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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

We Think We Know Why Russia Can’t Seem to Beat Ukraine

Stinger
NATO Stinger missile. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russia can’t seem to compete with billions in foreign military aid: For over three weeks, Ukraine has resisted the Russian invasion. Before the war, the Kremlin and the world believed that the Ukrainian military would crumble under the pressure of the Russian bear. And yet, 22 days into the war, the Ukrainians have inflicted more casualties on the Russian military than the U.S. military suffered in two decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Foreign military aid has played a critical part in the Ukrainian defense.

Billions in Military Aid 

The U.S., NATO, European Union, and third countries have provided Kyiv with thousands of tons of weapon systems. The most famous of those include the U.S. FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank weapon, FIM-92 Stinger anti-air weapon, and U.K. Next Generation Light Anti-Tank (NLAW) weapon.

But military aid to Ukraine has included a lot more. Light machine guns, helmets, bullets, rifles, and protective gear are some of the materiel countries have sent. The U.S. alone has sent or will be sending Ukraine over $2 billion in military aid in the last two years, with $1 billion last week alone.

“President Biden today announced an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine to $1 billion in just the past week, and a total of $2 billion since the start of the Biden Administration. The assistance will take the form of direct transfers of equipment from the Department of Defense to the Ukrainian military to help them defend their country against Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new military aid assistance package includes 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor weapons, 2,000 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 1,000 light anti-tank weapons, 800 FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft weapons, 100 Switchblade tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems, 100 grenade launchers, 5,000 rifles, 1,000 pistols, 400 machine guns, and 400 shotguns, 25,000 sets of body armor, 25,000 helmets, and over 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launcher and mortar rounds.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a spending bill with $13.6 billion allocated for aid to Ukraine, including $6.5 billion for the Department of Defense, about $4 billion for the State Department and approximately $2.8 billion for USAID for humanitarian assistance.

“The United States continues to expedite the authorization and facilitation of additional assistance to Ukraine from our Allies. At least 30 countries have provided security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. In 2022, the Department of State authorized third-party transfers of defensive equipment from more than 14 countries, a number that continues to grow as Allies and Partners increase support to Ukraine,” the White House stated.

In the previous packages of military aid to Ukraine, the U.S. alone sent approximately 600 FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft weapons, 2,600 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank weapons, five Mi-17 helicopters, three patrol boats, four tracking radars to counter artillery and unmanned aerial vehicles, four counter-mortar radar systems, 200 grenade launchers, shotguns, and machine guns, 70 light vehicles, 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition, and 1 million grenade, mortar, and artillery rounds.

In addition, the U.S. is providing near-real-time satellite imagery and analysis to Ukraine and secure communications.

Dozens of other countries have sent military aid to Ukraine, represented by a hodgepodge of weapon systems, including old Soviet and Russian weapons.

Javelins and Stingers For All 

The Javelin and the Stinger have been instrumental in stopping the Russian advances. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming hundreds of destroyed and damaged Russian vehicles, and the two weapon systems have played a big part in that number. Independent reporting supports the official Ukrainian claims.

Russia

Image of Javelin anti-tank missile. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine

Javelin anti-tank missile. Image Credit: Creative Commons

Russia

Russia is being hit hard by Javelin anti-tank missiles. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Javelin

Javelin Missile. Image Credit – Creative Commons.

The Stinger is indeed a formidable weapon. It was, after all, the Stinger that helped humble the Soviets in Afghanistan and led to their humiliating defeat by the ragtag Mujahideen. But with an effective ceiling of 12,000 feet and a range of 15,000 feet, the Stinger is restricted to lower altitudes and targets mainly helicopters. The idea is to have a complimentary anti-aircraft umbrella that would cover the whole air space of a country. But the Ukrainian air defenses can’t counter Russian cruise missiles fired from fighter or bomber jets from far away, sometimes even from outside Ukrainian air space altogether.

So, the U.S. is considering sending other Soviet-made anti-aircraft systems with longer ranges that would make it harder for Russian aircraft to operate over Ukraine.

“In addition to the U.S.-produced short-range air defense systems the Ukrainians have been using to great effect, the United States has also identified and is helping the Ukrainians acquire additional, longer-range systems on which Ukraine’s forces are already trained, as well as additional munitions for those systems,” the White House added.

More than three weeks into the conflict and the skies over the battlefield remain contested, with the Russian Aerospace Force failing to achieve air dominance. As a result, these additional anti-aircraft systems have the potential to tip the balance over to the Ukrainian side.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.