Why didn't the U.S. provide a better system of air defense for Ukraine?

An official stated that they didn't want Putin to provoke them. "How did that happen?"

Why didn't the U.S. provide a better system of air defense for Ukraine?

The country has been Ukraine insecure for years because of Western resistance to modernizing its Soviet-era air defenses.

According to NBC News, a combination of concerns, including fear of Russia provoking, fears that the technology might fall into Russian hands and doubts that Ukraine could operate them, prevented the U.S. from granting requests by Ukraine for advanced surface-to-air missiles. This was in spite of the fact that the U.S. and its allies had refused to grant Ukrainian requests in the years following Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Although these calculations appeared reasonable at the time they almost guaranteed that Ukraine would not be defenseless against an invasion by Russia. Experts believe Russia would mount an overwhelming airpower display to invade Ukraine. American officials are trying to find ways that will help Ukrainian forces protect themselves, but there are not many good options.

Philip Breedlove, a former four-star Air Force General, said that "we all missed an opportunity." He was the supreme allied commander for NATO during the 2014 Russian aggression and was involved in the subsequent debate about how much aid to Ukraine. "The West, NATO, and all the countries involved missed an opportunity. We are now looking back at the situation and deciding if we should have taken a different approach.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis was NATO's supreme allied commander before Breedlove and is now a NBC News national security contributor.

He said that he thought air defense would have made a smart decision. "If we had done more, we wouldn't be where we are today."

According to Dmitri Aloperovitch, cofounder of the Silverado Policy Accelerator, which is a Washington, D.C. think tank, Russia is likely begin a full-scale invasion.

He stated that the shock and awe campaign that they could launch against entrenched Ukrainian troops with these resources before the main ground invasion starts will be devastating." These weapons are not the answer of the Ukrainian military.

The stage was set by American presidents from both sides. After Crimea fell in 2014 and President Barack Obama refused to provide lethal aid, rejecting the advice of his highest national security officials. President Donald Trump approved the provision of Javelin antitank missiles after delaying the aid package, an act that resulted in his impeachment. He didn't provide air defense.

Biden's administration has also been accused of being slow in responding to threats. Six months before U.S. intelligence agencies discovered that Russia had plans to invade Ukraine, there was not enough time to train them to operate advanced air defenses like Patriot missiles, Stavridis stated.

Stavridis stated that "Over the past six months, we were kinda at a sprint to put in the right tools in the hands of their hands, but it was kinda too late." "There was simply no time."

In December , a U.S. military delegation visited Ukraine to evaluate its air defenses. However, they concluded that there was not much new equipment that could possibly be supplied, according to defense officials.

Nobody is suggesting that any particular set of weapons could allow Ukraine to resist a full-scale attack from one of the most powerful military forces in the world. However, better air defenses could have provided a level deterrence that isn't currently there. Analysts believe that the possibility of bombers being shot down while in flight may have forced Russian President Vladimir Putin into a rethinking of his strategy.

The Ukraine has some resistance to an air attack. Just this month, Ukraine received a small infusion of surface to air missiles from European partners. Lithuania provided man-portable Stinger missiles that the Afghan mujahideen used in driving out the Russians during the 1980s, after having received them from the CIA.

Experts say that this capability will enhance Ukraine's current air defenses.

Dara Massicot at RAND Corp., a senior policy researcher, stated that Russia has not had experience flying in contested airspace.

She stated that Russian aircraft could be lost if they engage in tactical aviation within Ukrainian airspace. "But, ultimately, the sheer amount of combat air power Russia could bring, especially in combination with longer-range precision strikes, would likely overwhelm Ukrainian defenses."

Once Russia gains air superiority, it can destroy the Ukrainian military at a distance without risking ground troops.

Not air defense, but body armor

Obama's defense secretary and other military leaders supported or lethal assistance for Ukraine after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014.

Obama refused, instead sending body armor and night vision goggles.

John Brennan, a NBC News national security contributor, said that there were concerns about NATO technology falling into Russian hands. Obama and his aides worried that the U.S. could arm Ukraine, triggering a dangerous spiral that could see Russia win.

In 2015, Obama expressed concern over providing lethal assistance. "Can we ensure that any lethal help we provide Ukraine is properly used, doesn't get into the wrong hands and does not lead to aggressive actions that can't sustain the Ukrainians?" Obama said to reporters after meeting with Angela Merkel, German Chancellor. "What kind of reactions does it provoke, not only from the separatists, but also from the Russians?" All of these issues must be taken into consideration.

Merkel's government was opposed to sending weapons and favored economic sanctions. Germany played a key role in rallying European allies behind a package sanctions. The Obama administration determined that these measures had a better chance to change Moscow's calculus, than sending anti-tank guns that could delay but not alter the final outcome on the battlefield.

Michael Kofman, director at Russia Studies at CNA think tank, stated that it was a prudent decision to not provide arms to the Ukrainians at the time.

Kofman stated that the West had to do more over the years to encourage Ukraine to reform and reorganize itself militarily. "It was a missed chance."

Brennan and others stated that the Ukrainian military had made some improvements. Despite Trump's open embrace of Putin, the Trump administration was more open to weapons requests.

August 2018: The United States Ambassador to Ukraine made public his request for assistance from the U.S. Government in modernizing its Soviet-era air defense system.

According to a report in Defence blog, Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador to Washington at the time, said that Ukraine had requested Washington to sell one unit of its air defense systems.

According to American officials and experts, the talks didn't progress. It is not clear why.

Former officials including Fiona Hill who was the White House's Russia advisor during Trump's presidency, claim that Trump focused on Ukraine's threat from Russia instead of looking at the threats posed by Russia. Diplomats begged the White House for a package of military assistance that Trump would use to overthrow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

At the time Zelenskyy made the September 2019 call that would lead Trump's first impeachment.

The military aid package was illegally and Trump was later impeached. Trump was acquitted of trying to extort Ukraine to enable an investigation into Biden's activities in Ukraine.

Trump's administration finally delivered the Javelins. Javelins have a range of approximately one and a quarter miles. They are not designed to destroy planes but tanks.

"How did it all work out?"

According to two congressional officials involved in the negotiations, almost from the time President Biden was elected, members of the Senate and House armed service committees, along with other lawmakers, demanded that the administration beef up Ukraine's air defenses. However, they were met with resistance.

Some lawmakers asked the defense department to ship large quantities of Stinger missiles to Ukraine starting in the fall. However, the administration refused to do so, according to one congressional official.

According to the official, the Biden administration was concerned that Ukraine would not be able to "absorb" large quantities of Stingers. In a closed-door briefing given to Congress last month by Jake Sullivan, White House national security advisor, Jake Sullivan stated that the White House believed Ukraine was not capable of "absorbing" higher-end weapons. Two congressional aides present said that the administration was also concerned about aggravating crisis and possibly inciting more aggressive actions by Moscow.

The official stated that they didn't intend to provoke Putin. "How did that happen?"

An NSC spokesperson said that this story was "false" after it was published. Sean Savett also stated that the NSC disputes the claim that the Biden administration refused to supply air defense weapons for Ukraine.

Officials from the White House defended their track record, claiming that they had contributed more than $650,000,000 in security assistance to Ukraine over the past year.

Breedlove stated that he believes the U.S. and its allies have failed to adequately respond to Russia's belligerent behavior for many years.

He stated that he believed the West's response in 2008 to the Russian invasion of Georgia was insufficient. "I feel that the West's response in 2014 to Russia was inadequate." What you see is evidence that neither 2008 nor 2014 were successful in addressing Russia.

"Every time Russia does anything, it seems like the West wants to quickly get past it and return to cheap energy."


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