Somewhere in the Pentagon’s E ring, a voice from the Department of Defense (DOD) was able to break through White House and State Department objections and convince President Biden that Ukraine needed a capability. additional artillery – the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
The president backtracked on his May 30 announcement that the United States would not send MLRS to Ukraine. In an op-ed in The New York Times, he said the United States would provide “weapons that will allow them to more accurately strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.” While this provides Ukraine with much-needed additional firepower to defend itself, deadly fires continue to rain down on Ukraine from Russian territory. They are expelled from the sanctuary, with impunity.
The White House initially bowed, but did not break, in the face of renewed Russian threats – a warning from former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that if his country’s cities had been hit, Russian forces would have “hit at the center of these criminal decisions”. with the tests of their hypersonic missile.
The White House is said to still have reservations about the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). This weapon system can fire a six-pack rocket, or a single missile, up to 185 miles, and could strike targets beyond its border; however, Ukraine is expected to receive the shorter-range rockets, with a range of around 40 miles. Yuri Sack, adviser to the Ukrainian Defense Minister, assured the United States that it would not use the new system to strike inside Russia, saying: “Ukraine does not intend to use them other than for the defense of our territories and for disoccupation. of our territories.
Russia doesn’t want a level playing field, and HIMARS would do just that. Russian artillery literally kills Ukraine; look no further than the devastation he wrought in Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv and now Severodonetsk. They are not military targets; they are homes, schools, hospitals, power stations and places of worship. After nearly 100 days of Russian troops’ utter disregard for humanity, huge casualties and tactical failures, Moscow continues to advance – now in the eastern Donbass region and the south. Moscow’s largely uncontrolled long-range artillery made this advance possible.
Russian ground forces cannot compete with Ukraine without their artillery dominance. Ukraine is winning the close combat – its Ministry of Defense reports that 30,700 Russian troops have been killed in action and that Russia has lost 1,361 tanks, 3,343 armored personnel carriers, 659 guns. artillery, 207 multiple rocket launchers, 208 airplanes and 175 helicopters. To date, however, Ukrainian fighters have no solution to counter cross-border artillery strikes. As a result, they are slowly losing ground – and experienced combat veterans. Officials in eastern Ukraine report that the Russian shelling of Severodonetsk was so intense that it was not possible to assess casualties and damage. The Ukrainians are making a valiant effort, but they can’t win if they can’t target the artillery systems that kill them – Mariupol has proven that.
For Ukraine to survive, there can be no safe haven for Russian artillery. If Russia fires on Ukraine, it must be counterfired, regardless of location. And yes, that means Russia and Belarus. NATO and the United States are fully engaged and should not worry about an escalation. It is time for Brussels and Washington to notify Moscow that any weapons system that fires at Ukraine, regardless of its location, will be met with immediate counterfire by any means at Ukraine’s disposal. HIMARS would provide this capability. Denying Ukraine the ability to conduct counterfire – defensive action – is inadmissible.
The West cannot expect Ukraine to continue to absorb losses and the destruction of infrastructure. President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that 50-100 soldiers are killed every day defending the eastern regions of Ukraine. By mid-April, Zelensky said 2,500–3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and up to 10,000 wounded. Russian artillery is the main instrument of their death. HIMARS would provide a fairer fight, similar to how the Javelin and Switchback drones countered Russian armor.
President Biden cannot repeat President Lyndon Johnson’s mistake in the Vietnam War – watching North Vietnamese soldiers and equipment marching down the Ho Chi Min Trail in Laos and Cambodia and doing nothing until that they enter the south of Vietnam. Providing HIMARS to Ukraine is the right decision, but telling Zelensky that their use is limited to “key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine” keeps his soldiers and civilians in the kill zone with no way to retaliate. The possibility of counter-fire cannot be restricted.
Jonathan Sweet, a retired Army colonel, served 30 years as a military intelligence officer. His experience includes periods of service with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the Intelligence and Security Command. He led the U.S. European Command’s Intelligence Engagement Division from 2012 to 2014, working with NATO partners in the Black Sea and the Baltic. Follow him on Twitter @JESweet2022.