Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Embraces My Idea

More Patriot air-defense units to stop attacks inside Russia

Shankar Narayan
7 min readApr 16, 2024

It turns out the reports were accurate.

The United States has, in fact, urged Ukraine to halt its assaults within Russian territory. According to The Washington Post’s recent report, the directive for Ukraine to cease its attacks inside Russia originated from top-level U.S. officials.

“When Vice President Harris met privately with Volodymyr Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference in February, she told the Ukrainian leader something he didn’t want to hear: Refrain from attacking Russian oil refineries, a tactic U.S. officials believed would raise global energy prices and invite more aggressive Russian retaliation inside Ukraine”.

I was one of the early birds to embrace the rumors that the United States may have been trying to pull Ukraine from getting inside Russia. To give some thing for both the parties involved, the United States and Ukraine, I pitched the following idea last month:

More Patriot Batteries for Ukraine

The Biden administration keeps saying that they do not want Ukraine to attack inside Russia. Okay. Fine. Bombing far-off nations is a liberty only granted to American administrations. We will learn to live with this new strategic posture by America. If that is what they really want Ukraine to do, then I have a simple solution.

Tell Ukraine to stop attacking inside Russia. Ask them to make that promise. But in return send them ten Patriot batteries. Ask them to go ahead and use them as they see fit. Protect your skies. Protect your frontline. Hit everything that is flying inside Ukraine. Also, promise to send 100 Patriot interceptors every month until Russians leave Ukraine.

Job done.

Zelensky may gladly accept that deal because the need to take the attack to the Russians inside Russia will be mitigated. The sky is safe, and Ukraine can evict the Russians from its historical lands.

Yesterday, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dimitry Kuleba indicated that such a deal is possible.

“I listened to Mr. Austin, a very great friend of Ukraine. He has done a lot for us, but in this matter, honestly, I do not see a cause-and-effect relationship. When an oil refinery explodes in russia, we see the emergence of problems in the russian energy market, but I don’t see any problems in the world. Due to the lack of Patriot batteries, the list of dead civilians is growing. Nobody cares about that?

We have a growing number of people living without electricity due to russia’s attacks on our energy system due to the lack of Patriot batteries.

You have to think in your own interests. If partners say, ‘We’re giving you seven Patriot batteries tomorrow, but we’re asking you not to do this and this and this,’ then there’s something to talk about. And if you don’t have those batteries, there is no aid package, and at the same time, you are asked not to do something, then there is nothing to talk about. Then everyone survives as best they can”.

A substantial number of community members on Medium agreed with my viewpoint that a trade-off involving increased Patriot air-defense systems in exchange for halting attacks within Ukraine is a highly favorable proposition.

The reason I am bringing back this topic is that I think we may start moving in this direction. Meaning, Ukraine may actually give up attacking inside Russia in exchange for more robust air defense protection.

Is this worth it?

Let us reverse the angle for a bit.

Why would I even suggest Ukriane take the Patriots and cease attacks inside Russia if I had thought it wasn’t worth it in the first place?

In an ideal world, it would be great if America supplied as many Patriot batteries for Ukraine, completely denied any space for the Russian air force to operate, provided long range ATACMS missiles, and encouraged Ukraine to obliterate any military asset the Russians have constructed within 300 miles from the frontline. America can do that right now. They could have done that within a month after the war. Did they?

I don’t want to be an idealist screaming into the void about the importance of choosing the best path. Instead, I aim to be a realist who can see the pros and cons of a given situation. This approach enables us to stay informed in a world drowning in misinformation and propaganda.

One of the main reasons I made that suggestion was my understanding of the Biden administration. They are fearful of escalation. Screaming at a kid who fears the black cat is not going to change the kid. It is only going to make the kid cry even more. The best bet in that situation is to drop the black cat and maybe talk about an elephant. Better yet, change the topic away from the animal.

Team Biden is afraid of attacks inside Russia. So, why talk to them after ratheting up their blood pressure? If Ukraine gains the ability to completely deny its airspace to Russia, that will lead their ground forces to victory. The attack on the oil refineries, eating into Russia’s bank balance and draining the war machine of its money, will work.

But it will be a long road to victory.

In comparison, denying airspace, stopping the Russian glide bombs from reaching the frontline, and loading up Ukraine’s artillery shells at the frontline will lead to a faster victory.

So, the deal is totally worth it. The kid does not have to hear about the black cat and we can all call it a night.

What happens when Ukraine gets five to ten Patriot batteries?

The number of Patriot batteries Ukraine receives is the second most important factor. The first is the number of Patriot interceptors Ukraine receives. Here, the United States should follow the lead set by the French government.

The Macron government announced that it will deliver 600 AASM Hammer Glide Bombs to Ukraine. They are not going to send them all in one package. They are being delivered at the rate of 50 units per month. This removes the headache of keeping the warehouse protected from Russian attacks, while also allowing Ukraine to plan for using the missiles.

Visibility into the calendar of supply is crucial during wartime.

The first thing the United States needs to do, and I hope Ukraine gets them to sign off on this, is to determine the number of monthly Patriot missiles(interceptors) the United States will supply to Ukraine for the next two years. The current production rate is around +40 interceptors per month. The US should double this production capacity and send half of the monthly production to Ukraine.

Once this part is completed, they can sit down and discuss how many Patriot systems they will be able to supply Ukraine. Once again, simply funneling the current production capacity will be a good place to start. If the allies are too apprehensive to give up their existing Patriot units, then making an agreement to send one unit every month for the next twelve months could be a solution.

Spending 12 billion dollars to gradually close the sky for the Russian air force is completely justified, and perhaps even necessary given the circumstances.

Neither Ukraine nor Russia can advance without gaining control of the sky. The following assessment, which I made on June 16th, 2023, that air control is a decisive factor in this war still remains valid: “In the current situation, Ukrainian troops are operating without adequate air cover on the frontline. That is why I even advocated for Ukraine to delay the counteroffensive a little and to schedule it so that the attacks peak just as the F-16s arrive”.

I was against Ukraine starting its counter-offensive without the F16s. The Institute for Study of War proved me right in February 2024.

Russian forces appear to have temporarily established limited and localized air superiority and were able to provide ground troops with air support during the final days of their offensive operation to capture Avdiivka, likely the first time that Russian forces have done so in Ukraine.

On that day, the ISW made a crucial declaration: “The Russian ability to conduct these mass strikes for several days in the most active part of the frontline suggests that Ukrainian forces were not able to deny them access to the airspace around Avdiivka, and Russian forces likely leveraged this temporary localized air superiority to facilitate the capture of much of the settlement”.

So, the ISW believes that the Russians succeeded in Avidiivka by taking control of the skies because “Ukrainian forces were not able to deny them access to the airspace around Avdiivka.”

This is what will change when Ukraine receives seven to ten Patriot air-defense systems and a steady supply of air-defense missiles. First, Russia will lose the ability to use its airforce to drop glide bombs. Second, it will lose the ability to advance. Third, it will struggle to hunt the F16s whenever they arrive in Ukraine.

All of this will enable Ukraine’s ground forces to seize the initiative on the battlefield, as the battlefield will become extremely challenging for the Russian airforce to operate.

Patriots, supplemented by the F16s, will allow Ukraine to gain air control.

There are numerous ways the West can assist Ukraine in winning the war. HIMARS and ATACMS alone are sufficient for victory. Similarly, Patriots and F16s will also be more than adequate to secure victory.

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Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.