Putin got what he didn’t want: Ukraine’s army is closer to the West

Washington (AFP) – The longer it takes for the Ukrainian army to repel the Russian invadersThe more it absorbed the advantages of Western weapons and training — exactly the shift President Vladimir Putin wanted to prevent by invading in the first place.

The list of weapons flowing into Ukraine is long and growing. It includes new American drones on the battlefield and the latest American and Canadian artillery. Also, anti-tank weapons from Norway and others; Armored vehicles and anti-ship missiles from Britain. and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from the United States, Denmark and other countries.

If Ukraine could fend off the Russians, its accumulated arsenal of Western weapons could have a transformative effect in a country that, like other former Soviet republics, relied primarily on Soviet-era weapons and equipment.

But maintaining that military assistance will not be easy. It is costly and politically risky for some supplier countries. It is also taken out of Western stocks that will at some point need replenishment. That’s why US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin He held a meeting on Tuesday at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, to come up with ways to continue the work now and for the long term. Defense ministers and senior military leaders from nearly 40 countries participated.

Austin said the goal was not only to bolster Ukraine’s defenses but to help it triumph against a larger invading force. Speaking Tuesday at the opening of the event, he said Ukraine’s allies will “continue to move in heaven and earth” to meet Ukraine’s near-term security requirements.

“We think they can win if they have the right equipment, the right support,” Austin said Monday in Poland after returning from a visit to Kyiv with Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken that included discussing Ukraine’s military needs. He also said the goal was “to see Russia so weak that it can’t do the things it did in the invasion of Ukraine.”

Despite its early failures, the Russian military still has some advantages that will be tested in the eastern Donbass region, amassing more combat troops and firepower even as the United States and its NATO allies scramble to get artillery and other heavy weapons into that region in time. to make a difference.

With the outcome of the war in doubt after two months of fighting, the Pentagon is delivering 90 of the US Army’s latest howitzers, along with 183,000 rounds of artillery — and other advanced weapons that could give the Ukrainians an important advantage in the looming battles. The United States is also arranging more training for the Ukrainians on major weapons, including howitzers and at least two types of armed drones.

On Monday, Austin and Blinken announced $713 million in foreign military funding for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries in Europe; About $322 million has been earmarked for Kiev, in part to help Ukraine transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems. Officials said the rest would be divided between NATO members and other countries that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the start of the war with Russia.

This funding differs from previous US military assistance to Ukraine. It’s not a donation of weapons and equipment from the Pentagon’s stockpile but rather money that countries can use to purchase supplies they may need.

The Ukrainians say they need more, including long-range air defense systems, combat aircraft, tanks and multiple launch missile systems.

“It would be correct to say that the United States is now leading the effort to ensure Ukraine’s transition to Western-style weapons, in arranging the training of Ukrainian soldiers,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, adding, “And I’m only sorry that it didn’t happen a month or two ago. The beginning of the war.”

Philip Breedlove, a retired US general who led NATO in Europe from 2013 to 2016, says his brief summary of what Putin wants in Ukraine and elsewhere on Russia’s fringes is “arms out, NATO back, and America no longer.”

What happened is that Mr. Putin got exactly what he didn’t want. “It brings more weapons forward, pushes NATO forward, increases America in Europe,” Breedlove said in an interview.

The complexities of continuing Western military assistance to Ukraine, even as its forces are completely occupied by 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 attempt to make Ukraine a de facto member of NATO. He argued that Ukraine’s interest in Westernization and staying out of Russia’s orbit was due to “external forces” such as US pressure.

Putin demanded that Ukraine give up its membership in NATO, then insisted that the clock be turned back to 1997, before NATO began adding former Soviet and Soviet-allied countries to its ranks.

There is little possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, but the Russian war has brought NATO closer to Ukraine. The result was a boost to Ukraine’s chances of establishing a successful defense, even in the eastern Donbass region where Russians have certain advantages and where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

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Associated Press diplomatic writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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