After a long hesitation, the United States is finally ready to respond favorably to an urgent request from Kyiv and provide a battery of Patriot missiles to the Ukrainian army, American media reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified officials.
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CNN said the final deal could be announced as soon as this week, once US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approves it and sends it to the White House for a final green light.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly called on Western capitals in recent weeks for advanced air defense systems as his country comes under pressure from intensified attacks from Moscow.
Russia has been increasing its bombing of Ukrainian energy infrastructure since October. The Patriots, which have been deployed extensively in recent years in Iraq and the Gulf, are weapons that can play a useful role in countering these attacks.
However, there are many unknowns in the transfer of these missiles to Kyiv, which indicate an increased commitment by the Pentagon given their sophistication, but which Washington certainly fears by intervening in a more direct way against Russia.
In particular, it is unclear how many missiles will be supplied, where in Ukraine they will be deployed and where their Ukrainian users will be trained.
Other factors explaining Washington’s reluctance to equip Ukraine with these long-range batteries include their high cost, their relative rarity in the Pentagon inventory, and the long time required to learn how to use them.
Loaded on trucks, the Patriot is designed with a radar that can automatically detect and intercept an aircraft, drone or missile within a radius of more than 100 km, a surveillance post with three soldiers and a battery of interceptor missiles.
Note that Patriot missiles are already a key element of NATO’s defenses on its eastern flank.
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