Putin Gets What He Didn’t Want: Ukrainian Army Moves Closer to the West

WASHINGTON (AP) — The longer the Ukrainian military fends off a Russian invasion, the more it absorbs the benefits of Western weaponry and training — a transformation that President Vladimir Putin wanted to prevent by invading in the first place.

The list of weapons entering Ukraine is long and growing. It includes new US combat drones and state-of-the-art US and Canadian artillery. Also anti-tank weapons from Norway and others; armored vehicles and anti-ship missiles from the UK; Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from the USA, Denmark and other countries.

If Ukraine can contain the Russians, its arsenal of Western weapons could have a transformative effect on a country that, like other former Soviet republics, relied heavily on Soviet-era weapons and equipment.

But maintaining this military aid will not be easy. This is expensive and politically risky for some supplier countries. It is also moving out of Western stocks, which will need to be replenished at some point. That is why the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday convened a meeting at the German Ramstein Air Base to work out ways to continue it now and in the long term. It was attended by defense ministers and senior military officials from about 40 countries.

The goal, Austin said, is not only to support the Ukrainian defense, but to help it defeat a larger invading force. Speaking at the event’s opening on Tuesday, he said Ukraine’s allies “will continue to move heaven and earth” to meet Ukraine’s short-term security demands.

In this photo provided by the press service of the President of Ukraine on April 25, 2022, from left to right; U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pose for a photograph during a meeting on April 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Press Service of the President of Ukraine via AP)

Press Service of the President of Ukraine via AP

“We believe they can win if they have the right equipment and the right support,” Austin said Monday in Poland after returning from a visit to Kyiv with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to discuss Ukraine’s military needs. He also said the goal is “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do what it did by invading Ukraine.”

Despite their early setbacks, the Russian military still has some advantages that will be tested in the east of the Donbas region, where it is amassing more combat units and firepower, while the US and its NATO allies are trying to get artillery and other heavy weapons. armament. to this area in time to make a difference.

With the outcome of the war in doubt after two months of fighting, the Pentagon is providing the US Army with 90 state-of-the-art howitzers, as well as 183,000 artillery shells and other sophisticated weaponry that could give the Ukrainians an important advantage in the coming battles. The US is also organizing additional training for Ukrainians in 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 allocated to Kyiv, partly to help Ukraine move to more modern weaponry and air defense systems. The remainder will be divided among NATO members and other countries that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the start of the war with Russia, officials said.

In This Image Provided By The Us Air Force, Pilots And Civilians From The 436Th Airport Squadron Palletize Ammunition, Weapons And Other Equipment Destined For Ukraine During A Foreign Military Sales Mission At Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 21, 2022 Of The Year.  .
In this image provided by the US Air Force, pilots and civilians from the 436th Airport Squadron palletize ammunition, weapons and other equipment destined for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 21, 2022 of the year. .

Mauricio Campino/USAF via AP

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

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

“It is fair to say that the United States is now leading the effort to ensure this transition of Ukraine to Western-style weapons, to organize the training of Ukrainian soldiers,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said, adding, “and I only regret that this did not happen for a month or two ago, from the very beginning of the war.”

Philip Breedlove, a retired American general who led NATO in Europe from 2013 to 2016, says his summary of what Putin wants from Ukraine and other regions on the Russian periphery is: “Weapons without weapons, NATO back, and no America.”

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

In This Image Provided By The Us Air Force, Pallets Of Ammunition, Weapons And Other Supplies Bound For Ukraine Are Loaded Onto A Plane By Members Of The 436Th Air Port Squadron During A Foreign Military Sales Mission At Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 30, 2022. The Longer The Ukrainian Army Fights Off A Russian Invasion, The More It Absorbs The Benefits Of Western Weaponry And Training.
In this image provided by the US Air Force, pallets of ammunition, weapons and other supplies bound for Ukraine are loaded onto a plane by members of the 436th Air Port Squadron during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 30, 2022. The longer the Ukrainian army fights off a Russian invasion, the more it absorbs the benefits of Western weaponry and training.

Senior Airman Stephanie Barge/USAF via AP

The difficulty of maintaining Western military aid to Ukraine, even when its troops are fully engaged in a brutal war, is a reminder of what is at stake. Before the invasion, Putin said 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 Westernizing and staying out of Russia’s orbit was due to “outside forces” such as US pressure.

Putin demanded that Ukraine renounce NATO membership, and furthermore, he insisted on turning back the clock to 1997, before NATO began to recruit ex-Soviet and allied countries.

The prospects for Ukraine’s entry into NATO are slim, but Russia’s war actually brought NATO closer to Ukraine. As a result, Ukraine has a better chance of organizing a successful defense even in the eastern Donbas, where the Russians have certain advantages and where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.

AP diplomatic commentator Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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