April 12, 2024

US sniper in Ukraine says ammunition is urgently needed, not tanks

An American veteran fighting in Ukraine said soldiers are desperate for artillery and ammunition. He doesn’t care at this point about buying more expensive equipment like tanks because that’s not what they need most.

Jonathan Poquette told Business Insider that the ammunition shortage in Ukraine means soldiers have become much more picky about which targets to hit, sometimes even failing to intervene. groups of advancing Russians that they would have hit earlier during the Russian invasion.

And as he watches Ukraine’s allies debate further aid to Ukraine, he has a clear case.

“With the West you see so many things about, ‘Oh yeah, they’re donating these vehicles, these vehicles, these vehicles.’ And it’s like, buddy, I don’t care about the vehicles to a certain extent.”

“Give me bullets, give me mortars, give me artillery, give me things that the individual soldiers can fight with and kill the Russians.”

Poquette is a sniper with Chosen Company – an international force within the Ukrainian Army’s 59th Motorized Brigade, officially designated as a reconnaissance unit but often used more for front-line assaults and defensive missions – and has been recovering from an injury in Kiev since late 2010. January.

He said long-standing shortages of weapons and equipment are the weapons that can keep soldiers alive and deter Russia Seizing territory is more urgently needed than anything that can help with longer-term planning or long-range attacks.

Ukrainian tank crews T64 main battle tank fires at the position of the Russian troops on January 9, 2024 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

Ukrainian tank crews T64 main battle tank fires at the position of the Russian troops on January 9, 2024 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.

Roman Chop/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

He said that while expensive vehicles like tanks “do matter, I think it overshadows the complete picture.”

What matters now are “ammunition, grenades, claymores or other types of mines, missiles, various missile systems.”

“What can one tank do?” he asked rhetorically, saying, “Not as much as 50,000 artillery shells, 5,000 mortar shells.”

Not enough ammo

He said that if Russia sends waves of men, with enough ammunition, “we can literally smash them to pieces.”

But he said there simply isn’t enough. He said that when he handed over a position to another group, the soldiers who took over from him would ask for his ammunition and grenades.

“That’s how desperate it got, to where literally right before we leave, we grab all our magazines and take all the bullets out and then put empty magazines back in our gear and then grab all our shells and it’s like ‘Here, you’ guys have it necessary.”

Ukraine has received tanks and armored vehicles from allies, but they arrived after long debates over whether to send them. Many war analysts have said the delay gave Russia more time to prepare for their arrival, making them less effective against Ukraine.

Artillery and ammunition have had a much more decisive influence on the battlefield.

Insufficient help from allies

Ukraine is suffering critical shortages as Republicans in the US House of Representatives block further $60 billion in aid to Ukraine. That package includes nearly $14 billion for Ukraine to purchase weapons and ammunition.

And as aid from European countries continues, many say they don’t have enough equipment in their arsenal to address Ukraine’s shortages.

Germany announced this week that it will give Ukraine 10,000 artillery shells in the coming days, but that is only a small part of what Ukraine needs: conflict analysts said last month that Ukraine needs “about 75,000 to 90,000 artillery shells per month to defend the war defensively.” can continue. and more than double that – 200,000 to 250,000 – for a major offensive.’

There are also some broader plans in the works, including a Czech Republic-led plan to source ammunition from outside the EU, which sources told The Guardian will start supplying grenades to Ukraine before June.

But the effect of the shortages, Poquette said, is that soldiers are rationing their ammunition.

Ukraine must pass on a number of objectives

He said they stopped firing at small groups of advancing Russian soldiers, as they allegedly did earlier in the conflict.

“It started to get to the point where if the group was small enough to attack, the Ukrainians would evaluate it and say, well, it’s only two or three guys, maybe four, is that really an artillery round or an worth a fight? mortar shell?”

Instead, they would consider whether the infantry could stand up to them. This strategy poses greater risks to Ukrainian soldiers.

He said his unit had to become much more selective when it came to hitting targets with the US-supplied HIMARS, a groundbreaking weapon when it first arrived in Ukraine..

Ukraine M142 HIMARS Bakhmut

Ukrainian forces fire M142 HIMARS rockets towards Bakhmut in May 2023.

Serhii Mykhalchuk/Getty Images

Ukraine would be in a “much better position” if it did not address the deficits, he said.

He said the U.S. is “somewhat responsible for our lack of ability to hold our ground,” although he added that he thinks some poor Ukrainian tactics and actions have sometimes hindered the country’s progress.

And the problem is broad: European officials have acknowledged the continent’s inadequate ammunition production for months. The European Commission announced earlier this month $540 million to accelerate weapons production, including artillery ammunition.

Cannot make plans for the future

Poquette said the problem with Western aid is that it comes in “titbits,” with long debates before certain equipment is shipped and different levels of support arriving in different packages.

He asked, “how much more could we have accomplished?” in the 2022 summer offensive in which Ukraine was successful in taking back parts of the territory before, Poquette said, “stalled” due to a lack of equipment.

He said: “It feels like everything we’ve gotten is either too late or it’s just enough to barely hold on where it feels like when they donate things it’s just enough to keep Ukraine standing but without thinking about it thinking. the long term.”

That means Ukrainian soldiers often have to plan for survival, rather than long-term success. That’s where they are now.

He described Ukraine as trapped in a cycle in which it does not get enough Western aid to plan ahead when it gets new aid: “These rounds will be good for two months, but what about five months from now and then five months later will pass and it just comes back to the same thing. Well, we’re running short of rounds again.’

It is an issue that many in the West are pointing out, including the Prime Minister of the Ukrainian partner Lithuania, which told BI last month that it was “so sad” to see the same scenario happening repeatedly.

She said this also applies in case Ukraine’s allies say they will not give the country the advanced weapons it demands for fear of provoking Russia, only to do so months later when many Ukrainians have been killed and the weapon may not be so relevant anymore.

Poquette’s concerns about ammunition reflect the deep problems Ukraine faces.

A bird's eye view of the destroyed buildings of the city of Avdiivka on October 26, 2023 in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

A bird’s eye view of the destroyed buildings of the city of Avdiivka in October 2023.

Kostya Liberov / Libkos via Getty Images

Ukraine withdrew from the city of Avdiivka in February, giving Russia its first major victory in months. The White House said this was because Ukrainian soldiers had to ration their ammunition “due to dwindling supplies due to Congress’s inaction.”

In January, Ukraine’s defense minister said his troops could do that alone firing a third of what Russia could fire every day.

Ukraine has expanded its own weapons production, but so has Russia. Experts say Russia has enormous manpower, equipment and industrial advantages here, with a much larger population and many more resources.

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