The news that Ukraine is now armed with US-supplied ATACMS missiles has provoked a strong but varied response in Russia, from a blasé indifference in the Kremlin, to a sense of foreboding among its legion of milbloggers.
Asked about the weapons which Kyiv claims were used to take out nine highly-prized Russian helicopters, President Putin on Wednesday said: “War is war, and, of course ... they pose a threat, that goes without saying.
“But most importantly, this will not change the situation on the line of contact dramatically at all.”
The decision to supply the missiles had been “another mistake on the part of the United States,” he said.
“It just prolongs the agony.”
On social media, at least one Russian shared Putin’s lack of concern, though they expressed it in slightly more colorful language, writing: "They fear us! They're secretly transferring [ATACMS]! They s**t their pants and go change diapers!"
There was also a quiet confidence from some that Russia would retaliate in kind, with one social media user even suggesting: “Russia's retaliatory strike could easily reach the US.”
But Putin’s assessment of how little effect the weapons will have and just exactly whose agony they could prolong is not one shared by Russian milbloggers or western analysts.
Reporting news of the strike on Tuesday, one prominent milblogger expressed zero faith in the Russian military’s ability to adapt to the new threat, writing: “It’s pointless to write about the fact that ‘we need to draw conclusions so that this doesn’t happen again.’
“This will happen again as long as the war continues. We must be prepared for this.”
Another also disagreed with Putin’s assessment, saying the arrival of ATACMS on the battlefield should force “adjustments to the use of army aviation.”
Referencing another Ukrainian attack last year in which Russian forces suffered heavy losses, he added: “Otherwise, the situation with Chernobaevka… will be repeated, when carelessness cost the loss of several aircraft on the ground.”
Another milblogger, in direct contrast to Putin, said: “This blow can easily be called one of the most painful in the entire period of the [special military operation].”
Western analysts took a similar view. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted that for many months of the invasion, Russia would use rotary-wing aircraft from the Berdyansk airfield in the western Zaporizhzhia region “to great effect” against Ukraine.
The think tank’s analysts wrote Tuesday that: "Previous satellite imagery of the Berdyansk airfield showed that Russian forces dispersed aircraft across the airfield, and Ukrainian forces were likely only able to conduct strikes on individual aircraft with previously available long-range missiles.
“The cluster munition–armed version of the ATACMS long-range missiles will allow Ukrainian forces to conduct strikes on Russian airfields that can more widely destroy Russian aircraft and other assets.”
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter