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Barrier broken: Ukraine may be able to use Western weapons for strikes deep into Russian territory. Serhiy Zgurets’ column

31 May, 2024 Friday
11:33

So far, 12 European countries, especially those bordering Russia, as well as NATO leaders, have emphasized the need for such a step. However, the situation mainly depends on the US and Germany, which have been hesitant to agree to such a step for a long time. Although now the situation is really starting to change

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Ukrainian drones strike at Russian boats in Crimea

Last night, on May 30, operators of the Group 13 unit of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine conducted another successful strike against Russian forces using MAGURA V5 kamikaze maritime drones. The target of the attack was Russian boats in the Vuzka Bay in the village of Chornomorske, Crimea. Initially, there were reports that Russia had lost two Tunets boats. Then it was reported that its losses were actually twice as many.

Interestingly, Russia tried to somehow counteract such a massive swarm attack by Ukrainian drones, using helicopters and even raising aircraft, but failed to hit our drones. In principle, this attack was successful, but it seems that we need to equip our drones with missiles that can also attack Russian helicopters. I think this will be another intrigue in the use of Ukrainian drones in the future.

On the use of Western weapons for strikes on Russian territory

We carried out these attacks with Ukrainian developments, but it seems that the ice has broken on the issue of authorizing the use of Western weapons to strike deep into Russian territory against military targets or targets that affect the aggressor's ability to conduct combat operations. So far, 12 European countries, especially those bordering Russia, as well as NATO leaders, have emphasized the need for such a step. However, the situation mainly depends on the United States and Germany, which have been hesitant to agree to such a step for a long time. Although now the situation is really starting to change.

On May 29, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press conference in Moldova. He first reiterated the thesis that we already know, that the United States does not encourage or support strikes outside of Ukraine with American weapons, but that Ukraine must make its own decisions about the best way to effectively protect its capabilities. We've heard this before, but there's a new detail that has to do with air defense. Blinken said that there are no restrictions on Ukraine's use of air defense equipment supplied by the United States to shoot down Russian missiles or fighter jets over Russian territory if they pose a threat to Ukraine. I hope that this will be translated into practical steps.

There are also some changes on the part of Berlin. Because on Tuesday, May 28, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Ukraine can use weapons provided by Germany within the framework of international law. This can be interpreted as a certain important step towards lifting the restrictions from Berlin. But we understand that practice is the main criterion of truth. I think that everything is going to lead to the fact that Ukraine will effectively use both Patriot and long-range weapons systems in accordance with our needs on the battlefield without unnecessary publicity. But the main thing is that this will satisfy both the Ukrainian Armed Forces and our partners.

The race to produce ammunition

At the same time, the United States is accelerating the production of ammunition needed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the US Army itself. We are talking about 155 mm caliber ammunition. The New York Times reported that this ammunition will be produced at a new plant in Texas. Interestingly, the production of this ammunition will be 30,000 rounds per month. In the future, in 2025, this will allow the United States to reach the production of 100,000 shells per month or 1.2 million per year, but in 2025. These shells will be supplied not only to Ukraine, but will also be used to restore US stockpiles.

Let me remind you that as of today, the United States has supplied us with 3 million large-caliber ammunition. Now our optimal need is 200,000 per month or more than 2 million per year. The European defense industry promises to deploy capabilities within 1 million rounds of ammunition by the end of the year. The US will produce about 800,000 by the end of the year. This means that there is a certain race in the production of ammunition in Europe and the US compared to Russia, which also intends to reach the production rate of about 2.4 million rounds per year by the end of 2024.

The Czech initiative is important here, by the way. The Czech Foreign Ministry announced that starting next month Ukraine will receive Czech ammunition. That is, ammunition purchased under the Czech initiative in the amount of 50,000-100,000 rounds per month. This will be an important addition to American assistance.

Problems and capabilities of the private defense sector

When discussing foreign-made ammunition and the advancements of other countries, we understand that we need to rely on our own resources. Let's focus on the development of our defense industry, particularly the private sector, by looking at the Technological Forces of Ukraine association. This association combines the capabilities of several dozen of the most advanced technological private enterprises that manufacture unmanned systems, robotic platforms, and defense equipment.

Kateryna Mykhalko, executive director of the Technological Forces of Ukraine association, said that compared to last year, more private manufacturers of weapons, military equipment, drones, and ammunition have appeared. Of course, this is a positive development for our country, as it is important to have a defense business within the country. But we must separate the issue of the ability of manufacturers to produce products and the ability of the state to buy them. It is the second component that we would like to work on to improve the performance. The capacity of manufacturers to produce is greater than the country's budget for such purchases. The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Strategy and Industry are currently developing regulatory projects to make long-term procurement. So far, these drafts have not been adopted or voted on, but it is hoped that in the coming months a model will emerge that will allow the state to buy weapons for several years in advance.

The executive director of the Technological Forces of Ukraine association noted that the problem of booking workers (exempting them from military service - ed.) is currently the most significant for manufacturers. Legally, it seems that the defense industry sector can book 100% of its team, but in reality, unfortunately, this is not the case. A certain number of employees do not have up-to-date documents for various reasons. After an internal survey among the companies of the association, it became known that 90% of the companies lost up to 30 employees because when these people went to update their data, they were immediately mobilized and sent for training. Accordingly, it is no longer possible to return the employee to production. This is a significant problem because these specialists are highly specialized, and it takes 3-4 months to replace such a person. During this time, production may be completely blocked, and the company's capacity will be reduced to zero. And this is a problem because there is no mechanism for a person to update their data and be sure that they will not be mobilized because they are an employee of a company that has a state order for the production of weapons.

Mykhalko emphasized that the reservation of defense industry employees should be done in fact, not just legally. And this can be achieved. The first is to give an automatic deferral for updating data to a person who is an employee of a defense enterprise. A mechanism should also be created to ensure that a person cannot be mobilized here and now because this employee produces weapons that are necessary for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. All defense industry employees should be given the opportunity to safely update their data. If we take away people from the defense sector, we will not have our own weapons, and therefore, we will be delaying our victory.

Mykhalko noted that, unfortunately, she does not see any tendencies for manufacturers to work in Ukraine, as the degree of unpredictability and risks in the country is increasing due to mobilization, closed exports and access to the international market, and the lack of predictable procurement for several years ahead - these are the main factors that make manufacturers think about relocating abroad. There are producers who stay in Ukraine and work in spite of this, not because of it, but this is a heroic act, because the industry is very difficult, and it is quite difficult to find resources for development, especially of new technologies.

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