Ukraine’s war effort.

These armaments helped an underarmed Ukrainian army defy predictions that it would soon be overrun by Russia. They partly explain why Vladimir Putin’s army has given up, at least for the time being, its attempt to capture kyiv, the capital, and has focused on the fight for eastern and southern Ukraine.

US officials and analysts offer many explanations for why the Russians have been so unsuccessful in interdicting the overland transport of Western weapons from neighboring countries, including Poland. Among the likely reasons: Russia’s failure to gain full control of Ukrainian skies has limited its use of air power. Additionally, the Russians struggled to deliver weapons and supplies to their own troops in Ukraine.

Some say Moscow’s problem starts at home.

“The short answer to the question is that this is an epically incompetent military badly led from the top,” said James Stavridis, a retired US Navy admiral who served as the army’s top commander. NATO in Europe from 2009 to 2013.

The Russians also face practical obstacles. Robert G. Bell, a longtime NATO official and now a professor at Georgia Tech University’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, said the expeditions lend themselves to being hidden or disguised in ways that make them elusive. for the Russians – “short of having a spy network in place” to track convoy movements.

“It’s not as easy to stop this flow of aid as it may seem,” said Stephen Biddle, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. “Things like munitions and shoulder-fired missiles can be transported in trucks that look like any other commercial truck. And the trucks carrying the munitions the Russians want to ban are just a small part of a much larger flow of goods and trade flowing into Poland and Ukraine and across the border.

“So the Russians have to find the needle in that really big haystack to destroy the weapons and ammunition they’re looking for and not waste the scarce ammunition on trucks full of printer paper or baby diapers or who knows. what.”

Even with this Western aid, it is not certain that Ukraine will ultimately prevail against a larger Russian force. The Biden administration has drawn the line of engagement for American troops in the fight. Instead, he chose to orchestrate international condemnation and economic sanctions, provide intelligence information, bolster NATO’s eastern flank to deter a wider war with Russia, and donate weapons.

In mid-March, a Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said arms deliveries would be targeted.

“We have warned the United States that sending weapons to Ukraine from a number of countries, as it has orchestrated, is not only a dangerous move, but an action that transforms the convoys respective as legitimate targets,” he said in televised remarks.

But so far the Russians don’t seem to have placed a high priority on banning the weapons, perhaps because their air force is wary of flying into Ukraine’s air defenses to search and attack. moving supply convoys. They hit fixed sites like arms depots and fuel storage places, but with limited effect.

On Monday, the Russians said they destroyed four S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers that had been donated to Ukraine by an unspecified European country. Slovakia, a NATO member that shares a border with Ukraine, donated such a system last week but denied it had been destroyed. On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said long-range missiles were used to hit two Ukrainian ammunition depots.

As fighting intensifies in the Donbass and possibly along the coastal corridor leading to Russia’s annexed Crimean peninsula, Putin may feel compelled to hit the weapons pipeline harder than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called it vital for the survival of his country.

Meanwhile, a staggering volume and range of war material arrives almost daily.

“The scope and speed of our support to meet Ukraine’s defense needs is unprecedented in modern times,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. He said the roughly $2.5 billion worth of arms and other materiel that have been gifted to Ukraine since the start of the Biden administration was equivalent to more than half of Ukraine’s normal defense budget. ‘Ukraine.

An example: the Pentagon claims to have supplied more than 5,000 Javelin missiles, which are among the world’s most effective weapons against tanks and other armored vehicles – and can even shoot down a low-flying helicopter. The missile, shaped like a clumsy dumbbell and weighing 50 pounds (23 kilograms), is fired by an individual soldier; from its launch tube, it flies at a steep angle and descends directly on its target in what is called a “curveball” shot – hitting the top of a tank where its armor is weakest.

The specific routes used to move US and other Western materials to Ukraine are secret for security reasons, but the basic process is not. Just this week, two US military cargo planes arrived in Eastern Europe with items ranging from machine guns and small arms ammunition to body armor and grenades, the Pentagon said.

A similar charge is due later this week to complete the delivery of $800 million in aid approved by President Joe Biden just a month ago. Weapons and equipment are unloaded, transported in trucks and driven to Ukraine by Ukrainian soldiers for delivery.

Kirby said the material sometimes reaches troops on the ground within 48 hours of entering Ukraine.

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