The US and its partners have struggled to counter Russian president Vladimir Putin’s moves on the world stage. Russia has continued to beef up its military presence in Syria while conducting unilateral strikes against US-backed rebels in the country. And in Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists continue to occupy much of the Donbas region.
But the day after a high-profile meeting with Putin at the UN, President Obama authorised a deal that would provide the Ukrainian military with $US20 million in radar equipment. According to Adrian Karatnycky of the Atlantic Council, the radar systems could seriously change the Ukrainian conflict’s calculus.
The US will now provide Ukraine with Q36 radar systems, an item that was high on Kiev’s military wish list. The radars are mobile and can allow “the immediate targeting of the point of origin of missiles from a range of 18 kilometers and rockets from a distance of 24 kilometers,” Karatnycky writes “More importantly, it enables operators to precisely locate the enemy’s artillery and rocket launchers after just one shot.”
Karatnycky thinks the radars could “help tip the balance” for Ukrainian government forces. As Karatnycky notes, 75% per cent of Ukranian fatalities are “a result of artillery and missile attacks,” according to the country’s defence ministry.
The radar may deter future separatist attacks, since a single launched rocket or missile would give away their firing location. When the separatists did attack with the radar system present, the Ukrainians will be able to quickly and effectively launch a targeted counter-attack.
As Karatnycky notes, these new capabilities would not be enough to deter a full-scale attack should Russia decide to further escalate the conflict. But the radars could still diminish the separatists’ offensive capabilities, along with their ability to hold additional territory.
Ukraine has been locked in a frozen conflict since launching an operation against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country. The separatists, with considerable Russian backing and equipment, now control sizable portions of eastern Ukraine along the Russian border.
Although the US has refused to provide Ukraine with lethal aid, it has sent Humvees and communication gear to Kiev, while US Marines have helped to train members of the Ukrainian military.
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