US requires Ukraine to keep Javelin missiles 100’s of miles from battlefield

Remember those additional javelin missiles that Ukrainian President Zelensky wanted? It turns out that the US requires they be kept 100’s of miles from the battlefield. From an article in Foreign Policy on October 3rd, 2019
Far From the Front Lines, Javelin Missiles Go Unused in Ukraine

“Under the conditions of the foreign military sale, the Trump administration stipulates that the Javelins must be stored in western Ukraine—hundreds of miles from the battlefield. ”

“I see these more as symbolic weapons than anything else,” said Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at Rand Corp. Experts say the conditions of the sale render them useless in the event of a sustained low-level assault—the kind of attack Ukraine is most likely to face from Russia.

A U.S. Marine fires a Javelin at a simulated enemy tank at Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps) From Raytheon Javelin Weapon System Gallery

So who wins with the sale of these missiles that aren’t available to use? Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Each missile costs $109,000 each.

When the discussion of military aide came up Sen. John McCain taunted Obama for giving the Ukrainians “blankets and meals,” instead of lethal support. Trump picked up on that attack on Obama during his meeting with Zelensky

A reporter asked about military aid and Trump replied that “we’re working with Ukraine and we want other countries to work with Ukraine.”

“Well, we’re working with Ukraine and we want other countries to work with Ukraine. When I say ‘work,’ I’m referring to money. They should put up more money. We put up a lot of money. I gave you anti-tank busters that — frankly, President Obama was sending you pillows and sheets, and I gave you anti-tank busters. And a lot of people didn’t want to do that. But I did it,” Trump said.

“And I really hope that Russia, because I believe that President Putin would like to do something. I really hope that you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem. That would be a tremendous achievement. I know you’re trying to do that,” he added.

Trump wanted to position Obama as weak. Offering the missiles made Trump look like a tough guy, even if they weren’t an effective deterrent. From the Foreign Policy article:

But as part of the agreement of the sale, the Javelins are not deployed on the battlefield but stored hundreds of miles away in western Ukraine—far from the front lines of the Donbass, which could radically diminish their deterrent effect, said Mike Carpenter, who served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Eurasia under Obama.

“If the Russians know that the Javelins are not there, the deterrent effect is negated,” said Carpenter, though he noted that the missiles could be transferred to the battlefield in the event of an attack. Michael Kofman, a weapons expert with CNA, described the Javelins as an “insurance policy”—but one with little impact in the balance of power on the conflict.

The decision in 2017 to go ahead with the sale under Trump is often held up as evidence that, despite the president’s puzzling affinity for Russia, his administration has pursued a hawkish Russia policy.

Shortly after the first batch of Javelins arrived in Ukraine in 2018, they were tested by the Ukrainian military in what then-President Petro Poroshenko described as a “dream come true.” The Ukrainian military has been trained on how to use the Javelins, but with no tank battles in eastern Ukraine since 2015, they haven’t yet had the chance to use them for real.

These last two paragraphs are important

“It became this sort of embodiment of U.S. support for Ukraine,” said Charap, who previously served as a senior advisor to the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control. “It’s much more headline-grabbing than helping them with their logistics, which by the way is a real problem.

“While generals and politicians in Kyiv played up the Javelins, in my own experience, soldiers in the field talked more about getting insufficient quantities of the nonlethal aid that they really needed—secure communications, armored vehicles, counterbattery radars,” said Olga Oliker, the director for Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group.

Watching the hearings reminds people that Russia started this war and thousands are death and wounded.

“Some 13,000 people have been killed, a quarter of them civilians, and as many as 30,000 wounded in the war in eastern Ukraine since it broke out in April 2014.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) “estimates the total number of conflict-related casualties in Ukraine…at 40,000-43,000” from April 14, 2014 to January 31, 2019, the statement said, including “12,800-13,000 killed.” (link)

There are many ways we can support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.  I’m glad someone in the military and/or state department understood they needed a way to let Trump look like a tough guy, but limit the possibility of upsetting Russia with active deployment of weapons that could lead to esclation.  I’m not an expert, but it looks to be a fairly clever move that solved three problems at once, so I assume that no one currently in the White House had anything to do with it.


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