In Sunday statements Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to destroy the Patriot anti-air missile systems that the Biden White House pledged to supply Ukraine days ago.
He said that he's 100% certain that Russian forces will eradicate them when they appear inside Ukraine. "Of course, we’ll take them out, 100%!" he emphasized in an interview with Rossiya-1 television on Sunday.
But he also noted that so far these systems are not in the hands of the Ukrainians. It could take months or even a year for the Patriots to actually become operational in Ukraine, given how complex they are and how many crew-members are needed to operate them.
There are roughly 90 soldiers in a Patriot battery, with each crewmember having to undergo extensive training. The Pentagon has indicated that Ukrainians could be trained out of a base in Germany, or there are reports even suggesting this could take place inside the United States.
Each missile fired from the Patriot system costs about $4 million, ranking it among the single-most expensive weapons provided to Ukraine thus far throughout the war.
However, Putin days ago dismissed its significance as a potential battlefield game-changer, saying "the Patriot is a fairly outdated system" and that an "antidote" to this weapon will be found.
Patriots have long been deployed in neighboring Poland, but Ukrainian leaders have been persistent in requesting them on their own soil amid a major uptick in recent Russian aerial attacks.
"The Patriot is quite an outdated system, it doesn't work as well as our S-300 (surface-to-air) missiles," Putin told journalists. "Let them supply them - we'll crack them as well." pic.twitter.com/3Oh6khzYMl— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) December 23, 2022
The systems will mark the longest-range missiles sent to Ukraine thus far, and for this reason Washington was earlier reluctant, on fears that the precedent of longer-range and more advanced munitions only increases the chance of direct escalation between the US and Russia.