HIMARS Are Great, But Army Needs Armor, Comms, Ammo Too: Ukraine Official

As American-supplied HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems continue to hit Russian ammunition dumps and command centers behind the front lines, and while press reports speculate optimistically about a looming Ukrainian counteroffensive around Russian-occupied Kherson, experts in Kyiv remain adamant that more material aid from the West is needed.

Sophisticated artillery systems have effectively disrupted Russian supply lines, but basic military items such as armored vehicles, secure communications equipment and loads of ammunition are of at least equal importance to Ukraine's ongoing war effort.

Newsweek sat down this week in Kyiv, Ukraine, with one of those experts, Anton Gerashchenko, to get his insider's view of the current situation on the ground. Gerashchenko is an official advisor at the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. He served as a people's deputy of Ukraine during the presidency of Petro Poroshenko (2014-2019), and as deputy minister of internal affairs during the first two years of Volodymyr Zelensky's administration (2019-2021).

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Newsweek: The U.S. Department of State recently announced that the Pentagon has provided $950 million in security assistance to Ukraine in fiscal year 2022 alone. What more does Ukraine need?

Presidential advisor Mikhail Podalyak laid out these needs last month: 2,000 troop transport vehicles, 1,000 gun-mounted vehicles, 500 tanks, 300 multiple launch rocket systems, and also the drones and communications equipment necessary to maximize the effectiveness of these systems. HIMARS and heavy artillery are a good first step, but if we do not have the technology to find and correct targets for artillery strikes, then we're just shooting blind.

Putin should have been stopped in 2014, and now the world is paying double for its failure to take action back then.

It is also important to ensure that regular infantry soldiers are better equipped and protected. After all, it is infantrymen with rifles who will have to make any advances to liberate Ukraine's occupied cities, and they will need a full array of integrated weapons systems in order to do so. In particular, we have a great need for more armored vehicles. If we cannot get them, then this is what happens.

[ed. Here Gerashchenko pulled out his phone and showed a clip depicting the aftermath of a Russian cluster munition exploding over a platoon of Ukrainian troops. At least four dead bodies were strewn about the ground as a cursing comrade searched for survivors.]

This is from Lysychansk two weeks ago. If our soldiers had had proper armor, the cluster munition would not have had this effect. If they had been inside of an armored vehicle, this would not have happened. This is why we need a full array of Western military supplies.

Ukraine Memorial Wall
KYIV, UKRAINE - A man sits looking at a memorial wall displaying images of Ukrainian servicemen and women killed since the start of Russia's full scale invasion on February 24, 2022. Anton Gerashchenko says that continued Western military assistance will help save Ukrainian lives. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via GETTY IMAGES

Newsweek: Republican Congresswoman Victoria Spartz of Indiana recently questioned the Ukrainian government's commitment to ensuring that military aid is put to its intended uses. The UK's Financial Times even ran an article on July 12 suggesting that weapons sent to Ukraine had been smuggled out of the country and were available for sale on the black market in Europe. What is Ukraine doing to make sure that Western support is not squandered?

Ukraine is completely open to our partners controlling the delivery of weapons and their distribution. There are no complications in this. The Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine's parliament] has formed a commission, the aim of which is to control the distribution of weapons. It is only natural that our Western allies demand information on how we are using these weapons, because we with our allies share a common aim: to fight against Russia aggression.

With the support of the West, however, we are capable of defeating Putin. The industrial capacity of the West is orders of magnitude greater than that of Russia. It is only a question of Western will to commit itself to doing what needs to be done, and to do it now.

Most importantly, everyone ought to be aware by now that Russia is trying to gin up hysteria in the West about the possibility of weapons sent to Ukraine ending up in Europe. This is nonsense. What weapons? HIMARS? 777 Howitzers? There is not a single fact of weapons going from Ukraine into Europe. All that exists is noise and propaganda, created by Russia.

No Ukrainian officer on the front would sell a weapon, nor in the rear as well. If he did, he would not even have time to be prosecuted, because his fellow soldiers would simply, let us say, 'soak him in the outhouse.'

[ed. Gerashchenko's 'soak him in the outhouse' phrase was a direct quote of Russian then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who in 1999 promised to do the same to those responsible for detonating a series of bombs in Moscow apartment blocks. The phrase has alternatively been translated as "whack them in the can," "kill them in the toilet," and "wipe them out in the sh****r."]

The war in Ukraine is the war for global stability. If Ukraine is not defended, then the entire global system of security will collapse. China will take Taiwan, or at least, it will impose a military blockade and effectively ask the United States if it is prepared to fire on Chinese ships.

Newsweek: On June 30, Joe Biden announced that his administration was prepared to maintain its support of Ukraine for "as long as it takes." Why is it important that Ukraine continue to receive shipments of military aid?

Let me begin with an analogy to history. When the Second World War began and the US committed itself to supplying Great Britain with munitions, America could not give what it did not have. It was necessary to ramp up industrial production then, and the same is true today.

There are not publicly available figures on the number of HIMARS rockets and 155mm shells currently in storage in NATO countries, but now is the time for Western and Ukrainian leaders to begin calculating how much ammunition is available, how much is likely to be needed in order liberate our occupied territory in the regions of Kharkiv, Zaporozhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk, and then to ramp up industrial production in order to meet the need. This production process can take months, which is why it is critical that it begins today.

Soldier's funeral Lviv 06-May-22
Soldiers carry the coffins in a line during the simultaneous burial of three soldiers in the Field of Mars at Lychakiv cemetery on May 06, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has not released recent figures on military casualties since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion vary widely, but estimates suggest they are significantly outpaced by Russian losses. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Given our current level of supply, without the material support of the West, Ukraine is capable of fighting only for a few more months. With the support of the West, however, we are capable of defeating Putin. The industrial capacity of the West is orders of magnitude greater than that of Russia. It is only a question of Western will to commit itself to doing what needs to be done, and to do it now.

We need planning on the level that Roosevelt demonstrated during the Second World War. American and European factories need to ramp up production, because if the delivery of ammunition ceases, then all of those hi-tech systems we are receiving suddenly become nothing more than scrap metal.

Newsweek: What would you say to an American taxpayer who still might not understand why it is in his or her interest to be sending so much aid and equipment to Ukraine?

It's very simple, really: this is also your war. The West understands that human life is the most important thing there is. The West lives in the paradigm of human rights and of inviolable borders. Putin violated Ukraine's borders, and he is killing innocent Ukrainians. If the West doesn't help, it will mean that the forces of evil are greater than the forces of good — that the right of strength is stronger than the strength of rights.

Put quite simply, Putin should have been stopped in 2014, and now the world is paying double for its failure to take action back then. We have to stop Putin now so that other dictators do not even get the idea to try to solve their own problems through the use of force.

EDITOR'S NOTE: 07/29/22 9:02 a.m. ET: On July 28, after publication of this story, RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned news agency, used Anton Gerashchenko's quote above, "HIMARS and heavy artillery are a good first step, but if we do not have the technology to find and correct targets for artillery strikes, then we're just shooting blind," as evidence that Ukrainian forces were firing HIMARS systems without properly identifying their targets (https://t.me/rian_ru/172599). Gerashchenko then reached out to Newsweek and explained that his comment was intended to highlight the necessity of Ukraine's Western partners continuing to provide a full complement of military equipment, and not that Ukraine was improperly identifying or striking its targets.