World

As Ukrainian army gets closer to West, Russia causes the outcome it feared

WASHINGTON (AP) — The longer Ukraine’s army fends off the invading Russians, the more it absorbs the advantages of Western weaponry and training — exactly the transformation Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to prevent by invading in the first place.

The list of arms flowing to Ukraine is long and growing longer. It includes new American battlefield aerial drones and the most modern US and Canadian artillery. Also, anti-tank weapons from Norway and others; armored vehicles and anti-ship missiles from Britain; and Stinger counter-air missiles from the US, Denmark and other countries.

If Ukraine can hold off the Russians, its accumulating arsenal of Western weapons could have a transformative effect in a country that has, like other former Soviet republics, relied mainly on arms and equipment from the Soviet era.

But sustaining that military aid won’t be easy. It is costly and, for some supplier nations, politically risky. It also is being taken out of Western stockpiles that at some point will need to be replenished. That is why US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed to a meeting Tuesday at Germany’s Ramstein airbase to work out ways to keep it going, now and for the long run. Defense ministers and top military leaders from approximately 40 countries participated.

The goal, Austin said, is not just to support Ukrainian defenses, but to help them prevail against a larger invading force. Speaking Tuesday at the event’s opening, he said that Ukraine’s allies will “keep moving heaven and earth” to meet Ukraine’s near-term security requirements.

“We believe they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” Austin said on Monday in Poland after returning from a visit to Kyiv with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that included a discussion of Ukraine’s military needs. He also said the goal is to “see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things it has done in invading Ukraine.”

From left; US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pose for a picture during their meeting on April 24, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Despite its early failings, the Russian military still holds some advantages that will be put to the test in the eastern Donbas region, where they are assembling more combat troops and firepower even as the US and its NATO allies scramble to get artillery and other heavy weaponry to that area in time to make a difference.

With the war’s outcome in doubt after two months of fighting, the Pentagon is providing 90 of the US Army’s most modern howitzers, along with 183,000 rounds of artillery — and other sophisticated weaponry that could give the Ukrainians an important edge in looming battles. The US also is arranging more training for Ukrainians on key weaponry, including howitzers and at least two kinds of armed drone aircraft.

On Monday, Austin and Blinken announced $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries in Europe; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv, in part to help Ukraine transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems. The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.

Such financing is different from previous US military assistance for Ukraine. It is not a donation of weapons and equipment from Pentagon stockpiles, but rather cash that countries can use to purchase supplies that they might need.

The Ukrainians say they need even more, including long-range air defense systems, fighter jets, tanks and multiple-launch rocket systems.

In this image provided by the US Air Force, Airmen and civilians from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron palletize ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on January 21, 2022. (Mauricio Campino/US Air Force via AP)

“It will be true to say that the United States now leads the effort in ensuring this transition of Ukraine to Western-style weapons, in arranging training for Ukrainian soldiers,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, adding, “and I only regret that it didn’t happen a month or two months ago from the very beginning of the war.”

Philip Breedlove, a retired US general who led NATO in Europe from 2013 to 2016, says his shorthand summary of what Putin wants in Ukraine and elsewhere on the Russian periphery is, “Weapons out, NATO back, and no America.”

“What has happened is, Mr. Putin is getting exactly what he did not want. He’s getting more weapons forward, he’s getting more NATO forward, and he’s getting more America in Europe,” Breedlove said in an interview.

The complexities of keeping up Western military aid to Ukraine, even as its troops are fully occupied with a brutal war, are a reminder of what is at stake. Putin said before launching the invasion that Moscow could not tolerate what he saw as a Western effort to make Ukraine a de facto member of NATO. I have argued that Ukraine’s interest in westernizing and in remaining outside of Russia’s orbit was due to “external forces” such as US pressure.

A Ukrainian serviceman holds an FGM-148 Javelin, an American-made portable anti-tank missile, at a checkpoint near Kharkiv, on March 23, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

Putin has demanded that Ukraine forswear membership in the NATO alliance, and beyond that, he has insisted on turning back the clock to 1997, before NATO had begun adding former Soviet and Soviet-allied nations to its ranks.

There is little prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, but Russia’s war has in fact brought NATO closer to Ukraine. The result has been a boost to Ukraine’s prospects for mounting a successful defense, even in the eastern Donbas region where the Russians hold certain advantages and where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

We’re telling a critical story

Israel is now a far more prominent player on the world stage than its size suggests. As The Times of Israel’s Diplomatic Correspondent, I’m well aware that Israel’s security, strategy and national interests are always scrutinized and have serious implications.

It takes balance, determination, and knowledge to accurately convey Israel’s story, and I come to work every day aiming to do so fully.

Financial support from readers like you allows me to travel to witness both war (I just returned from reporting in Ukraine) and the signing of historic agreements. And it enables The Times of Israel to remain the place readers across the globe turn to for accurate news about Israel’s relationship with the world.

If it’s important to you that independent, fact-based coverage of Israel’s role in the world exists and thrives, I urge you to support our work. Will you join The Times of Israel Community today?

Thank you,

Lazar BermanDiplomatic Correspondent

Yes, I’ll give

Yes, I’ll give

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

You’re a dedicated reader

That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREEas well as accessing exclusive content Available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

Join Our Community

Join Our Community

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button