As Ukrainians prepared to bury those killed and to repair the damage inflicted by yet another mass Russian missile, drone and guided aerial bomb attack, the news came through that the air defenses of the US and its partners in the Middle East had helped bring down “99 percent” of the Iranian missiles fired at Israel.

According to CBS Iran fired around 170 Shahed drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missile at Israel from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen of which all but five ballistics were intercepted by missiles fired from US destroyers, Iraq-based Patriots as well as US, UK, French and Jordanian fighter aircraft together with Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

As the Washington Post pointed out, Russia launched nearly 130 Shahed drones, 80 missiles and 700 guided aerial bombs at Ukraine last week alone, of which too many got through. As Ukraine’s President Zelensky told the PBS News Hour: “Why [did they get through]? Because there were zero missiles. We have run out of all the missiles that protected Trypillya [a destroyed power plant].”

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Like every Ukrainian who has spent much of the last 25 months sheltering in metro stations, cellars and underground car parks, a Monday editorial in the Washington Post asked the same question that a journalist at John Kirby’s Monday press conference posed:

“If the US and its allies can shoot down Iranian drones, why can’t you do the same for Ukraine?”

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A German weapons expert identified that Iran’s latest guided aerial bomb was on a drone deployed by Russian troops against Ukraine that crashed in the Kursk region on Sunday May 26.

Kirby presaged his answer by saying: “I knew this question was coming,” which begs the further question why he hadn’t prepared a better answer:

“Different CONFLICTS, different airspace, different threat picture. The President has been clear ever since the beginning of the CONFLICT in Ukraine that the US is not going to be involved in that CONFLICT in a combat role. We have been providing Ukraine with the tools they need to help defend their airspace. Unfortunately, we can’t do that right now because we don’t have that Supplemental National Security funding that the so desperately need.”

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He didn’t actually shrug his shoulders, but verbally might as well have. Kirby’s words simply drew attention to the disparity in the response to the attack on Israel and that of the Ukrainian situation.

The international community acted in concert to prevent a “one off” barrage against Tel Aviv while Ukraine has had to weather attacks against its civilian population for more than 780 nights. If the international community could respond in the way it did to take out Iranian missiles, why couldn’t it do the same for Ukraine?

As Zelensky said in his nightly address on Sunday:

“The whole world saw that Israel was not alone in this defense, the threat in the sky was also being eliminated by its allies. And when Ukraine says that its allies should not turn a blind eye to Russian missiles and drones, it means action is needed — a bold one.”

“It is not rhetoric that protects the sky, it is not opinions that curb the production of missiles and drones for terror,” he added.

In the current situation, perhaps words and rhetoric are all that the White House has to offer, since it is Congress that holds the reins of power. But Kirby should have chosen his words more carefully. Ukraine is not involved in a “conflict” it is fighting a WAR for its very existence and that message needs to be got across to every member of the US House of Representatives at every opportunity. If not, how can Kyiv and the rest of the world believe the US promises to “be there for how ever long it takes.”

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As Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in reference to the defensive actions taken by Israel’s partners: “Even if you cannot act the way you act in Israel, give us what we need and we will do the rest of the job.”

It is to be hoped that a majority in Congress see the light and soon – so that they unfreeze the $60 billion aid package Ukraine needs, whatever conditions they see fit to put on it, as Kyiv is already scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of its ammunition stocks and the other materiel it needs to protect its people and its infrastructure.

 

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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