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21 Nov, 2023 09:49

No ‘silver bullet’ for Ukraine – Washington

No Western weapons system can be a game changer in the conflict with Russia, the US defense secretary has admitted
No ‘silver bullet’ for Ukraine – Washington

No new Western military capability would be a game changer for Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Kiev on Monday, as he announced the latest batch of weapons aid from Washington.

The Pentagon chief was asked during a press conference whether F-16 fighter jets, which the Ukrainian government eagerly expects to join its fleet, would significantly affect the conflict. Kiev and some of its supporters have previously talked up supplies of new Western weapons as potentially turning the tide in Ukraine’s favor.

“You’ve heard us say a number of times that there is no silver bullet in a conflict like this,” Austin warned. “Whether it’s F-16s, whether it’s HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), whether it’s something else, it’s the way that you go about utilizing those capabilities and integrating it, synchronizing the capabilities to produce the right effects on the battlefield.”

Austin announced a new package of military assistance worth around $100 million during his visit. It includes one HIMARS system and an unspecified number of additional missiles and artillery shells.

Mark Milley, then-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, used the same expression in April when discussing the supply of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine, suggesting that they would “make a difference” but would not be a “silver bullet.”

The same month, then-British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace similarly cautioned that there would be no “single magic-wand moment” that would lead to a Russian collapse.

At the time, Ukraine was preparing to launch its summer counteroffensive, during which it hoped to use Western weapons to breach Russian defenses and retake land claimed by Kiev. The campaign failed to achieve any significant territorial gains and had cost Kiev over 90,000 troops by the end of October, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky complained in an interview last week that the 31 Abrams tanks delivered to Kiev between September and October were “too few” to play any meaningful role on the battlefield.

Russia has described Austin’s recent arrival in Kiev as a “mission of moral support.” Anatoly Antonov, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, said the Pentagon chief’s aid announcement was “nothing more but a sedative pill prepared by overseas ‘benefactors’ for Zelensky.” The envoy further claimed that the Ukrainian government was on the brink of complete collapse.