Patriot, MARS II and ATACMS: Do Western Weapons Really Help Against Russian Targets?

It became clear to the West that Ukraine must be put in a position from which it can launch an active action against Russia

by Sededin Dedovic
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Patriot, MARS II and ATACMS: Do Western Weapons Really Help Against Russian Targets?
© Handout / Getty Images

The German government hesitated for a long time: should it allow Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia, to use German weapons against targets in Russian border areas? The concern behind this question was that the Kremlin might then view Germany as a party to the war.

However, after the United States granted Ukraine permission to use American weapons, Chancellor Olaf Scholz stopped being reserved. Ensuring peace today means "supporting Ukraine," Scholz said, and he also approved the use of German weapons.

The right approach, he stated, is always to carefully consult with partners and allies before making "such far-reaching decisions" and to weigh all risks. Both permissions were granted on the condition that Ukraine uses Western weapons solely for counterattacks in defense of the Kharkiv region.

Patriot, MARS II, and ATACMS can hit Russian air bases

Using the German arsenal to target objectives on neighboring Russian territory could involve the use of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system with a range of about 70 kilometers, as well as the MARS II multiple rocket launcher, which can hit targets at around 80 kilometers.

Last year, the U.S. equipped Ukraine with ATACMS missiles with a range of 165 kilometers. The variant of this weapon with the longest range can reach targets up to 300 kilometers away. "By freeing up resources for Ukraine, the West has adapted to the new reality of war," says Frank Sauer, an international politics expert from the Metis Institute at the Bundeswehr University in Munich.

"For a long time, we have seen Russia daily bombarding Ukrainian urban areas, especially Kharkiv, from its airspace and from locations near the border, causing devastating consequences for the civilian population," Sauer told DW.

Improved defensive capabilities for Ukraine primarily protect civilians

"It is now possible to shell (Russian) airfields from which fighter-bombers take off and destroy them on the ground. And infrastructure like runways can also be targeted.

This reduces the number of Russian attacks, thereby increasing the protection of the civilian population. With ATACMS or self-propelled howitzers, areas where Russian ground forces are concentrated can also be attacked," Sauer points out.

U.S. Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS)© Handout / Getty Images

And if the Russian pressure on the Kharkiv region eases, Sauer says, Ukraine will then be able to better defend other parts of the front.

"So far, we have faced a terrible dilemma: protect the front or the civilians in the rear."

Time is running out to support Ukraine

It has become clear to the West that Ukraine must be put in a position to launch active actions against Russia.

Otherwise, it will lose, evaluates the new Western step, political science professor and conflict researcher Andreas Heineman, founder of the CASSIS Institute at the University of Bonn. That little time is left for this has also become clear to Western allies.

On one hand, Russia is massively investing in its weapons industry and war machinery, but these investments have not yet reached the battlefield, Heineman says. On the other hand, it is unlikely that support for Ukraine will be sufficient under a possible new U.S.

president, Donald Trump. The new composition of the European Parliament after the elections could also influence EU policy towards Russia. "Additionally, the West's fear of Russia's nuclear escalation has significantly decreased," Heineman told DW.

"It seems to me that the West has sent clear signals that it will not tolerate a nuclear attack on Ukraine and will take much more massive action against Russian targets. In a direct confrontation with NATO, Russia would lose," the German professor, an expert in global conflicts, is convinced.

Western weapons against targets in Russia: a significant advantage but not a breakthrough The use of Western weapons against targets on Russian territory significantly relieves Ukraine, but it cannot bring about a breakthrough in the war, both experts agree.

"The time window during which it was possible to carry out actions that would drastically change the situation is now closed," says Frank Sauer. "According to international law, Ukraine has always had the right to defend itself and attack the attacker's territory, not just its own," political scientist Heineman emphasizes.

His colleague Sauer shares a similar view. "Even if there are casualties among Russian armed forces when using Western weapons, it is not contrary to international military law; it is part of combat," says Frank Sauer. "Of course, civilian infrastructure or civilians should not be targeted or excessive force disproportionate to the military objective should not be used," but Ukraine has not done so to date, and Sauer says he sees no signs that it will now do so.

"On the other hand, Russia has so far launched 500-kilogram bombs on steel mills, residential buildings, and theaters," Sauer says, according to DW.

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