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Ukraine’s Weapons Christmas List to Fight Russia Looks Endless

F-16. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
F-16. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine will receive an advanced Patriot air defense system, but what else is on its Christmas list?

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Some items from the United States and the West are important but less flashy – ammunition for howitzers and rockets for the HIMARS multiple rocket launcher. More conventional artillery would be nice. F-16 fighters would be at the top of the list. Additional National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) that have finally been sent are welcome. Plus, more combat drones could make a difference.

The Sophisticated Military Hardware Requires Time and Training

One thing that is working against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is time. The more sophisticated the system, the longer it takes to get to the front and become operational. An F-16 would take pilot and maintenance crew training. The Patriot surface-to-air missile battery will require months of preparations and rehearsals by Ukrainian soldiers to get it ready to fire. This training on the Patriot will take place in Germany. The Ukrainians are also being schooled on the NASAMS.

The Price Tag Keeps Going Up

The other consideration is cost for the United States, which has borne the brunt of spending. The Americans have already spent or pledged at least $100 billion to the Ukrainians. Some Republicans are chagrined at the cost. They are demanding an audit or some type of transparency and oversight mechanism to ensure there is not waste, fraud, and abuse of donated weapons and funds.

How About an Inspector General to Oversee the Funds?

During the war in Afghanistan, there was a special inspector general office whose job it was to make sure no funny business was occurring during the reconstruction effort. It may take up to one trillion dollars to rebuild Ukraine if the war ever ends and this spending would be ripe for abuse and waste.

Some in the GOP Are Not a Big Fan of Unlimited Ukraine Support

The Republicans are taking over the House of Representatives in January and there are already grumblings about future spending and donations of weapons to Ukraine. These detractors are saying that there should be no blank checks. At the very least, some in the GOP are asking for more debate about the Ukraine spending that they believe is getting ramrodded by the Biden administration without much reflection. They believe that the money could better be spent at the southern border to alleviate a crisis there.

Polling Is Showing Cracks in Support Among Ordinary Republicans

Some House Republicans have voted in opposition to Ukraine funding bills since the spring. In May, 57 GOP representatives voted no for a $40 billion funding bill. Nationwide, there are more cracks in Republican support. In November, a Wall Street Journal poll found 48 percent of Republican voters nationwide said the United States is doing “too much” to help Ukraine.

Now the U.S. Military Is Running Low on Some Weapons

Another concern is that the Pentagon is drawing down on its own stocks of weapons that could endanger a response to a war in East Asia against the Chinese should that flare up. According to a report by the think tank CSIS, the following weapons are running short in the U.S. inventory: HIMARS launchers, Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, M-777 howitzers, and 155mm howitzer shells.

The Ukrainians need as many HIMARS as they can get. That’s also the case for Javelins and Stingers. The M-777 towed howitzer has been a winner in Ukraine and the defenders need more.

The Battle of Bakhmut

Kyiv has also asked for F-16 warplanes and Gray Eagle drones in the past. The F-16s could offer more close air support during the battle of Bakhmut which is raging now. The Gray Eagle would be a huge help as it can be armed with Hellfire missiles that could make a difference in Bakhmut. This has been the location of some of the bloodiest fighting and desperate combat is expected to run into 2023.

Zelenskyy just made an address to Congress so that speech helped his case for more weapons to some legislators and hardened opposition against Ukraine aid with others. It may be better to ask for new military hardware and ammunition from behind the scenes and continue to make his case directly to President Joe Biden, his biggest supporter. This war is going to be one year old in just a few months and support may further erode for new weapons. Zelenskyy may want to keep his wish list private in order not to rankle Congressional Republicans and other detractors nationwide.

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Author Expertise and Experience: Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.