Kiev wants the Iron Dome despite Israeli expert warning it has a “strategic peak”.
Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
Former U.S. Ambassador to Kiev John Herbst broadcasted on television his scepticism about Ukraine’s path towards NATO membership. Speaking on Ukraine’s Apostrophe TV, he expressed his belief that Ukraine will not become a NATO member within the next decade.
“I don’t see Ukraine’s membership in NATO even after five years, even after 10 years. Of course, if something changes radically, then maybe. But without such changes, I do not see this,” said Herbst.
He explained that despite President Joe Biden wanting to see Ukraine become a NATO member, the U.S. cannot act unilaterally against its European allies in this matter, especially since most believe that Ukraine should not be in the bloc. Most European countries do not want to inherit the geopolitical issues that Ukraine has instigated against Russia as they would have to deal with the direct consequences of a hypothetical war in Europe, something the U.S. would not want.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Biden supported Ukraine’s aspirations to become a NATO member, but added that the decision is not one that the U.S. can unilaterally make. None-the-less, Zelensky would still be feeling disappointed as Kiev has long been undertaking reforms to join NATO, even well before he himself ascended to the presidency.
In early January, Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran signed a corresponding order to introduce NATO military rank codes to the Ukrainian military. The transition is intended to modernize the Soviet-era military career management system to be compatible with NATO’s operating system. Kiev hopes that through small steps like this, it is on the correct path towards NATO membership.
The Politico magazine noted that an amendment to the defense bill for the 2022 fiscal year urged the Biden administration to transfer air or missile defense systems to Ukraine. According to the publication, the Israeli tactical missile defense system, the Iron Dome, may be deployed in Ukraine. A source in the House of Representatives claimed that Washington took note of a statement by Taran about Kiev’s need for a new air defense system like the Iron Dome. The Arlington-based publication said that a Ukrainian acquisition of the Iron Dome system will increase the tensions that Kiev and Washington have with Moscow.
“Tactically it would not be effective at short range, or on the line of contact, because this system would be shot out very quickly by Russian multiple-launch rocket systems,” said Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies program at the CNA think tank, to Politico. “But it may be able to intercept longer range rockets, which could allow the battery to defend a critical site or command center” in eastern Ukraine.
In October 2019, U.S. Brigadier General Brian Gibson said that the Iron Dome “does incredible things” and that the U.S. Army needs a similar mobile complex of its own that would be part of an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) – a command and control system that ensures interaction with other elements of anti-missile and air defense systems.
However, Seth J. Frantzman, Middle East affairs analyst at The Jerusalem Post, believes that the “Iron Dome Won’t Last Forever.” It is recalled that as recently as May 2021 during the Israel-Gaza clashes, the Iron Dome was not only exposed when it failed to intercept many of the 4,300+ rockets and missiles launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but also for the fact it costs a fortune as each intercept stands between $100,000 and $150,000. Frantzman explains that the Iron Dome may “not be enough to hinder volumes of rockets” from Gaza in the future because “there is a strategic peak for this technology” that “Israel won’t admit.” As he stressed, the Iron Dome is “not a magic wand to win a war or deter an enemy.”
It then brings into question why the Iron Dome is being suggested as a way to further integrate Ukraine into the NATO fold, especially since Israel itself is not a NATO member. If Israeli experts are warning that the “Iron Dome won’t last forever,” even against a militant group’s modest arsenal, then what chance would the system have against a barrage of advanced Russian weaponry in a hypothetical war?
The Tamir interceptor and its launcher are critical components of the Iron Dome, and roughly 75% of this component is manufactured in the U.S. Therefore, Ukraine’s request for the Iron Dome signals that the country is taking all necessary steps to maximize their chance of being accepted into NATO by purchasing American-produced military equipment, even if experts are warning that a particular system is on the brink of obsoleteness.
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