Patriot system unlikely to be a “gamechanger” in Ukrainian conflict. Writes Ahmed Adel
Nathan Dahm, a Republican Member of the Oklahoma Senate, has introduced a resolution for Ukrainian soldiers to not be trained in operating the Patriot air defence system in his state. There is a great concern that inexperienced Ukrainian soldiers will be responsible for killing innocent civilians by misfiring missiles.
“I just filed SCR2 to reject foreign soldiers on Oklahoma soil. The pentagon is planning on sending Ukrainian troops to Oklahoma to train on U.S. missile systems. The last thing we need is them misfiring a missile into Oklahoma…,” the senator wrote on Twitter.
Of particular concern is the fact that the Ukrainian soldiers will undergo training in an accelerated program that will reportedly only go on for two months instead of the minimum six. It is unrealistic to expect a soldier to learn this weapon system in such a short period of time, thus ensuring that the quality of the training will be substandard.
More dangerously though, at the end of their extremely short training, real live fire exercises must be held. This poses a significant risk for Oklahoma’s citizens. American military instructors will obviously monitor the training of the Ukrainian soldiers, but this is not a guarantee of safety. Although the probability of an accident is small, it still exists, so-much-so that Dahm had to highlight it.
In his resolution, Dahm stressed: “Recent reports indicate the Ukrainian military launched a rocket that landed in Poland, killing innocent Polish citizens, and the citizens of Oklahoma need not be under threat of a similar failure impacting our people.”
None-the-less, Dahm’s desire to prevent the training of Ukrainian soldiers in Oklahoma is unlikely to succeed. Although there are many Republicans who are against supporting Ukraine, in essence, there are more who support the Ukrainian state.
Given his position as a state senator, it is unlikely that he will be able to reverse Washington’s foreign policy. In addition, all military training grounds and special centres in the US are subordinated directly to the Pentagon. The senator does not have any rights or powers in terms of limiting the performance of military exercises.
It is unlikely that the training will have a major impact on the battlefield as the Ukrainians will not be able to handle these systems properly without American or European instructors. This certainly carries the risk of further escalation. Therefore, for the Patriots to have an impact, they not only need to arrive safely in Ukraine, but American and European militaries will need to risk their instructors who will be facing Russian missile strikes.
It is recalled that Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper stated that the training of Ukrainian forces on the American air defence system will begin at the end of January and will last for several months. The training itself will take place at Fort Sill – a huge training ground to the southwest of Oklahoma City.
As for the actual incident in Poland mentioned by Dahm, Polish media reported on November 15 that two rockets fell in the Lublin Voivodeship on the border with Ukraine, killing two people. Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky initially stated that he was certain that Kiev was not involved in the incident, he said shortly after that he was not 100 percent sure what happened. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US has not seen any evidence to dispute Warsaw’s preliminary report that the missile was Ukrainian.
It is this very scenario that Dahm is desperately trying to avoid in Oklahoma.
“We must put the people of Oklahoma first,” Dahm said. “We shouldn’t be allowing the unaccountable spending, corruption, and potential money laundering to now flow through Oklahoma with the presence of foreign troops on our land.”
The US announced it was sending Ukraine the Patriot in late December when Zelensky visited Washington to meet with President Joe Biden. Despite the Patriot being an advanced air defence system, Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at CSIS, said that the Patriot is “not a game-changer” because it is “still only able to defend a relatively small piece of dirt.”
“These systems don’t pick up and move around the battlefield,” explained retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, former commander of US Army Europe. “You put them in place somewhere that defends your most strategic target, like a city, like Kyiv. If anyone thinks this is going to be a system that is spread across a 500-mile border between Ukraine and Russia, they just don’t know how the system operates.”
In this way, the US is not only wasting taxpayers’ money by transferring Patriots to Ukraine and training its crew, but is also exposing American citizens to danger, all for the sake of a weapon that most experts unanimously agree will not change the course of the war in Ukraine’s favour.