European Nations with Patriots Hesitate to Give Their Missile Systems to Ukraine 

German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)
German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)
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European Nations with Patriots Hesitate to Give Their Missile Systems to Ukraine 

German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)
German Patriot air defense system units are seen at the Vilnius airport, ahead of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (Reuters)

European Union countries possessing Patriot air defense systems appeared hesitant on Monday to give any to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries to help fend off Russian air attacks.

Russia’s air force is vastly more powerful than Ukraine’s, but sophisticated missile systems provided by Kyiv’s Western partners can pose a major threat to Russian aviation as the Kremlin’s forces slowly push forward along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line in the war.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said the Netherlands is “looking at every kind of possibility at the moment” and is offering financial support to a German initiative to help Ukraine bolster its air defenses and to buy more drones.

Asked at a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers why the Netherlands is reluctant to send some of its Patriot systems, Slot said: “We are looking again if we can deplete our store of what we still have, but that will be difficult.”

Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military organization “has mapped out existing capabilities across the alliance and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine.” He did not name the countries that possess Patriots.

The Patriot is a guided missile system that can target aircraft, cruise missiles and shorter-range ballistic missiles. Each battery consists of a truck-mounted launching system with eight launchers that can hold up to four missile interceptors each, a ground radar, a control station and a generator.

A key advantage of the US-made systems, apart from their effectiveness, is that Ukrainian troops are already trained to use them.

But Patriots take a long time to make — as long as two years, some estimates suggest — so countries are reluctant to give them up and leave themselves exposed. Germany had 12, but it is supplying three to Ukraine. Poland, which borders Ukraine, has two and needs them for its own defenses.

Asked whether his country would provide any, Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson said: “I don’t exclude that possibility, but right now we’re focused on financial contributions.” He said Sweden would send other systems that could “relieve some of the pressure” on the need for Patriots.

Jonson also noted that more US deliveries of air defense systems might come, after the US House of Representatives passed a package over the weekend of $61 billion in support, including $13.8 billion for Ukraine to buy weapons.

Questioned about whether Spain might step up with Patriots, Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said that his country “will make its decisions based on the power it has in its hands to support Ukraine.”

“I don’t think we’re helping anyone if we hear all the time what it is that’s being given, when it’s being given and how it’s getting in,” he told reporters at the meeting in Luxembourg.

NATO keeps track of the stocks of weapons held by its 32 member countries to ensure that they are able to execute the organization’s defense plans in times of need.

But Stoltenberg said on Friday that if dropping below the guidelines is “the only way NATO allies are able to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to defend themself, well that’s a risk we have to take.”

Beyond providing new Patriot batteries, Stoltenberg said that it’s also important for countries to ensure that the batteries they do send are well maintained, have spare parts and plenty of interceptor missiles.

In a separate development at Monday's meeting, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis expressed concern about possible Russian sabotage against facilities in Europe being used to train Ukrainian troops.

Two German-Russian men were arrested in Germany last week on suspicion of espionage, one of them accused of agreeing to carry out attacks on potential targets including US military facilities, prosecutors said.

“We are witnessing very similar events in our region, not just in Lithuania but also in Latvia and Estonia as well,” Landsbergis told reporters.

“There seems to be a coordinated action against the European countries that is coming from Russia,” he said. “We have to find a way to deal with the threat ... because Russia is fighting not just against Ukraine but the West as well.”



Putin Warns West Not to Let Ukraine Use Its Missiles to Hit Russia

 Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates Russian Border Guards troop celebrations their service holiday in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates Russian Border Guards troop celebrations their service holiday in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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Putin Warns West Not to Let Ukraine Use Its Missiles to Hit Russia

 Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates Russian Border Guards troop celebrations their service holiday in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates Russian Border Guards troop celebrations their service holiday in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West on Tuesday that NATO members in Europe were playing with fire by proposing to let Ukraine use Western weapons to strike inside Russia, which he said could trigger a global conflict.

More than two years into the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two, as the West considers what to do about Russian military advances, Putin is increasingly evoking the risk of a global war, while Western leaders play it down.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told the Economist that alliance members should let Ukraine strike deep into Russia with Western weapons, a view supported by some European members of the transatlantic alliance but not the United States.

Russian forces have advanced into Ukraine's Kharkiv province safe in the knowledge that Ukraine cannot attack missile launchers being fired deep inside Russia because it cannot use the Western missiles that have the required range.

Meanwhile, Western-made air defenses cannot attempt to down Russian rockets until they cross the Ukrainian border, only 25 km (15 miles) or so from Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv.

"Constant escalation can lead to serious consequences," Putin told reporters in Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

"If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons?"

"It's hard to say - do they want a global conflict?"

Putin said Ukrainian strikes with long-range weapons would need Western satellite, intelligence and military help - so the West would have to be directly involved in such attacks.

He said sending French troops to Ukraine would also be a step towards global conflict and that smaller countries considering deeper involvement "should be aware of what they are playing with" as they had small land areas and dense populations.

"This is a factor that they should keep in mind before talking about striking deep into Russian territory. This is a serious thing, and we are of course watching it very closely," Putin said.

RUSSIAN ADVANCES TRIGGER DEBATE IN WEST

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 touched off the worst breakdown in relations with the West for 60 years.

The invasion has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians, driven millions to flee abroad, and reduced neighborhoods and whole cities to rubble.

Putin casts the war as part of a struggle with the West, which he says is exploiting Ukraine as part of a wider plan to encroach on what he considers Moscow's sphere of influence.

The West and Ukraine cast the attack as a simple land grab: Russia controls 18% of Ukraine, and the crisis is now escalating into what diplomats say is its most dangerous phase.

Russian officials say Moscow's patience is wearing thin after Ukrainian attacks on Russian cities, oil refineries and elements of its nuclear early-warning system.

Putin said Kyiv and its Western backers had provoked Russia's offensive on the Kharkiv region by ignoring repeated warnings not to let Ukraine attack the adjacent Russian region of Belgorod.