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Austin Says Ukraine Needs Air Defenses, Ignores Kiev’s Request for Long-Range Missiles

by | Sep 19, 2023

Austin Says Ukraine Needs Air Defenses, Ignores Kiev’s Request for Long-Range Missiles

by | Sep 19, 2023

millery austin

Gen. Milley and Austin at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting.

Top American defense officials attended a gathering of Ukraine’s Western backers in Germany and called for allies to dig deep to support Kiev. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin downplayed questions from reports about long-range missiles while emphasizing Ukraine’s need for more air defenses. 

Speaking to the Ukraine Defense Contract Group at the Ramstein air base on Tuesday, Austin said Kiev needs air defenses, not the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). He explained he would not “endeavor to evaluate” Ukraine’s requests for ATACMS.

ATACMS are long-range missiles fired from HIMARS launchers. The US has provided Ukraine HIMARS with munitions that can strike targets 50 miles away. Kiev has spent months requesting ATACMS missiles with a range of nearly 200 miles. 

Austin stressed the White House was more focused on “what Ukraine’s most urgent needs are.” “We’ve done a credible job of getting some air defense capability but there’s much more work to be done. I have every belief they will go back and dig a bit deeper.” He continued, “Air defense is saving lives. I urge allies and partners to dig deep and donate whatever air defense munitions they can as Ukraine heads into another winter of war.”

He added that Kiev also needs artillery rounds and armor. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the US would begin to deliver M1 Abrams Tanks to Ukraine within days. The tanks will be equipped with depleted uranium 120MM shells. The munitions are toxic and cause long-term health and environmental damage.  

Ukraine is also in need of 155MM artillery shells. Currently, Kiev is using more rounds than its Western backers can produce. The Pentagon has depleted its stockpiles of rounds, and President Joe Biden has resorted to sending counter bombs to Ukraine to cover the shortfall. Cluster bombs drop submunitions that often do not explode during the conflict, leading to civilians being killed by the bomblets for decades after the war ends. 

Kiev’s summer counteroffensive has stalled, leading Western leaders to admit that war in Ukraine will likely drag on for years. Speaking to the Defense Contact Group, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley said Kiev is still working to expel hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers from Ukraine. “For Ukraine to militarily eject those two or 300,000 Russian troops that are still there, that’s a tough fight . . . there’s a lot left to go. This fight is not yet over,” he explained. “For the critics that are out there, I would say that there’s plenty of fighting weather left, there’s plenty of combat power remaining, and the Ukrainians have absolutely no intent to stop.”

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of Antiwar.com and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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