Ukraine will get an advanced US-built Patriot defence missile system to try to counter Russian missile and drone attacks, the White House has confirmed ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington on Wednesday.
Since the start of the war in February, many Western air defences have been sent in, from man-portable Stinger shoulder-launched missiles, through to more advanced radar-guided and other heat-seeking systems. All provide a comprehensive level of protection against different threats.
Patriots are another step on that same path – and one which will antagonise Moscow.
The new Patriot missile battery “will be a critical asset to defend the Ukrainian people against Russia’s barbaric attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure”, the White House said in a briefing.
No US or other Nato troops can operate these systems inside Ukraine, so like other Western weapons Ukrainian forces will have to be trained to use them – and that training will take place outside of their country. Such training could already be well under way and, more broadly, the US military has said it will expand its training for Ukrainian forces in Germany from January.
Moscow has called any plans to deploy Patriots “a provocation” and a further expansion of the United States’ military involvement in Ukraine. Russia indicated that such missiles would become what it called “legitimate targets” for missile strikes, something that has been said before in this war.
It is difficult to say precisely what the overall effect of the Patriot systems will be. They will certainly provide an extra layer of protection, but their size and expense means that few units can be sent. What is clear is that Ukraine’s old surface-to-air missile systems built by Russia are being gradually replaced by more modern weapons supplied by the West, and this is something that will bring comfort to kyiv, and a danger to Moscow.