World: Putin Finds Scapegoat in U.S. HIMARS, Builds Case for War With West

Two of Putin's top Russian pilots were killed by US-supplied HIMARS, report says

  Two of Putin's top Russian pilots were killed by US-supplied HIMARS, report says One of the Russian pilots' fathers revealed that he believed his son's death was caused by HIMARS, a long-range weapons system from the US.Throughout the buildup to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries, including the US, insisted they would not send troops to the region amid concern that the presence of their personnel on the ground would lead to a dangerous escalation of the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has worked for months to build his case that the U.S. is fighting a "proxy war" in Ukraine, and now Moscow is saying the U.S.-made HIMARS rocket systems prove its point.

Experts told Newsweek that HIMARS have inadvertently bolstered Russian President Vladimir Putin's propaganda among the Russian people and given him a scapegoat for Russia's failures on the battlefield. Putin speaks during his press conference at the Ashgabat International Airport on June 29, 2022 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. © Getty Images Experts told Newsweek that HIMARS have inadvertently bolstered Russian President Vladimir Putin's propaganda among the Russian people and given him a scapegoat for Russia's failures on the battlefield. Putin speaks during his press conference at the Ashgabat International Airport on June 29, 2022 in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

The long-range systems, which have better precision and a faster firing rate than Ukraine's dated artillery, have boosted its efforts and limited Russia's military advances. But as Ukraine touts the success of the weapon, experts say that has inadvertently bolstered Putin's propaganda among the Russian people and given the leader a scapegoat for Russia's failures on the battlefield.

Putin Regime at 'Beginning of the End': Russia Expert

  Putin Regime at 'Beginning of the End': Russia Expert Economic fallout amid the Ukraine war is weakening Putin's grip on power, said Iver Neumann.The Russian president launched the invasion of Ukraine in late February, citing his desire to liberate the separatist Donbas region, but has so far struggled to achieve his major objectives after being met with a stronger-than-expected response from the Ukrainian military.

Brian Taylor, a professor of Russian politics at Syracuse University, told Newsweek that Putin has used the success of HIMARS (an acronym for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) to accuse the U.S. of being directly involved in the Ukraine war. This is part of his strategy to tap into a "deep-seated" domestic narrative that Russia is at war not just with Ukraine but with the West as well, Taylor said.

Responding to comments from Ukrainian intelligence officials about the sharing of information between the U.S. and Ukraine, Russia's Ministry of Defense said last week, "All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine."

The ministry added, "It is the Biden administration that is directly responsible for all rocket attacks approved by Kyiv on residential areas and civilian infrastructure facilities in settlements of Donbas and other regions that have caused mass death of civilians."

HIMARS Are Great, But Army Needs Armor, Comms, Ammo Too: Ukraine Official

  HIMARS Are Great, But Army Needs Armor, Comms, Ammo Too: Ukraine Official "If the delivery of ammunition ceases, then all of those hi-tech systems we are receiving suddenly become nothing more than scrap metal," an official said.Sophisticated artillery systems have effectively disrupted Russian supply lines, but basic military items such as armored vehicles, secure communications equipment and loads of ammunition are of at least equal importance to Ukraine's ongoing war effort.

The Pentagon has delivered a dozen of the rocket systems to Ukrainian forces, and an additional four are on the way. The weapon has been widely praised by top Ukrainian officials. On Monday, the mayor of the southeastern city of Melitopol said that Russia is "no longer able to resist HIMARS" in an announcement that said more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed by attacks involving the rocket systems.

"Since HIMARS started working in Ukraine, in Melitopol, we've destroyed many Russian positions," he told Newsweek.

Michael Kimmage, a former member of the U.S. secretary of state's policy planning staff, said that it's not "that far from the truth" to say the U.S. is directly involved in the war. Along with the sophisticated weaponry provided by the U.S., which has been credited with helping to turn the tide in the conflict, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's remark that the goal of U.S. policy is to weaken Russia by helping Ukraine could easily be ready by Moscow as "forward-leaning," Kimmage told Newsweek.

Russia Has 'Secret Development' to Take Down U.S. HIMARS: Military Expert

  Russia Has 'Secret Development' to Take Down U.S. HIMARS: Military Expert "The American system has been hacked. And our secret development will be deployed in all directions," Alexei Leonkov reportedly said on Russian TV.Alexei Leonkov unveiled the cryptic initiative during an appearance on the Russian state-owned Rossiya-1 TV channel, Russian news site Pravda reported. He was a guest of Russian host Vladimir Solovyov, whom the U.S. State Department has designated as a Kremlin propagandist.

He added that providing HIMARS to Ukraine not only advances the message that the war is Russia versus the West; it also helps Putin build the case that Russia was pushed into the conflict by Western powers. "That Russia was left no option and that the West uses Ukraine, as it historically has, according to Putin, to weaken Russia," Kimmage said.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, a senior defense official said, "The Department of Defense is in support of a whole-of-government approach to Russian aggressive actions toward Ukraine. We continue to reaffirm our unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

As Putin uses the effectiveness of American weaponry to justify his invasion, he has also relied on it to explain the strength of the Ukrainians' resistance.

Kimmage said that the more Russia points an accusatory finger at Washington, the easier it is for Putin to excuse why his troops have not won the war as swiftly as he had anticipated. Because he has said that Ukraine is not a real country, doing poorly in its war against such an allegedly weak nation is difficult for him to defend. So positioning Russia "toe to toe with the world's preeminent superpower" gives the Russian leader a way to explain why the conflict has gone the way it has, with less embarrassment, Kimmage said.

Russia Destroys More Than 100 HIMARS Missiles: Defense Ministry

  Russia Destroys More Than 100 HIMARS Missiles: Defense Ministry Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point and signaled that more large increases to combat high inflation could be coming. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

And as much as Putin wants to present the "Western boogeyman" narrative, the Russian public is ready to hear it, said Yuri Zhukov, an associate political science professor at the University of Michigan.

"It is far easier to believe that things aren't going well because of U.S. meddling rather than because of Ukrainian resolve," he said.

Lawrence Reardon, ​​a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said that despite Putin's messaging, complaints like those about HIMARS are proof that "Russian forces are now suffering."

"The Ukrainian government and military have a highly sophisticated understanding of Russian military tactics and have demonstrated an exceptional capability of engaging the invaders," Reardon said.

Update 08/08/22, 6:34 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information and background.

Related Articles

  • U.S. Needs to Provide More Powerful HIMARS Missiles to Ukraine: Expert
  • Ukraine Strikes Key Bridge, Evading Russia HIMARS Defenses
  • Russia Having 'More and More Difficulties Conducting War in Ukraine': Rice

Start your unlimited Newsweek trial

Russians Fail to Block HIMARS Bridge Strike—Viral Video Purportedly Shows .
Ukraine has targeted the Antonovsky Bridge multiple times using high-precision HIMARS munitions provided by the U.S. An unverified video that first appeared to be posted on Ukrainian Telegram channel Horevica on Sunday, purportedly shows the moment Russian air defense systems failed to intercept an attack by Ukraine using Washington-supplied HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) on the Antonovsky Bridge. Ukraine has targeted the bridge multiple times using the high-precision munitions.

See also