Russia’s recent, huge missile barrage on Ukraine has caused widespread destruction — but may have a more specific aim, too.

As well as trying to destroy the targets of its strikes, Russia is likely trying to get Ukraine to expend precious ammunition for its Patriot air-defense systems, an expert told Business Insider.

Without the protection the Patriot systems afford, Russia will be able to do far more damage, with less fear of its strikes failing.

The timing is particularly apt, as Congress approving further aid could limit Ukraine’s ability to get more Patriot ammo.

Dr Jade McGlynn, a Russian politics researcher and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that depleting Patriot and other missile stocks is “clearly part of” Russia’s strategy.

“The Patriots are certainly the focus of Russian propaganda coverage domestically,” she noted. She also said other factors were likely driving Russia’s decisions.

The idea was also put forward by Yaroslav Trofimov, The Wall Street Journal chief foreign-affairs correspondent.

He said Russia’s was looking to run down Ukrainian stocks of Patriot missiles in the hope of then being able to destroy the batteries which launch them. They would be much harder to replace.

Trofimov said another type of surface-to-air missile, the NASAMS, was a target as well.

Ukraine has been given five Patriot missile batteries from the US, Germany, and the Netherlands.

They can track 100 targets from 60 miles away and have been credited with destroying many Russian missiles — including a model that Russia said was unstoppable — as well Russian aircraft.

Patriot missile Al Udeid Qatar

US soldiers prepare a Patriot missile to fire during an exercise in Qatar in March 2015.

US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman

Ukraine said in December that it was due to receive more Patriot systems from Western countries, including one from Germany.

But it did not give details on where the others would come from, and one likely donor — the US — is unable to give more aid without approval from Congress.

Senate Republicans have blocked requests from President Joe Biden for further funding, saying that they will only approve it if their demands for funding for the US southern border are met first.

That caused Secretary of State Antony Blinken to warn last month that “We are nearly out of money that we need, and we’re nearly out of time.”

McGlynn said that development in Congress explains why Russia waited until late December to start its large barrages.

“It was unclear why Russia waited so long for these infrastructure strikes compared to last year,” she said, noting that in 2022 the attacks began around October.

“But it makes sense in the context of the lack of US approval for defence aid to Ukraine.”

Trofimov also said Russia wanted to take advantage of the dynamics in Congress.

Keir Giles, Russia analyst at the think tank Chatham House, was more skeptical when talking to Business Insider.

He said Russia was probably running the missile campaign on its own timeframe, and knew “there’s going to be a limited amount of supply from overseas, whatever happens with or without the US tap being turned off.”

But he said the lack of guaranteed US support does make the situation much more difficult for Ukraine, forcing tough decisions on when to use its defenses.

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