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Russian Offensive in the East: Historic Western ‘Weapons Express’ Heads for Ukraine

Western weaponry pouring into Ukraine helped slow down Russia’s initial offensive and surely will play a key role in the upcoming, potentially decisive battle for Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region. However, the Russian armed forces are doing little progress to stop what has become a historic arms express.

The US numbers are mounting: more than 12,000 weapons designed to slow down armored vehicles, some 1,400 shoulder-fired Stinger missiles to shoot down planes, and more than 50 million rounds of ammunition, among many other items. Dozens of other countries contribute theirs to the total.

The Biden administration is preparing another military support package, more varied, possibly amounting to 750 million dollars and to be announced in the coming days, a senior US defense official said on Tuesday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity about plans that have not yet been publicly announced. The additional aid is a signal that Washington intends to keep expanding your support to the Ukrainian war effort.

Pallets of ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine are loaded onto a plane in Delaware. Photo: AP

This weaponry has helped a Ukrainian army without enough weapons to invalidate predictions that it would be rapidly overtaken by Russia. It partly explains why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army resigned, at least for nowto his attempt to capture kyiv, the capital, and has focused on fighting to conquer the east and south of Ukraine.

American officials and analysts offer numerous explanations for why the Russians have had so little success in intercept western weapons circulating overland from neighboring countries such as Poland.

Moscow’s troubles

Among the most likely reasons is the following: the fact that Russia has not gained full control of the skies over Ukraine has limited its use of air power. In addition, the Russians have had difficulty delivering weapons and supplies to his own troops in Ukraine.

Some argue that the Moscow problem start at home.

“The short answer to the question is that they are a highly incompetent and poorly led army from the top,” said James Stavridis, a retired US Navy admiral who was NATO’s top commander in Europe from 2009 to 2013.

The Russians also face practical obstacles.

Robert G. Bell, a former NATO official and now a professor at Georgia Tech University’s Sam Nunn School of International Relations, said the shipments lend themselves to being hidden or disguised in ways that make it difficult for the Russians to find them “if they don’t have a espionage network on the spot” to track convoy movements.

Image provided by the US Air Force of pallets of ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine.  Photo: AP

Image provided by the US Air Force of pallets of ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine. Photo: AP

“Stop that flow of assistance it’s not that easy as it might seem,” said Stephen Biddle, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University.

“Things like ammunition and shoulder-fired missiles can be transported in trucks that look the same as any other commercial truck. And the trucks carrying the ammunition that the Russians want to intercept are only a small part of a much larger flow of goods and trade that it moves through Poland and Ukraine, and crosses the border.

“So the Russians have to find the needle in this huge haystack to destroy the weapons and ammunition they seek and don’t waste ammunition that are scarce in trucks full of paper for printing or baby diapers or who knows what”.

nothing is guaranteed

Even with this Western help, it is not certain that Ukraine will end up overpowering a superior Russian force. The Biden administration has refrained from sending US troops into the fight.

Instead, he has chosen orchestrate international condemnation and economic sanctions, provide intelligence, bolster NATO’s eastern flank to prevent a broader war with Russia, and donate weapons.

Ukrainian military study a Swedish Carl Gustaf M4 shoulder-launched weapon system.  Photo: AP

Ukrainian military study a Swedish Carl Gustaf M4 shoulder-launched weapon system. Photo: AP

In mid-March, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that arms shipments would be the target of attacks.

“We warn the United States that the shipment of arms to Ukraine from a number of countries, as it has orchestrated, is not only a dangerous move, but also an action that turns the respective convoys into legitimate targets“, he said in statements to television.

But so far the Russians do not appear to have made intercepting the weapons a priority, perhaps because theyu air force does not dare to fly over the air defenses of Ukraine to search for and attack moving supply convoys. They have attacked fixed places such as weapons and fuel depots, but with limited effect.

On Monday, the Russians announced that they had destroyed four rocket launchers. S-300 surface-to-air missiles that had been delivered to Ukraine by an unspecified European country.

Slovakia, a NATO member that shares a border with Ukraine, last week donated one such system but denied it had been destroyed. On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that long range missiles to attack two Ukrainian ammunition depots.

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon in the Donetsk region.  Photo: AP

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon in the Donetsk region. Photo: AP

As fighting intensifies in the Donbas and perhaps along the coastal corridor to the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula, Putin may feel obligated to strike harder at the arms supply route, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described as vital to his nation’s survival.

Staggering volume of war material

Meanwhile, an astonishing volume and variety of war material arrive almost daily.

“The scope and speed of our support to meet Ukraine’s defense needs are unprecedented in modern times,” said John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary.

He said that the approximately $2.5 billion worth of weapons and other equipment that have been offered to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration are equivalent to more than a half of Ukraine’s normal defense budget.

An example: The Pentagon claims to have provided more than 5,000 Javelin missileswhich are among the world’s most effective weapons against tanks and other armored vehicles and can even shoot down a low-flying helicopter.

Firing of a Javelin missile.  Photo: AP

Firing of a Javelin missile. Photo: AP

The missile, which is shaped like a dumbbell and weighs 23 kilograms, is fired by a single soldier; flies from the launch tube at a very steep angle and descends directly on the target in what is known as a curveball shot, hitting the top of a tank where the armor is weaker.

The specific routes used to move US and other Western material into Ukraine they 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 until bulletproof vests and grenadesaccording to the Pentagon.

A similar shipment will arrive later this week to complete the $800 million aid delivery approved by President Joe Biden just a month ago. Weapons and equipment are unloaded, transferred to trucks and taken to Ukraine by Ukrainian soldiers for your delivery.

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

The author is an Associated Press journalist

Translation: Elisa Carnelli

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