Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Oliver Contreras
NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby at a press briefing, October 3, 2023.

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby on Thursday told reporters: “As we’ve heard from President Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian military is in desperate need of additional air defense capabilities. We take our partnership seriously, especially when a partner like Ukraine is in such jeopardy. Right now, we know that Ukraine urgently needs these additional capabilities.”

Kirby noted that the US has provided Ukraine “with a variety of air defense systems and interceptor missiles from our own stockpiles, including those of the Patriot system, NASAMs, and of course, the Hawks.” And now, in view of Ukraine’s dire need, “deliveries of these missiles to other countries that are currently in the queue will have to be delayed.”


Asked how many countries will have to endure those delays, Kirby said, “On the number of countries, I would just say it’s a range of countries. But I think we’re going to respect each country’s prerogative to either acknowledge it and speak to it or not.”

This was followed by the obvious question, “How frustrated has the President been about Netanyahu’s comments claiming that the US was withholding some military aid for Israel?”

As you recall, last Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released the above video in which he said that “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel – Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

Kirby responded on Thursday: “Number one, obviously, we didn’t know that video was common. And it was perplexing, to say the least, certainly disappointing, especially given that no other country is doing more to help Israel defend itself against the threat by Hamas – and, quite frankly, other threats that they’re facing in the region – than the United States.

“I mean, my goodness, this President put US fighter aircraft up in the air, in the middle of April, to help shoot down several hundred drones and missiles, including ballistic missiles that were fired from Iran proper into Israel. There’s no other country that has done more or will continue to do more than the United States to help Israel defend itself.

“So those comments were deeply disappointing and certainly vexing to us, given the amount of support that we have and will continue to provide Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

In mid-May, The NY Times published its analysis of the state of Ukraine’s air defenses, noting a major shift, namely that Ukraine is increasingly failing to stop Russian missiles, crippling its ability to protect major infrastructure and plunging cities into darkness.

According to the Times, since last May’s peak, Ukraine’s missile interception rate has plummeted by over 50%.

Ukraine’s impressive defense performance last May, amid intense Russian missile assaults, was largely due to newly acquired systems, particularly its first Patriot battery. The Patriot, a premier U.S. air defense asset, boasts advanced radar and mobile missile launchers. Ukraine claimed it used this system to intercept a Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile, one of the Kremlin’s most advanced conventional weapons.

The introduction of Patriot and other Western systems raised expectations for improved urban protection in Ukraine. Allies have supplied at least three Patriots and 15 additional air-defense systems. However, this winter’s renewed Russian missile offensive found Ukraine struggling to maintain its defenses.

Russia had refined its strategy, launching larger, more complex attacks combining cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic missiles. To confuse and overload Ukrainian defenses, Russia typically initiates with drone strikes, followed by waves of missiles from various locations.

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