The United States and allied nations are racing against time to ship weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine amid a renewed and brutal Russian attack on the east of the country.
Juggling supply chain demands, weapons requirements and the logistics of delivering defense aid to Ukraine, balance is key in Ukraine’s efforts to hold the Donbass region , according to officials and experts.
“Having a continuous flow of supplies and ammunition, like ammunition, is critical,” said Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“You know, it’s not very high visibility, it’s not very exciting, but that’s what makes armies work,” he added.
The Biden administration has sent $3.4 billion in military aid to Ukraine since invading Russia on Feb. 24, of which about $1.6 billion has been deployed in the past seven days. The last two packages included new capabilities specifically requested by Ukraine, including 155mm howitzers, armored personnel carriers and deadly drones, including the new Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial system.
To coordinate this influx of weapons into Ukraine, the U.S. military formally established the U.S. European Command (Eucom) Ukrainian Control Center in Stuttgart, Germany in early March, a central point to manage security and humanitarian aid to Ukrainians. The center was also responsible for consolidating and synchronizing aid deliveries from the United States, Allies and partners.
“Eight to 10 flights a day go into theatre, and not all of those flights are American flights, but most are. And every day, including today, there has been ground movement at the inside Ukraine, so we haven’t seen any slowdown,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Thursday, noting the blistering pace of deliveries.
The Biden administration sought to streamline the situation this week with the appointment of a retired three-star general as senior security assistance coordinator for Ukraine.
Retired Lt. Gen. Terry Wolff will serve as a liaison between U.S. defense contractors, the administration, and allies and partners to ensure weapons and other military equipment are delivered to Ukraine.
But the fact remains that the United States does not have an extremely reliable way to track what happens to arms shipments after they pass through Ukraine, including which units they go to and how they are used.
Blind spots are linked to several factors, including the fog of war and the fact that many of the weapons sent out are smaller, portable systems, such as single-use drones and shoulder-mounted rockets. These easily transportable weapons are much more difficult to track than larger systems such as tanks, air defense systems or aircraft.
“We track deliveries to the border with Ukraine and when the transfer takes place at the border checkpoints with the Ukrainians, it is up to them how they move this equipment,” a defense official told reporters on Thursday. journalists.
U.S. defense officials in Stuttgart are working with several Ukrainian liaison officers at the base and those inside the country to ensure the equipment sent gets to the units that can use it and need it most, a said the manager.
“I’m assured in every conversation I have that this equipment is getting to where it’s needed and is being used accordingly,” the defense official added.
Another issue Washington will face is the logistical challenges of training on some of these systems.
The Pentagon is already training Ukrainians on howitzers and has recognized that other more advanced systems that the Ukrainians do not currently have in their arsenal will require additional training.
As the war progresses, the United States and its allies will have to work harder to ensure that they can supply Ukraine with the capabilities it needs.
Cacian noted that Washington and kyiv appear to be coordinating more closely than before in the war on military capabilities. But allies will also need to be closely involved as Washington nears the end of its inventory of certain capabilities, such as stingers and javelins.
“Having more sources of supply helps, and there are areas where the United States is lacking and we really need allies to step up,” he said.
An unknown will be Russia’s ability to carry out its offensive in eastern Ukraine. So far, a combination of surprising resistance from Ukraine and logistical challenges has plagued Moscow in what it thought was a quick war.
Back. Navy Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, who worked with U.S. European Command to improve U.S.-Ukraine military relations, said Russia’s performance in the latest offensive will play a role. a role in Washington’s decision to change tactics in getting weapons to kyiv.
“You know, are they trying to cut out the repetitive logistics lanes? Now, what if they see us repeatedly using the same logistics routes? Do they first understand what we do? And second, can they target it? Montgomery said.
“I think there is a risk for our logistics lines. I assume the United States has, and our allies and partners have developed backup plans,” he added.
Another factor in Washington’s ability to send more weapons to Ukraine is whether it has the funds to ensure it can replenish its own stockpiles.
President Biden said Thursday he would send a request for additional funding to Congress as he nears the end of the drawdown authority granted to him under the $1.5 trillion government funding bill. dollars he signed in March.
Montgomery said he believed the president would “open the door” with his pending request.
“You don’t say that easily, extra credits are hard,” he said. “But it’s the good cause.”
Another conundrum is whether arms manufacturers can keep pace with demand.
Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was particularly critical of the administration regarding the shipment of weapons to Ukraine, saying it’s not fast enough, to especially as the war is about to escalate in the Donbass region.
“The war is changing in the east, and the Ukrainians need a lot more to win and roll back Russian aggression. We will have to get creative,” Inhofe tweeted on Friday. “Additionally, we need to make sure the Pentagon is able to secure contracts with industry to ramp up production as soon as possible. Let’s get to work.”
On the Pentagon side, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin invited 40 countries to a conference on how to meet Ukraine’s defense needs. About 20 nations have accepted invitations so far for the meeting, scheduled for Tuesday in Stuttgart. It should also address Ukraine’s military needs after the war.
The Pentagon also announced on Friday a broad request for information from industry to propose weapons and systems that can be rushed to the front line.