Patriot Missiles and Geopolitical Drama
On Friday, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said that there is no news on the potential transfer of a MIM-104 Patriot air defense battery to Ukraine.
“[We] don’t have any announcements to make today regarding any new security assistance packages. As always, we will continue to remain committed to providing Ukraine with the key capabilities that it needs to defend its nation,” the Pentagon spokesperson said during the press briefing.
Russian officials warned that a potential deployment of MIM-104 Patriot air defense missiles to Ukraine would be provocative and make them a target of Russian attacks.
“I find it ironic and very telling that officials from a country that brutally attacked its neighbor in an illegal and unprovoked invasion, through a campaign that is deliberately targeting and killing innocent civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, that they would choose to use words like ‘provocative’ to describe defensive systems that are meant to save lives and protect civilians,” Ryder said in response to the comments made by the Russian officials.
Why Patriot Missiles Matter
With the Russian military consistently attacking Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure, sending Ukraine anti-aircraft weapon systems is key. On Friday, the Russian military conducted its ninth large-scale missile attack against Ukrainian critical infrastructure, launching more than 70 ballistic and cruise missiles that struck at least nine critical infrastructure facilities in five different Ukrainian provinces.
The Russians also targeted the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with one of the largest missile attacks against the city.
The Ukrainian air defenses have a relatively good interception rate. According to the Ukrainian General Staff, the Ukrainian forces shot down 60 Russian ballistic and cruise missiles in the latest attack.
But those missiles that do get through are wreaking havoc on the Ukrainian energy grid. The Russian forces use decoys, usually old missiles—even disarmed nuclear munitions—to distract and keep the Ukrainian air defenses occupied.
The MIM-104 Patriot air defense system is a highly capable one—the U.S. military and NATO use thousands of them—and can definitely help the strained Ukrainian air defenses in their mission.
The U.S. has been trying to find air defense weapon systems to ship to Ukraine. Washington has called NATO allies and partners who operate Russian-made air defense platforms to send them to Ukraine.
But, in almost all cases, the third countries request that their weapon systems are replaced with American-made platforms to fill any capability gaps.
Greece is a good example of that. The Greek military operates a few S-300 air defense batteries and is willing to send them to Ukraine but has requested additional MIM-104 Patriot missiles—the Greek military already uses the Patriot—in exchange, to plug the gap that a potential transfer of the S-300 would create.
And there are several other countries that have expressed a willingness to send weapon systems in exchange for adequate replacements.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive 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 Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.