British missiles are about to destroy Putin’s overstretched supply lines

Russia has largely enjoyed a safe rear area, immune from attack from or through the air. Storm Shadow missiles have changed this

Greg Bagwell

17 May 2023 •

A previous Ukrainian strike on the Kerch bridge, Crimea

President Zelenskyy’s latest visit to Britain has resulted in an offer of air-defence missiles and attack drones. In combination with last week’s decision to send long-range Storm Shadow missiles, and plans for pilot training and assistance to facilitate F16 transfers from other nations, this is a much more significant step in the conflict than “just” another increase in Ukraine’s existing military stockpile.

Britain’s latest offers of weaponry are the most significant to date, and are pushing the boundaries of what can be offered by others. Time and again Britain has driven other countries to action by being the first to act on certain capabilities; the first to provide tanks, the first Western leader to visit during the invasion, and as of last Friday, the first to provide long range missiles capable of hitting Russia’s soft underbelly. If they can extend that to facilitating combat aircraft transfers, Ukraine will finally get the level playing field they deserve and need.

With the war having largely stagnated over the winter around well-drawn battle lines, the British Storm Shadow missiles are a genuine game-changing capability for the Ukrainian armed forces. This conflict has, as all long attritional wars do, become a battle of logistics, where the ability to deplete, disrupt or destroy the enemies’ logistics becomes a critical aim. 

To date, Russia largely enjoyed a safe rear area, immune from attack from or through the air. Now Kyiv has longer range British missiles, all Russian equipment inside Ukraine – including Crimea – is at risk. Russian frontlines were fragile already, so concerted attacks on their rear areas will make their ability to hold Ukrainian territory even more difficult. If Ukraine can use them effectively in combination with ground offensives, we could see significant successes over the summer.  

Make no mistake: this will hurt Russia’s forces. The longer range missiles and drones will make up for Ukraine’s lack of modern airpower, but this latter element needs attention too. The UK’s offer of pilot training will be welcome, but that is a longer term fix; if the UK can act as a go-between for more immediate transfers of F16s that will be a much more significant contribution to the immediate situation. Russian aviation is already relatively impotent, and an increase in Ukraine’s air force capability will make them increasingly so. It would also allow Kyiv to launch unpredictable long range strikes from multiple axes.

But, importantly, these new additions don’t signal a swift end to the war; Russia remains a formidable foe and the West’s assistance to date has come only just in time to halt Russian advances and stop the defeat of Ukraine. With increased urgency, and the greater capability now being offered the tide can be slowly turned in Ukraine’s favour. The sooner Russia recognises it cannot and will not win, the sooner this war comes to an end.


  1. I hope that the Storm Shadows will give the cockroaches hell! I also hope that bridge will be made to crash into the sea very soon.

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