THE NEW YORK TIMES – The race continues.
While columns of Russian troops began to enter Ukraine almost two months ago, the U.S and its allies began supplying Kiev with weapons and equipment for a war that many expected would be short: sniper rifles, helmets, medical kits, encrypted communicators, massive amounts of ammunition, and the portable Stinger and Javelin missiles that quickly became the icons of this conflict.
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Contrary to expectations, Ukraine kept its capital and expelled the Russians from the north of the country. Now, as the Kremlin shifts gears and begins a concerted effort to capture eastern Ukraine, Washington and its allies are also taking a prominent position, striving to provide Ukraine with heavier and more advanced weaponry for the country to defend itself in this excruciating war.
But this strategy engenders a notable risk: of antagonizing Russia so much that it triggers a wider, international conflict.
Russia recently sent a formal warning to the US, stating that Western shipments of “more sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine could result in “unpredictable consequences”.
US officials say the warning proves that the weapons sent are making a big difference on the battlefield. So, in Washington at least, concerns about supplying Ukraine with weapons that the Russians might consider “escalation” have subsided — as has initial concern about Ukraine using long-range weaponry, such as fighter jets, to attack. Moscow unleash a bigger war.
Officials in Washington are currently deciding how much intelligence to give Ukrainians about bases within Russian territory, given that the Ukrainians are already carrying out helicopter attacks on Russian fuel depots. THE White House it also contained the supply of some weapons capable of hitting Russian forces across the border, such as rocket artillery, fighter-bombers and medium-range drones.
Some argue that Americans are being too cautious. “Seven weeks ago, they were debating whether or not to send the Stinger missiles — which now seems absurd, doesn’t it?” said retired Lieutenant General Frederick Hodges, a former commander of the US Army in Europe. “We have been deterred by an exaggerated fear of what could possibly happen.”
Concern about provoking a larger war persists among some of the natomost visibly in Germany, which is concerned about the possibility that the supply of the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, considered one of the best armored vehicles in the world, could be perceived by Russia as the entry of Berlin and NATO into the war.
Robert Habeck, an influential minister in the new German government, said that the deployment of tanks would mean an escalation and should be the result of a consensus between NATO and the European Union. “Tanks are synonymous with heavy weapons, and all NATO countries have so far ruled out this hypothesis in order not to become a target,” he said.
But these decisions are sovereign—not in alliance. And anyway, Washington and numerous allies are sending such weapons to Ukraine, focused on providing Soviet-era weapons that the Ukrainians know how to operate, along with Western weapons that the Ukrainians are easily able to absorb.
Russia is attacking Ukraine at random, complicating the flow of these new weapons from Ukraine’s western borders, with Poland, Romania and Slovakia, to the battlefields in the east. This poses another risk: that Russian attacks will advance across the Ukrainian border and into NATO countries, which President Joe Biden has promised to militarily defend “every inch”.
The unfolding of this logistical race could well shape the outcome of the war.
Russian forces, after an embarrassing pullback from northern Ukraine and the capital’s suburbs Kiev, are repositioning themselves for what the Kremlin and Ukrainian officials call a decisive offensive to capture eastern Ukraine.
Unlike many of the previous battles, this combat tends to be fought between tanks, in the open, with long-range artillery and more armed drones.
The West’s effort is as comprehensive as it is costly, involving as many as 30 countries, not all NATO members. The effort at the moment is to get countries that have tanks, artillery pieces and perhaps even Soviet-era fighter jets to send the weapons to Ukraine, under the promise that the US will, in exchange, replace their equipment with more modern weapons. , manufactured in the West. There is an extreme need for 152mm howitzer shells used in the former Soviet bloc, as NATO uses a different 155mm shell.
The US has also agreed to supply 155mm howitzers, along with 40,000 rounds of that size, while also trying to buy Soviet-standard ammunition from countries that use it, including countries outside Europe such as Afghanistan and even India, a former buyer of Russian weapons.
But that’s not enough, Hodges argued. “We’re not thinking big yet,” he said. “We are not yet considering a victory for Ukraine.”
Unlike the early stage of the war, where many countries seemed to compete to announce what they were shipping to Ukraine, the current race is largely secretive.
Much of this coordination, including ways to transport this equipment to Ukraine, is being carried out by the US European Command, or EUCOM, based in Stuttgart, Germany, and by an entity euphemistically dubbed the International Donor Coordination Center, established with the British.
The command said it had established in early March a “control center” to coordinate the delivery of arms and humanitarian assistance “from around the world” to Ukraine. But he declined to provide details about the initiative.
“Actually, we don’t have time to send a lot of American heavy weapons to Ukraine, and we don’t have time to train Ukrainian military personnel,” said former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “But there is still plenty of Soviet military equipment in the arsenals of Eastern European states.”
The US, he asserted, “should loot the arsenals” of the former Warsaw Pact countries of their armored and air defense systems, “under the promise that the US will later resupply our NATO allies with our equipment.”
That’s exactly what Washington is rushing to do, Pentagon officials said, describing its own effort to persuade Slovakia to supply Ukraine with S-300 missile systems. On March 9, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin began talks with his Slovak counterpart Jaroslav Nad and agreed to send Patriot missile batteries to replace the armament that Slovakia sends to Ukraine.
Similar talks are taking place between other allies who own Soviet-era weapons and ammunition, officials said. Americans say they are also talking to Ukrainians several times a day about what Ukraine wants or needs and which Western countries they think can help the most.
The Ukrainian President, Volodmyr Zelensky, has repeatedly expressed gratitude for the help, but wants more — and sooner. He acknowledged being irritated by constantly listing the same requests for different international interlocutors, telling the magazine The Atlantic in Kiev: “When some leaders ask me what weapons I need, I need a moment to calm down, because I already told them that the week before. It’s like Groundhog Day. I feel like Bill Murray.”
Last week, the Pentagon met with leaders from eight major military equipment manufacturers, including Raytheon Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., to discuss ways to address any supply problems — both to replenish the American arsenal intended to help Ukraine and to keep Kiev in the fight. The two companies jointly manufacture the Javelin missile systems, and Raytheon manufactures the Stingers.
The US alone has spent or allocated around US$2.6 billion on this equipment since the war began on February 24, and the European Union has allocated €1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) to this equipment. help. There is no prospect, however, of US or NATO troops assisting Ukraine, officials say. The West is supplying weapons and intelligence — and rallying behind the scenes. / TRANSLATION BY GUILHERME RUSSO