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Stopping Russia’s operation in Kharkiv Oblast requires defeating Russia’s glide bomb threat.

According to an article from the Institute for the Study of War, Ukraine's only solution to counter the Russian offensive in Kharkov Oblast is to use US-provided weapons in the territory of Russia. This requires the capability to defeat Russia's glide bomb threat.
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Russian Grom 1 missile with glide bomb mod  (Picture source: Ukrainian fighter of 67th mec brigade)

Since May 10, Russia has launched a vast offensive in the north in the Kharkiv region, using air strike capabilities ahead of ground advances. This makes the ability to eliminate this aerial threat crucial. Currently, the Russians are able to strike 42,400 square kilometers, thus threatening 2,480 settlements, but the Russian strategy is effective where air defense cannot intervene. Indeed, according to the rules for materials provided by the United States, Ukraine cannot use these anti-aircraft weapons on Russian territory. In other words, Russia is leveraging Russian airspace as a sanctuary to strike Kharkiv Oblast.

Senior US government officials have issued multiple statements throughout 2023 and 2024 that Ukraine may only use US-provided weapons within Ukrainian territory and airspace, and that the US does not encourage or enable attacks within Russia, very likely also including Russian airspace (although the US prohibition on Ukraine's use of air defense systems around Kharkiv is less clear).

Ukraine cannot defend its frontline positions from Russian glide bombs as long as Ukraine cannot intercept Russian aircraft in Russian airspace with US-provided air defense systems. Russia's use of Russian airspace for these attacks underscores the urgent need for the US to provide more long-range air defense assets and to allow the Ukrainians to use them to intercept Russian aircraft in Russian airspace. Russian aircraft can strike Kharkiv City indefinitely without ever leaving the sanctuary of Russian airspace.

Kharkiv City lies 40 kilometers from Russia's international border with Ukraine. Russia's glide bombs have a glide range of 40-60 kilometers. Ukraine's air defense systems do not have the capability to intercept glide bombs once they have been launched from Russian fighter-bombers. The Russian Air Force can therefore strike Kharkiv City without ever entering Ukraine's sovereign airspace. It is absurd to constrain Ukraine's ability to counter Russia's glide bomb threat in Kharkiv at this pivotal moment.

But this point only works if the Russians continue to show a willingness to advance towards Kharkov or Kupyansk. However, given the recent destruction of bridges over the Donets River, it seems that the Russians today wish to establish a buffer zone, at least temporarily. The need to extend surveillance authorizations of airspace and destruction capabilities is also mentioned in the French and German media. This will inevitably be a major change in the continuation of the war.

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