Faced with months-long demands from Kyiv to provide it with high-tech air defenses, the Biden administration is now in process of deliberation over potentially sending Ukraine a Patriot missile defense system though it is likely Moscow will view such defensive support as an escalation.
Raytheon Technology Corp’s Patriot is a ground-based air defense system designed to intercept incoming missiles although Patriots – which typically include launchers along with radar and other support vehicles – are usually used against more advanced threats including aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.
According to two US officials and a senior administration official quoted by CNN, the decision could be announced as soon as this week although it still needs to be approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – which is considered a done deal – before it is sent to President Biden for his signature.
Kyiv requested requesting the American air defense systems to protect it from the heavy Russian missile bombardment, including against its military and energy infrastructure, that has caused a serious energy crisis in the country ahead of the winter.
Before the Patriot equipment is sent to Ukraine, Ukrainian forces would most likely need to be trained in using the missile defense system in Germany. It’s still unclear which version of the Patriots would be provided to Kyiv, its range, or how many units would be sent to the country.
While Moscow’s recent surge in missile strikes in Ukraine obviously aims to exhaust Kyiv’s air defense supplies and finally achieve dominance of the skies above Ukraine, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned both the US and NATO against providing Kyiv with Patriots.
The possibility of NATO allies sending Patriot systems to Ukraine was publicly raised for the first time by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Army General Mark Milley, back in October.
Washington, however, has been focused lately on delivering Ukraine more modern air defenses, including the NASAMS that, according to the Pentagon, are flawlessly intercepting Russian missiles in Ukraine.