The US is working on a plan “to destroy the Black Sea Fleet” with powerful missiles in order to unblock Ukraine’s ports, according to a high-ranking Ukrainian official.
“The effective work of the Ukrainians on warships convinced (the US) to prepare a plan to unblock the ports,” Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs adviser Anton Geraschchenko tweeted Friday. “Deliveries of powerful anti-ship weapons (Harpoon and Naval Strike Missile with a range of 250-300 km) are being discussed.”
Geraschchenko’s saber-rattling tweet — notably written in Russian — followed an exclusive report by Reuters saying the White House is in the process of putting more advanced missiles in the hands of Ukrainians to defeat Russia’s naval blockade.
For the past two months, Ukraine has been unable to ship out grain and other agricultural products because of the blockade, raising the specter of catastrophic food shortages around the world, and especially the developing countries in Africa and Asia.
Kyiv has made no secret that it wants missiles that could push enemy ships away from its Black Sea ports.
About 20 Russian navy vessels, including submarines, are in the Black Sea, the British Defense Ministry has said.
Three US officials and two congressional sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Harpoon and the Naval Strike Missiles were being considered either for direct shipment to Ukraine, or through a transfer from a European ally.
But current and former US officials have raised concerns about the prospect of supplying Ukraine with longer-range and more powerful weapons, including extensive training requirements, maintenance issues, and concerns that the high-powered missiles could be captured by Russian forces.
The Naval Strike Missile can be launched from the coast and has a range of 250 km, or 155 miles. It takes less than 14 days to learn how to use it.
The Boeing-made Harpoon poses more challenges, because it is mostly a sea-based system and there are not enough platforms to launch the missiles from shore.
Two US officials said one solution to this problem could be pulling a launcher off a US ship and giving it to the Ukrainians.
Beyond the logistical challenges, one unnamed official told Reuters that no one wants to be the first nation the send the missiles to Russia for fear of retaliation if a ship is sunk by one of its Harpoon missiles.
Despite the possible reservations, the US official said one unnamed “well stocked” nation is already considering sending the missiles to Ukraine, and others might follow.
With Post wires