US could be preparing Ukrainians for ‘closer combat’ – WaPo
The US may be helping Ukraine prepare for an impending counteroffensive against Russia, The Washington Post has claimed, pointing to the type of weaponry making up the latest batch of military aid pledged to Kiev by the Pentagon.
While previous shipments laid special emphasis on M777 howitzers and multiple HIMARS rocket launch systems, the newly-announced $800 million package features 40 bomb-resistant vehicles (MRAP) and missile launchers with shorter ranges.
The MRAP armor is meant to protect personnel from explosions and bullets while the rollers attached to the vehicle’s front help create passages in mine fields.
A senior US defense official, who spoke to reporters this week on the condition of anonymity, noted that the “mine-clearing is a really good example of how the Ukrainians will need this sort of capability to be able to push their forces forward and retake territory.”
Washington has also pledged to provide Kiev with TOW missiles, which the Post notes can be mounted on a heavy tripod or on a vehicle like a Humvee, allowing troops to fire a missile and quickly leave to avoid return fire.
The latest tranche also includes Carl Gustav recoilless rifles and 2,000 rounds for them. That weapon’s range of a few hundred meters is far closer than the distance between Ukrainian and Russian forces along most of the frontline at the moment.
However, Rob Lee, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute and expert on the Russian military, told the Post that the makeup of the latest batch of weapons is not proof of an imminent counteroffensive.
Washington could simply be dipping into stocks it was already divesting from to avoid shipping other advanced weapons to Ukraine. For instance, the US was already planning to retire Humvees, MRAPs, and TOW missiles.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an economic element to this,” Lee concluded.