Pressure Grows on the West to Speed Air-Defense Systems to Ukraine – The New York Times – 11.10.22
By Steven Erlanger, Eric Schmitt, Michael Schwirtz and Eric Nagourney
BRUSSELS — NATO’s top official on Tuesday called on allies to step up arms supplies to the Ukrainians, especially sophisticated air-defense systems, a day after Russia rained rocket fire on 19 cities across Ukraine in a marked escalation of its assault on civilians.
As missiles and rockets continued to strike Ukraine, though in smaller numbers than on Monday, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said that Moscow’s aerial attacks on civilian targets were “a sign of weakness” and that Ukraine would be better able to deter them if its existing weaponry was expanded.
“These air-defense systems are making a difference because many of the incoming missiles were actually shot down by Ukrainian air-defense systems provided by NATO allies,” he said.
Mr. Stoltenberg’s comments came as Western leaders, outraged by the escalation of Russian hostilities in Ukraine, held a virtual emergency meeting of the Group of 7 industrialized nations. They pledged “undeterred and steadfast” financial and military support for Ukraine. The White House also said it would expedite delivery of an advanced air-defense system.
The G7 leaders also warned Russia of “severe consequences” if it used chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in the conflict.
Officials in Ukraine, renewing their pleas for weaponry that would allow them to build “an air shield for Ukraine,” offered an accounting of what Russian armaments had struck the country in the latest bombardment — and how many had been knocked from the skies.
In the past two days, Ukraine’s air-defense forces have shot down at least 66 cruise missiles out of more than 120, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, and have destroyed all but eight of the cruise missiles fired at Ukraine on Tuesday alone. During this period, Ukrainian air defenses have also shot down 40 so-called kamikaze drones, primarily the Iranian-built Shahed-136.
“When Ukraine receives a sufficient number of modern and effective air-defense systems, the key element of Russian terror — missile strikes — will cease to work,” Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, told the G7 leaders.
Military experts say the Ukrainians’ rate of shooting down missiles is good, especially given the age and sparsity of Ukraine’s equipment. They also said that whatever shortcomings in Kyiv’s arsenal were exposed by the Russian barrage over the past few days, it also raised questions about Moscow’s arsenal.
The State of the War
A Large-Scale Strike: President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia unleashed a series of missile strikes that hit at least 10 cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv, in a broad aerial assault against civilians and critical infrastructure that drew international condemnation and calls for de-escalation.
Crimean Bridge Explosion: Mr. Putin said that the strikes were retaliation for a blast that hit a key Russian bridge over the weekend. The bridge, which links the Crimean Peninsula to Russia, is a primary supply route for Russian troops fighting in the south of Ukraine.
Mounting Criticism: While Russian hard-liners celebrated the missile strikes, Moscow’s faltering invasion of Ukraine has produced a recent barrage of criticism from supporters of the war, creating a new challenge for Mr. Putin.
The Southern Front: The Russian retreat from areas in the north of Ukraine was unplanned and chaotic. But in the south, Russian soldiers are dug in more securely, and while there are signs of low morale, there are also indications of a determination to fight.
Though the attacks killed at least 19 people across Ukraine and devastated cities, the death count was surprisingly low given the heavy toll civilians have paid in the war. That has renewed questions about the quantity and quality of Russia’s weapons and about the capacity of its forces to carry out President Vladimir V. Putin’s military objectives.
Since the war began, many of Russia’s attacks have been long-range strikes relying on outdated, unguided and imprecise missiles, including some from the Soviet era. That suggests that Moscow’s most sophisticated weapons are in short supply, say Ukrainian, Western and Russian analysts. The relatively modest impact of the latest bombardment reinforced those suspicions.
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Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, Eric Schmitt from Washington, Michael Schwirtz from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Eric Nagourney from New York. Reporting was contributed by Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia, Katie Rogers from Washington, Anton Troianovski from Berlin and Carly Olson from New York.
A wave of attacks by Russia in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, left a large crater in a playground. Credit...Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times