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19 May, 2022 20:14

US to send anti-ship missiles to Ukraine – Reuters

Washington is reportedly looking to provide powerful missiles to help break a Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports
US to send anti-ship missiles to Ukraine – Reuters

President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly maneuvering to send more advanced anti-ship missiles to Ukraine to help the former Soviet republic break a Russian naval blockade of its Black Sea ports.

The missiles in question are the Harpoon, made by Boeing, and the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), made by Kongsberg and Raytheon Technologies, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing three unidentified administration officials and two congressional sources. Talks are active on whether to ship the missiles directly to Kiev or to transfer them through a European ally.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been lobbying since at least April for his Western backers to provide Harpoons or other missiles with similar capabilities. However, as Reuters noted, countries have avoided being the first nation or the only nation providing such weaponry to Kiev, “fearing Russian reprisals if a ship is sunk with a Harpoon from their stockpile.”

One “well stocked” country is now considering becoming the first to ship such missiles to Ukraine, while others might follow, according to the report. The NSM can be launched relatively easily from the coast and has a maximum range of 250 kilometers. NATO allies have mobile ground-based NSM launchers available to loan, Reuters said, and the warheads would come from Norway.

The Harpoon can destroy targets from nearly 300 kilometers away, but it’s typically used as a ship-to-ship missile, and there are few platforms available for launching it from shore. The US may try to solve that issue by pulling a launcher off an American warship, Reuters said. The Harpoon cruises in a low, sea-skimming trajectory and has active radar guidance.

Ukraine has also requested Multiple Rocket Launcher Systems (MRLS), such as Lockheed Martin’s M270, which now can reportedly be considered for shipment after Thursday’s passage of a $40 billion aid bill by the US Senate. The M270 can hit a target upward of 70 kilometers away, a far longer range than is offered by Ukraine’s existing howitzer rounds.

Breaking the Russian blockade of Odessa and other Black Sea ports might allow for shipments of wheat and other Ukrainian exports to get out of the country. Russian officials have warned that Western weapons shipments to Ukraine are “pouring oil on the flames” and could spark a wider conflict.

In debating the massive Ukraine aid bill last week, US Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) said that by ramping up weapons shipments to Kiev and sanctions against Moscow, the Biden administration was “sleepwalking” into war with Russia.

Russia attacked the neighboring state following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.