Russia is trying to deplete Ukraine’s air defenses: Pentagon official

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Russia’s recent wave of missile strikes against Ukraine is partly designed to deplete Kyiv’s air defense supplies and ultimately achieve dominance of the country’s skies, a senior Pentagon official said Saturday.

Russia has been bombarding cities across Ukraine with missile strikes since last week, in one of the heaviest waves of missile strikes since Moscow began its invasion nearly nine months ago.

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Ukraine says the attacks have paralyzed nearly half of Ukraine’s power system, creating a potential humanitarian disaster as winter approaches.

Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s top policy adviser, also warned that Moscow hopes to exhaust Ukraine’s air defenses that have so far prevented the Russian military from dominating Ukraine’s skies.

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“They are really trying to overwhelm and deplete Ukrainian air defense systems,” Kahl told reporters during a trip to the Middle East.

“We know what the Russian theory of victory is and we are committed to making sure that doesn’t work, ensuring that the Ukrainians get what they need to keep their air defenses viable.”

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Western military experts expected the Russian military to immediately attempt to destroy Ukraine’s air force and air defenses. This is a core element of modern military strategy, allowing better support for advancing ground forces.

Instead, Ukrainian forces were able to engage Russian aircraft, and Ukraine’s skies remain contested to this day.

This critical and early failure has been a central element of Russia’s problems in Ukraine. The country escalates its failed invasion and incurs tremendous costs in lives and military equipment.

“I think one of the things that has probably surprised the Russians the most is the resilience of Ukraine’s air defenses since the beginning of this conflict,” Kahl said.

“In large part, this is due to the ingenuity and cunning of the Ukrainians themselves in keeping their air defense systems viable. But also because the United States and other allies and partners have provided tremendous support,” he said.

Last week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin focused on air defense supplies for Ukraine in a virtual meeting he hosted at the Pentagon. Ukraine’s allies have provided everything from legacy Soviet-era systems to more modern Western systems.

For the United States, this includes the new US-supplied NASAMS air defense systems that the Pentagon says have so far had a 100% success rate in Ukraine in intercepting Russian missiles.

“We are transitioning Ukrainians to standard NATO equipment in general, but not least including air defense systems like NASAM,” Kahl said.

Source: CNN Brasil

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