The US is considering sending the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine, a US defense official revealed at a press conference Tuesday.
The Raytheon system is one of the capabilities “being considered with all others,” the official said regarding potential steps to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense against persistent Russian missile and drone attacks.
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder later clarified that the Defense Department is not planning to send the Patriot batteries to Ukraine, “but again, we’ll continue to have those discussions, and when and if there’s something to announce on that front, we will.”
Challenges of Sending Patriots
The US has rushed in air defense systems — such as the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System and the Avenger — in response to Russia’s stepped-up attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets in the last couple of months.
However, sending the Patriot would be a significant challenge in training, logistics, and maintenance.
“When it comes to certain capabilities, like Patriot missiles … you’re talking about a pretty significant maintenance and sustainment tail, as well as a training tail on those things. So then none of these systems are ‘plug and play.’ You can’t just show up on the battlefield and start using them,” Ryder added.
“So those are the kinds of things that are taken into account when it comes to more advanced systems.”
Kyiv Requesting More
The remarks came hours after Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba asked the West for an array of air defense systems, including the Patriot.
“We need air defense, IRIS, Hawks, Patriots, and we need transformers,” Kuleba said on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Bucharest.
“If we have transformers and generators, we can restore our energy needs. If we have air defense systems, we can protect from the next Russian missile strikes. In a nutshell: Patriots and transformers is what Ukraine needs the most.”
Poland Suggests Patriots for Ukraine; Germany Refuses
Poland previously suggested sending the systems being offered by Germany to Ukraine instead. However, Berlin rejected the proposal, saying that the platform is intended for NATO members.
“These Patriots are part of NATO’s integrated air defense, meaning they are intended to be deployed on NATO territory,” German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said.
“Any use outside NATO territory would require prior discussions with NATO and the allies,” she added.
NATO Chief Refers Back to Berlin
Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg clarified that it’s up to Germany to decide where it wants to send the system.
Stoltenberg’s remark drew a sharp reaction from former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who warned that the move would be answered by the Russian armed forces.
“If, as Stoltenberg hinted, NATO were to supply the Ukrainian fanatics with Patriot systems along with NATO personnel, they would immediately become a legitimate target of our armed forces,” Medvedev wrote on Telegram, without clarifying whether he meant the system, NATO, or the NATO personnel as “legitimate target.”