Mar 20, 2022

Retired US and European military leaders advocate for advanced air defenses for Ukraine,

10:42 a.m. ET, March 9, 2022 Retired US and European military leaders advocate for advanced air defenses for Ukraine From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Peter Bergen A group of senior retired US military officers and former chiefs of defense of three Eastern European countries are advocating for supplying the Ukrainian military with air defense capabilities to defend against attacks by the Russian air force, according to an open letter obtained by CNN. Supplying the Ukrainians with such weaponry would be effective in allowing them to shoot down aircraft or missiles in their airspace, and it is something that Ukrainians have specially asked the US and western countries to provide. “The purpose of this letter is to urge, in the strongest possible sense, immediate action to provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with a viable mid- and high-altitude air defense capability. They need immediate reconstitution of their capability to defend themselves against air attacks from the Russian Air Force,” the retired military officials write. “We cannot stand idly by and wish them well as Russia prosecutes an unrestricted campaign of destruction on the Ukrainian government, its infrastructure, and its people.” This move should would stop short of creating a no-fly zone, which the US and NATO have so far resisted supporting due to concerns that this could embroil the alliance in a war with a nuclear-armed power. Earlier this week 27 foreign policy experts published an open letter calling on the Biden administration and the international community to establish a limited no-fly zone in Ukraine surrounding the humanitarian corridors. The retired military leaders say that NATO’s decision to reject a no-fly zone was “devastating to the Ukrainian government and people’s morale.” They go on to assert that supplying the mid- and high-altitude air defense capability would prevent the Russians from dominating Ukrainian “airspace while delivering devastation of Ukraine’s cities.” They note that, “Some nations have air defense systems similar to those which were previously destroyed in the opening days of the Russian campaign. Those nations could transfer existing stocks of Soviet-era and Russian-produced weapon systems to include radars. Other nations can purchase them on the international market and expedite their delivery to Ukraine.” This proposal may have a better chance of success than implementing a no-fly zone because supplying the Ukrainian military with advanced air defense capabilities, The Ukrainians already have some S300 missile systems — which are a type of air defense — which means they are trained in operating these. The Croatians and few either other NATO nations have S300s in their inventory. Turkey could use this an opportunity to offload the S400s they bought from Russia, which was a purchase that created deep tensions within the NATO alliance. The letter's signatories: They include General Phillip M. Breedlove, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. The former chiefs of defense of three Eastern European countries also signed on to the letter Lieutenant General Raimonds of Latvia; Lieutenant General Vytautas Jonas Žukas of Lithuania, and General Riho Terras of Estonia. A number of key former leaders of US Special Operations Forces also signed the letter including Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, former Deputy Commander, Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral Sean Pybus, former Deputy Commander, Special Operations Command; Lieutenant General Francis M. Beaudette, former Commanding General, Army Special Operations Command, and Major General Michael S. Repass, former Commander, Special Operations Command Europe. CNN military analyst, Lieutenant General, Mark P. Hertling, was also a signatory to the letter. More background: Their letter comes just a day after the Chair of Ukraine's Parliament requested surface-to-air defense systems, no-fly zones over critical areas and fighter jets for Ukraine in a letter to US lawmakers on Tuesday, according to the letter reviewed by CNN. The chair, Ruslan Stefanchuk, said that there is a need for “military assistance suitable for countering Russian attacks and military advances,” citing the Iron Dome as one example of the military equipment that Ukraine needs. When asked about providing this type of additional military assistance to Ukraine State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, told lawmakers that some of it could be possible but cited challenges with certain highly advanced equipment. “I would only say with regard to Iron Dome, you can't just, you know, snap your fingers and you have an Iron Dome. It takes training, it takes the ability to emplace it and all of those kinds of things. But there are other things on your list, on their list, which we think that we can do,” Nuland said. She added that she could get into more detail in a classified setting.