Inside the monumental, stop-start effort to arm Ukraine

By | December 24, 2022

The Washington Post reports:

Virtually every day, a line of 18-wheel trucks loaded with weapons or ammunition pulls up to a sprawling warehouse here nestled near an asphalt runway stretching nearly two miles. Drawn from U.S. military depots around the country, the lethal cargo is unloaded onto pallets that will be packed aboard cargo planes bound for Europe, the next stop on its journey to the front lines in Ukraine.

The constant tempo has evolved from choppy beginnings into precision choreography in the 10 months since Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Similar scenes are being repeated at bases and seaports up and down the East Coast as U.S. commitments surpass $20 billion in military support for a war in which the United States, at least officially, is not a participant.

“It’s all a steady flow on purpose,” Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Mitcham said this fall as he supervised the activity in Dover. “You just understand that you’re at the mercy of what the mission needs.”

Both the mission and its needs have undergone a radical transformation since Russia’s full-scale invasion in late February, when the Biden administration provided minimal support for vastly outnumbered Ukrainian defenders. Since then, Washington has dug ever-deeper into its own arsenal and treasury to supply Kyiv with massive quantities of arms.

This week, the administration marked the historic visit to Washington by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by announcing the transfer of a Patriot missile battery, the most sophisticated air defense system in the U.S. arsenal.

But the initial war supply operation clearly wasn’t built for the long haul. As the grueling conflict continues with no end in sight, it has exposed flaws in U.S. strategic planning for its own future battles, and revealed significant gaps in the American and NATO defense industrial base. Stocks of many key weapons and munitions are near exhaustion, and wait times for new production of missiles stretch for months and, in some cases, years. [Continue reading…]

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