Washington fears Kyiv’s strikes on Russian early-warning stations could destabilize region

HUR drones attacked a number of Russian military facilities in Krasnodar Krai
HUR drones attacked a number of Russian military facilities in Krasnodar Krai

Washington fears that Ukraine’s recent drone strikes on Russian early-warning radar stations could potentially damage strategic stability in U.S.-Russian relations, The Washington Post (WP) wrote on May 29, citing a U.S. official.

“The United States is concerned about Ukraine’s recent strikes against Russian ballistic missile early-warning sites,” an official said.

Washington reportedly expressed its concerns to Kyiv over attempts to attack radar stations that provide conventional air defense and warnings of nuclear launches from the West. At least one strike in Armavir, in Russia’s southeastern Krasnodar Krai, caused some damage.

“These sites have not been involved in supporting Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the U.S. official said. “But they are sensitive locations because Russia could perceive that its strategic deterrent capabilities are being targeted, which could undermine Russia’s ability to maintain nuclear deterrence against the United States.”

A Ukrainian official familiar with the matter said that Russia used radar stations to monitor Ukrainian military activities, including Kyiv’s use of drones and missiles. He also confirmed that the Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) was responsible for the strikes.

The Ukrainian official said the strikes aimed to weaken Russia’s ability to track Kyiv’s military activities in the southern part of the country. The drone, which targeted a radar station near Orsk in Orenburg Oblast on May 26, flew a record distance of 1,800 kilometers. The official declined to say whether the strike caused any damage.

According to U.S. officials, who sympathize with Kyiv’s plight, the Biden administration is weighing whether to lift restrictions on Ukraine using U.S.-supplied weapons to strike Russian territory. However, if Russian early warning systems are even partially damaged, it could harm the strategic stability of U.S.-Russian relations.

Read also: Military observer analyzes attack on Russian nuclear radar

“Russia could think it has a diminished ability to detect early nuclear activity against it, which then could become an issue,” the official said. “It should be obvious to everyone that there’s no intention whatsoever by the United States of using nuclear weapons against Russia. But there’s certainly concern about how Russia could perceive its deterrent capabilities being targeted and early-warning systems being attacked.”

The Washington Post wrote that some analysts were puzzled by the choice of targets. Asked why they would target a site so far away, the Ukrainian official asserted that Russia “switched all of its capabilities for war against Ukraine.”

While there are no restrictions on Kyiv’s use of U.S.-provided air defense systems to shoot down Russian missiles or fighter jets over Russian territory “if they pose a threat to Ukraine,” U.S. officials have previously expressed concerns about Ukraine’s attacks on Russian territory, sometimes even intervening at the planning stage.

Ahead of the war’s first anniversary, the HUR was planning attacks on Moscow, according to a leaked classified report by the U.S. National Security Agency, which was later confirmed by two senior Ukrainian military officials. A few days before the attack, Washington asked Kyiv to abandon its plans, fearing it could provoke an aggressive response from the Kremlin, to which the Ukrainians agreed.

On May 26, a Ukrainian drone attacked the Voronezh M radar station near Orsk in Russia’s Orenburg Oblast. This strike by Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) reached a record distance of 1,800 kilometers. The Voronezh M station is the latest in Russia’s early-warning radar systems, designed for long-range surveillance of airspace to detect ballistic missile attacks and monitor aircraft. Operating in the very high frequency (VHF) range, the radar can track up to 500 objects simultaneously and has a detection range of up to 10,000 kilometers, with a horizon range of 6,000 kilometers and a vertical range of 8,000 kilometers.

This incident follows reports from Russian Telegram channels on May 26 about a “downed” Ukrainian drone near Orsk, which was speculated to have targeted a military facility. Despite these claims, Russian officials have consistently reported no casualties or significant damage to infrastructure from such incidents.

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