US Cluster Munitions Have Arrived in Ukraine, but Military Impact Remains Unknown


U.S. officials and military experts are warning that American-made weapons may not be immediately effective in Ukraine’s fight against Russian security forces after hundreds of thousands of weapons arrived in the country from U.S. military bases in Europe, according to Pentagon officials.

“The growth will be limited,” said Jack Watling, senior researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London, who has traveled to Ukraine several times. “It will make Ukraine’s weapons less lethal. The real impact will be felt at the end of the year when Ukraine has more weapons than it would have otherwise.”

Colin H. Kahl, under secretary of defense for policy, he admitted last week that “there is no possibility that there is a silver bullet,” but he said that the weapons of mass destruction would allow Ukraine to “support the war of future wars.”

President Biden fought the election for months. The cluster munitions, banned by most of America’s allies, scatter small bombs on the battlefield that can cause serious injuries even years after the war when civilians carry unexploded ordnance.

Russia has used this type of weapon in Ukraine in many wars. The Ukrainians also used them, and President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted on getting the Russians out of the trenches and preventing an invasion of his country.

Mr Biden asserted last week that disarming Ukraine as it faces a lack of weapons would make it vulnerable to Russia. He said it was a temporary move for Ukraine to continue until production of conventional weapons increased.

The decision gives the Ukrainian military more time to probe Russian defenses to find weak points along three main lines – to attack Russian artillery that attacks their advancing units – and then to bypass minefields, tank traps and other obstacles. It also allows the Ukrainian Army to do more of what it does best – fire thousands of rounds a day to weaken Russian defenses.

“It looks like they’re going back to military equipment,” said Amael Kotlarski, manager of the equipment group at Janes, a defense company.

But this military strategy raises questions about whether Ukraine has lost confidence in integrated military tactics – attacks carried out by armed forces, artillery and artillery – that nine new groups learned from American and European advisers in recent months. Western officials have declared this method more effective than the cheaper method of wearing down Russian forces by reducing and destroying their weapons.

U.S. officials in recent weeks have expressed dismay that some Ukrainian officials, angered by the initial crackdown and fearing that casualties are mounting among them, have reverted to old habits — years of Soviet training in combat zones — in space left. sticking to Western tactics and working hard to break Russian defenses.

Asked about the American criticism, Andriy Zagorodnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense minister who advises the government, said in an email: “Why don’t they come and do it themselves?”

Biden’s administration hopes that the nine divisions, about 36,000 soldiers, will show that the American military strategy – the use of combined arms, coordination methods and groups with enlisted soldiers – is superior to the centralized system that is the Russian strategy. .

“It pushes them out of their comfort zone a little bit because it forces them to use fire and conduct tactics that are more familiar to NATO forces than forces that have a Soviet legacy and Soviet doctrine behind them,” said Mr. Kahl. . “It requires them to fight in different ways.”

With so many new weapons at the disposal of the Ukrainians, the pressure to fight like Western armies has lessened. But Mr. Kahl and other top US officials and uniformed officials said it was too soon to judge the opposition and how the Ukrainian people would react to the war.

“It’s slower than we expected, but the Ukrainians have a lot of strength to fight the remaining battles,” said Mr. Kahl, noting that most of the nine Western-trained forces are not expected to commit to the war and are being held. a reserve where the Ukrainian military can fill holes punched by Russian defenses.

“The real test will be when they identify weak points or create weak points and create distractions, how quickly they can with the forces they have and how quickly the Russians will be able to respond,” Mr. Kahl said.

American and Ukrainian military officials declined to say exactly how Ukraine would use the cluster munitions, which are US-made M864 155-millimeter projectiles that can be fired from howitzers and release 72 small bombs at a time. .

“I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon,” said Rob Lee, a Russia expert at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and a former U.S. Marine.

Mr. Lee said that Ukraine could try to use military equipment located near the parts of the 600-mile line where it was easy to send troops to avoid putting its own troops in danger.

The United States will work with Ukraine to reduce the threat of weapons, Mr. Kahl said. In particular, he added, the Ukrainian government said it would not use these tours in densely populated towns, and that using these tours would make de-mining operations easier after a conflict.

“The weapons of mass destruction will be used in areas where the Russian army is located,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said. Twitter message last week. “They will be used to pass through the enemy’s defensive lines with little risk to the lives of our soldiers. Saving the lives of our soldiers, even in the most difficult times, will remain our priority.”

Mark F. Cancian, a former White House weapons expert who is now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said, “Square arms will not only provide enough ammunition to sustain a missile strike but provide security. very effective against terrain such as infantry, artillery, and vehicle traffic.”

The weapons are arriving at a time when the Ukrainian military is making slow progress.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that Ukraine is “progressing slowly, deliberately working in the most difficult areas of the mines” at a distance of 500 to 2,000 meters per day. “Going slow is deliberate,” said General Milley. “This is happening.”

He also said that the long-awaited policy of recapturing the occupied territories was not progressing as many experts had predicted, “it doesn’t surprise me at all.”

“It’s going to be very long, and it’s going to be very bloody, and nobody should have any illusions about this,” General Milley said. “At the end of the day, Ukrainian soldiers are attacking bomb shelters and trenches, and this is a fight for their lives. Yes, yes, it’s going slowly, but it’s part of the war.”


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