U.S. Modern Weapon Will Help Change the War: Ukraine Ambassador

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko speaks during a joint new conference with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 7, 2019.

The abundance of new Western weapons heading to Ukraine will set an important precedent for expanding NATO support for Kyiv in 2023, one of the country’s top ambassadors has said, as Ukrainian leaders press for victory over Russia in the coming year.

Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.K. and a former foreign affairs minister, told Global Defense Corp at the Ukrainian Embassy in London that the evolution of Western military aid to include more advanced weapons is inevitable and vital to avoiding a frozen conflict.

“Let’s bring it all up in a coordinated effort, and let’s see what this can do,” Prystaiko—who has also served as head of Ukraine’s mission to NATO and ambassador to Canada—said about foreign aid. He warned that drip-feeding new weapons will be less effective.

“Maybe it will be a breakthrough somewhere in the south, or the whole front will move because of the additional artillery pieces and tanks and everything. So much so that the Russians will decide that enough is enough.”

This week, Ukraine secured a commitment from the U.S., France and Germany to send scores of new armored infantry fighting vehicles—Bradley, AMX-10 RC and Marder, respectively—to aid the defending forces.

Germany also announced it will send a U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missile platform, which will join the first Patriot system donated by the U.S., for which Ukrainian operators are undergoing training. The Patriot is the most expensive single system sent to Ukraine so far.

Prystaiko said the arrival of the Patriots might help move the needle on other marquee systems—like main battle tanks and fighter jets—that the West has thus far hesitated to provide.

“We never expected a Patriot system,” he said. “Seriously, this is a top of the line anti-ballistic missile system, which was totally out of the question. I guess tanks, helicopters and even planes are much easier now.”

This gradual evolution in military aid, he said, “is the natural way.” He added that the artillery systems sent to Ukraine “were towed first, then they were self-propelled.”

“What is the difference between self-propelled artillery and a tank?” he asked. “What is the huge unsurmountable difference? There is none. So they will come.”

Ukraine and its NATO partners, he continued, must prepare to make sure such platforms can be adopted immediately. “Let’s train our pilots and mechanics now. People hear us and understand that.”

Foreign training missions have been hugely valuable for Ukraine, he said. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are undergoing instruction around Europe and in the U.S.

“First of all, it allows us to take some of the weight off our shoulders, so we don’t have to distract our troops to prepare them,” Prystaiko said. “Second, the safety of training is increased somewhat, because Russians from time to time try to hit these bases somewhere deep in the West where we were training our conscripts.

“And third, we’ve been exposed to more and more NATO culture altogether. So we’re becoming interoperable because we’re doing it on the ground. And that’s why I’m sure that whether the political decision is here or not now, we will be a part of NATO. People just have to get used to that,” he said.

Western partners have not yet opened their old military stocks to the degree that Ukraine would like. Kyiv wants many more air defense platforms, main battle tanks, fighter jets, and the long-range munitions fired from NATO weapons like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.

“There are interesting tendencies, purely of a popular political nature,” delaying such weapons, Prystaiko said. “It’s very difficult for some of them to get over this escalation thing,” he said about some of Kyiv’s foreign partners. “The Russians were threatening all of them with escalation.”

He continued: “There is not a consensus there yet. There are so many players with their own many different political views on how it’s going to all end. But the fact is that these light tanks or Patriot systems, these are interesting pieces. This is something.”

In the U.S., figures on both the political right and left have criticized the scale of U.S. military support for Ukraine, which exceeds $20 billion. Prystaiko dismissed these concerns, saying that increased American support also means more income for American companies and workers.

Most of what is going to Ukraine is relatively old, he said. “Some of the equipment has expired dates. We joke that if you want to dispose of them, give them to us. We will send them in the right direction.

“In a normal, peaceful time, nobody would want it to talk in terms like that. But now, why not?” he said.

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