Moscow sees supply of US Patriot missiles to kyiv as ‘escalation’

Supply of US Patriot missiles could be seen as an ‘escalation’, says Moscow

CNN’s report that Washington is considering supplying kyiv with Patriot defense missiles triggered a warning from the Russian Embassy in the United States on Wednesday, which mentioned “unforeseeable consequences”. Thursday, it was the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, who reacted during a briefing in Moscow.

Many experts, including abroad, have questioned the rationality of such a measure, which would lead to an escalation of the conflict and increase the risk of drawing the American army directly into the fight.

The Patriot anti-aircraft system that the United States should provide to Ukraine sends a strong message of support for kyiv and would strengthen the country’s anti-aircraft defense at a time when Russia is bombing its infrastructure, but this equipment is not a panacea.

The Patriots are “far from being the miracle solution” against the low-flying missiles and bombs dropped by drones that Russian forces use to systematically target Ukrainian infrastructure, underlines Ian Williams, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. The Patriot is particularly useful for countering high-flying ballistic missiles. Russia has not yet used it in Ukraine, but that could change if it buys it from Iran.

“Having a multi-layered ground-to-air defense helps when you’re dealing with these kinds of complex airstrikes”he said.

Manufactured by Raytheon, the MIM-104 Patriot is a medium-range surface-to-air missile system originally developed to intercept high-flying aircraft. It was modified in the 1980s to adapt to the new threat of tactical ballistic missiles. Patriots proved their effectiveness in the first Iraq War (1990-91) against Russian-made Scuds.

Highly mobile, each Patriot battery includes a command center, radar to detect incoming threats, detection and jamming antennas, and launchers. All elements are mounted on trucks. Each launcher can be loaded with four PAC-2 missiles with a range of 160 kilometers, or sixteen next-generation PAC-3 missiles, which have a range of only 40 km, but are more precise, thanks to an on-board radar.

The United States may only deliver one or two batteries to Ukraine. Patriot training is long and the United States has few systems available. Washington could appeal to other countries that have bought them to join in the effort.

The problem is also to choose where to position them: a battery can defend a city or a large infrastructure, but not entire regions, underlines Ian Williams. “We will have to decide what we are going to protect. Priorities will have to be set. It’s not going to defend the whole country.”he said.

Another factor to consider is the price. Each Patriot missile costs $3 million, three times more than a Nasams missile currently in use.

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