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US to send weapons to Ukraine via Germany, Poland

April 24, 2024

The Pentagon has long been preparing ammunition deliveries to Ukraine. They are ready to be sent via Poland and the US Army's logistics centers in Germany.

Ukrainian soldiers, armed vehicle and explosions near Donetsk
Ukraine has had to ration artillery shells on the front line since NovemberImage: Libkos/AP Photo/picture alliance

Following the go-ahead from Washington, things have begun to move very fast: US ammunition shipments are about to travel to Ukraine from Poland and also from Germany and other EU countries. For months, the US Department of Defense has prepared for the day when the House of Representatives would approve a new Ukraine aid package, which it finally has, to the tune of $60 billion (€56 billion).

Ukraine has also been waiting for months. Lacking ammunition, troops are under massive artillery attack from Russian forces on the eastern front, and barely able to return fire.

"I also imagine that the Department of Defense has been working hard over the last several weeks to be ready," Ben Hodges, former commander-in-chief of the US land forces for Europe, told DW.

German security expert Nico Lange told DW that "the Pentagon has already packed things up and stowed them in the right places ready for departure so that things can now cross the border very quickly."

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Ukraine's 'decentralized logistics'

A sophisticated transport system is in place to protect the supplies from air attacks by Russia on their journey from Ukraine's border to troops within the country. Since Russia's invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has built up "decentralized logistics" for armament deliveries, Lange said. "The supplies are not all loaded onto one train, which would then become a prime target for attack," he said, "but are rather distributed across different trains, which often run at night."

Thanks to its international backers, Ukraine now also has a fleet of heavy-duty transporters at its disposal for deliveries by road. There is a night curfew in Ukraine, which makes it more difficult for Moscow's target reconnaissance to locate the supply routes.

"The Russian Air Force with its huge advantage in terms of numbers and quality of aircraft has failed to be able to destroy even a single train or convoy bringing ammunition or equipment from Rzeszow, Poland, into and through Ukraine," Hodges said.

The regional airport in the small town of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland is the most important hub for international aid. Hodges said he assumed that US aircraft coming from Germany would land there. US military logistics can move arms and munitions quickly by rail or by C-17 aircraft that fly them to Rzeszow.

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"Because of its geography and also because of its, advanced infrastructure, and then finally because of the, almost 80 years of US presence and cooperation," Hodges said, Germany is the most important hub for deliveries from the United States to Ukraine.

The largest ammunition depot of the US armed forces outside of the United States is located in southwestern Germany. The Miesau Ammo Depot is situated in the immediate vicinity of Ramstein, the largest US Air Force base in Europe, in the German state of Rhineland Palatinate.

300-kilometer ATACMS shells

The new aid package will for the first time include ATACMS artillery shells with a range of 300 kilometers (185 miles), Hodges said. Previously, US President Joe Biden had only given the go-ahead for weapons with a range of 150 kilometers, which is similar to the Scalps and Storm Shadows provided by France and the UK.

Hodges said he believed that Ukraine could use the new supply to target Russian command structures and ammunition and weapons depots even more than before.

"Rather than waiting for missiles and planes to be launched and then trying to intercept or knock them down, if you can destroy the place from which those things are coming, that is a much more effective means," he said.

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Targeting Kerch Bridge

"If you look at the situation in the south, the three access points to the Crimean Peninsula are among the most important military targets," Lange said. He assumes that Ukraine will try to eliminate more and more neuralgic points of the Russian supply routes to Crimea in the coming months — right up to the most important supply route: the Kerch Bridge, which connects Russia with Crimea. "There is a whole range of ammunition types that only the US can supply at the moment," Lange said. Especially because it is taking so long to ramp up ammunition production in Europe.

Christian Mölling, the head of the Center for Security and Defense at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told DW that he believes the new US aid package will above all alleviate some of the pressure on Ukraine's allies in Europe.

Mölling said he did not believe, however, that US aid on this scale can be expected to continue. For months, the supporters of US presidential candidate Donald Trump in the Senate had blocked aid to Ukraine. "The Americans are buying us time, then European aid has to kick in," Mölling said. He added that European countries must strengthen their own defenses in view of the threat from Russia and in order to assist Ukraine.

This article was originally written in German.

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