On Tuesday, a senior Biden administration official and multiple U.S. defense officials confirmed that President Biden is finalizing a deal to send Patriot defense missiles to Ukraine in what is being seen as a potential tipping point in the war. CNN reported, “The Biden administration is finalizing plans to send the Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine that could be announced as soon as this week, according to two US officials and a senior administration official.”
Given that the Patriot missile system would be the longest-range missile provided to Ukraine thus far if approved, concerns are mounting that it could lead to direct confrontation between Ukraine and Russia.
The move comes after months of pleas from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for the missile system to help the war-torn country “close the sky.”
The U.S. and its allies, including Britain, have been reluctant to send the missiles, given that with a range of up to 300km, the Patriot missile system would give Ukraine the power to strike well within Russian territory.
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While neighboring Poland has had Patriot missile systems, Ukrainian leaders have been requesting them from Western leaders due to increased missile and drone strikes from Russia targeting Ukrainian infrastructure. The deal comes after former UK prime minister Boris Johnson published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging Western countries to supply the missile systems along with additional anti-air systems and aircraft.
According to the defense officials, Ukrainian forces will be trained to operate the Patriot systems at a U.S. Army base in Germany which will delay the delivery of the Patriots.
While the White House is expected to claim that the systems are being deployed due to their air-defense capabilities, Ukraine is anticipating an escalation in airstrikes from Moscow in response to the announcement of the deal.