West ramps up military aid to Ukraine as war results turn around 2022-04-29 12:05:00

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Ukraine’s military successes against Russia have changed the calculus in Washington and other Western capitals, sharply increasing military assistance to Kiev, as a war that began with Western efforts to control damage has become a war that provides a strategic opportunity to constrain Russia’s expansionist ambitions.

The United States and its allies are now shipping large quantities of heavy weapons to Ukraine, including more advanced Western systems to supplement light and Soviet-era weapons that have been transferred to Ukraine since before the invasion.

These shipments are intended to support Kyiv in The next critical stage of the war in the coming weeks– but also to arm the country in a conflict that could last months or years.

result of war It remains uncertain, but initial Western fears of a rapid Ukrainian military collapse that would leave the Russian military successful in controlling the entire country have subsided.

After initially planning to support the rebellion, Western governments now see a realistic prospect of Ukrainian success that would push Russia away from Ukrainian territory and deter Moscow from future land grabs, an outcome that would be a strategic victory for the West.

Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Lithuania are unloaded at an airport outside Kyiv in mid-February, days before the start of the war.


picture:

Valentin Ogirenko/Reuters

In late March, President Biden in Poland said that Mr. Putin “couldn’t stay in power.” In late April, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters, “We want to see Russia weaken So much so that she can’t do the same things she did in invading Ukraine.”

Arms and aid supplies to Ukraine are merged with sanctions regime against Russia Partially intended to thwart rebuilding Russian equipment destroyed in the war. The tightening policy also reflects Outrage over alleged Russian atrocities And the growing desire to deter the Russian president

Russian President Vladimir Putin

and other authoritarian leaders from future aggression, according to current and former Western officials and lawmakers.

In a major sign of the shift, President Biden more than doubled the size of his recent funding request to Congress. Thursday, Request 33 billion dollars To finance more weapons and provide long-term assistance to Kyiv, having nearly exhausted an initial $13.6 billion in initial funding for Ukraine to help cover the first two months of the war.

There are risks in politics, as Mr. Putin frequently does Reminds the West of Russia’s nuclear capabilities. But, acknowledging the intensification of the war effort, administration officials say they have not changed course or escalated the level of conflict. Supporting Ukraine, putting pressure on Russia, and the goal of avoiding direct US military intervention is nothing new.

Russia is refocusing its offensive in Ukraine on the Donbass region, after setbacks in Kyiv and other northern cities, where it was thwarted in the air and on the ground. But military experts say the landscape in the east may be beneficial for Moscow. Image caption: Laura Kamerman

“It’s a continuation, not an escalation,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Thursday. “There is no change in the president’s policy not to fight US forces in Ukraine and no change in our policy regarding the no-fly zone.”

Moscow portrays Ukraine as a puppet of NATO. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov He said this week that the West is raising the risk of a bigger conflict By supplying arms to Ukraine: “NATO is, in essence, going to war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy.”

Ukrainians deny that they are being manipulated to fight the Russians. Early this month, its foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, described the deal between the West and Ukraine as “giving us weapons, we’re giving our lives, and the war in Ukraine has been contained.”

Western governments say that arms supplies are made by individual governments, not NATO itself. Western officials also say that Ukrainians should decide how they want to end the conflict – not outside powers.

The new Western mobilization came after the Biden administration and other governments realized that Kyiv would not have been defeated by the rapid Russian invasion And that the Ukrainian army could repel the Russian forces around the capital.

Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored military vehicle in the city of Severodonetsk, in the Donbass region, on April 7.


picture:

Fadel Al-Sana/AFP/Getty Images

“It took some time for the administration to realize that the outcome of the war was unknown, and that the Ukrainians could win,” said Daniel Fried, a former US diplomat who oversees Europe and consults with current officials. That realization began to sink into the management’s thinking, and as you did, you began to shift.

During the first weeks of the invasion, Western governments assumed that Russia would be victorious and that any conflict would quickly turn into a rebellion.

For countries like the US and UK that supply lethal weapons, that was dictating Supplies of light anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons They can be used to harass the Russian army. For those like Germany who were reluctant to antagonize Moscow, they withheld arms supplies, assuming that anything they sent would quickly end up in Russia’s hands.

But as the Ukrainians fought, He succeeded in pushing the Russians back In their attempt to advance on Kyiv, the form of the conflict began to change. With the decisive battles of the war now likely to be fought in the east and southeast of the country involving exchanges of fire between tanks and heavy artillery, The West has turned to provide more heavy weaponsAs requested by the Ukrainians. These include an increasing proportion of Western-made weapons, such as the M777 155mm howitzer, which will require Western training.

Ukraine’s successes also led to a shift in what Western governments viewed as a possible war outcome. Rather than trying to drag the Russians into guerrilla warfare, Western capitals began to believe that the Russians could be pushed further back, perhaps even out of the country altogether. If this happened, they calculated that attempts to seize Russian lands would likely be delayed, possibly indefinitely.

Much will depend on the emerging battle in the Donbass, with the Russian and Ukrainian sides hoping to emerge from that battle in a better position to shape the end of the war, or at least its next phase, said Dmitry Symes, chair of the commission. The Center for the National Interest, a Washington think tank.

“It is not very helpful to discuss any fundamental strategic issue before this fight is over,” Mr. Symes said. “Both sides, while avoiding reckless escalation, will do everything in their power to make this battle turn in their favour.”

While the NATO nations are not directly involved on the battlefield, they do supply weapons and bolster the alliance’s eastern flank, as well as support mutual efforts to wean NATO nations off Russian oil and natural gas. A senior State Department official said Mr Putin should “think carefully” before sending more troops to Ukraine, which could leave Russia with gaps elsewhere at a time when NATO is strengthening its eastern flank – and Possible addition of new members in Finland and Sweden.

Analysts and lawmakers say pressure from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the transfer of equipment by European countries, including the United Kingdom and former Soviet bloc countries, encouraged the Biden administration to set aside concerns about provoking Russia and sending more powerful weapons.

US Marines at a base in California last week loaded the M777 155mm howitzer onto a US Air Force transport plane for delivery to Ukrainian forces.


picture:

corporal. Austin Fraley/USMC/Reuters

After initially saying the UK would only help Ukraine defend itself from Russia, government ministers are now talking about a years-long campaign to drive Russia out of Ukraine entirely, all while hampering the Russian economy, the West’s spy network, and bolstering NATO’s military presence. in Eastern Europe.

In general, British officials say the war is an opportunity to weaken Russia so much that it cannot launch an attack on another Western country. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said this week that Britain wants to get “Russia out of all of Ukraine”.

Lawrence Friedman, professor emeritus of war studies at King’s College London, says the change in narrative is partly due to their greater confidence that the Russians are in trouble. However, he points out, it’s not without risks: Russia could use the West’s more aggressive rhetoric to recast the war against Ukraine into a war against NATO.

Britain began supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles in January, before the invasion, but those weapons were designed To help Ukraine defend itself in a counterinsurgency style war.

As the conflict turns, the UK seeks to provide more long-range weapons to neutralize Russian artillery. A government minister said this week that Ukraine was free to use these weapons to strike military targets inside Russian territory.

The UK government says that arms suppliers to warring parties to a conflict have not historically been seen as participating in the conflict.

In Western Europe, especially France and Germany, leaders have remained more focused on a negotiated end to the conflict, although officials in Berlin and Paris recognize that Moscow has effectively turned its back on the peace process for the time being and appears determined to prolong it. Military campaign.

However, in both capitals the focus has often been on avoiding further escalation of the situation and direct Russian military confrontation with NATO, even as France, and increasingly Germany, increases the volume and quality of military assistance it provides to Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces destroyed hundreds of Russian tanks. A woman stands on top of a destroyed tank in a village in the Kyiv region on Sunday.


picture:

Sergey Sobinsky/AFP/Getty Images

After weeks of delays, Germany said on Tuesday it would agree to deliver about 50 Gibbard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine.

other European leaders, Especially in Central and Eastern Europe They have been bolder about what the West should aim for.

Quite simply, our goal should be peace through victory. Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karenz said in an interview on Wednesday. “A fairly simplified way to see victory is to completely liberate the lands from the Russian army.”

Latvia, like its Baltic neighbors and Poland, has provided Ukraine with large amounts of military aid, including Stinger missiles and anti-tank missiles.

A return to a peaceful Europe would eventually require a strengthened eastern wing of NATO, Mr. Karens said, that could deter Russia from future military adventures.

“The idea of ​​going back to the way things were, say in January, is unimaginable at this time,” he said. “And the only way to coexist is to be extremely strong, capable and willing to fend off a military incursion anywhere in Europe.”

write to William Mauldin in william.mauldin@wsj.comMax Colchester in max.colchester@wsj.com Lawrence Norman in laurence.norman@wsj.com

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