The President’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, puts that request more bluntly than his boss. “Ukraine is holding the line against Russia, not just for us, but for the West.”
Patriot MIM-104 is the main air defense system of the US military, some NATO countries and its allies. Patriot entered service in 1982 and has undergone several upgrades. The Patriot is similar to the Soviet / Russian S-300 and S-400 systems, with its primary mission being intercepting aerial targets, including enemy aircraft and missiles.
Patriot has been used in four wars: the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the recent war in Syria, and the conflict between the Saudi coalition in Yemen. As such, the Patriot is mainly used in the Middle East, where conflicts are occurring and continuing.
Not long ago, Patriot’s performance in the conflict in the Middle East was fiercely criticized. In the fall of 2019, the Yemen Houthi armed forces used homemade UAVs and cruise missiles, to attack Saudi Arabia’s oil plant, protected by 88 Patriot missile systems, but no response of these anti-aircraft systems. The US Secretary of State at the time, Pompeo, admitted the Patriot system was designed to intercept ballistic missiles, flying in a predictable orbit; And for low-range and maneuverable targets like drones or cruise missiles, there’s nothing the Patriot can do?
Currently Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, an ally of the United States, has bought two Patriot systems and 208 missiles, for $4.55 billion. The contract was officially signed in 2018, and the handover is expected to be completed in 4 years. As a result, the cost of a Patriot is about $2 billion, and it will take a few years to deliver.
But are Mr. Yermak’s ideas realistic? Apparently Ukraine needs more Patriot missiles than Poland. Poland bought the Patriot mainly to intercept the Russian Iskander missile, located in Kaliningrad. In contrast, the border between Ukraine and Russia, which includes the Crimea and Black Sea regions, is more than 2,000 kilometers long, ten times the border between Poland and Russia. Obviously, Ukraine needs more Patriot missiles, to cover such a large area.
Contrary to the current budget of Ukraine, it is impractical to buy a large number of Patriot missiles. Ukraine’s military budget by 2021 is only $4 billion. This figure is even less than the amount Poland spent to buy two Patriot systems. Obviously, Mr. Yelmak implied that the US should support Ukraine financially, to buy Patriot missiles; in fact, Ukraine doesn’t have the money to buy the Patriot either. In this case, Ukraine wants to be provided with “free” Patriots, since it “claims” to be “outpost against Russia”.
But this is not realistic, even the NATO allies of the US must buy Patriot missile systems at a price not cheap. In other words, the US did not want to give Ukraine too much military assistance in the first place. On the other hand, the countries with Patriot missiles, the United States have military bases here, including airports, barracks and other important facilities. This standard applies not only to NATO countries, but also to other US allies, such as countries in the Middle East or Japan. This is completely incompatible with Ukraine, when Kiev is not a member of NATO.