WASHINGTON (AP) – The longer the Ukrainian military blocks Russian invaders, the more it absorbs the benefits of Western weapons and training – exactly what President Vladimir Putin wanted to prevent by invading first.
The list of weapons flowing to Ukraine is long and long. This includes new US warplane aerial drones and more modern US 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 is able to stop the Russians, its accumulation of Western weapons, like that of other former Soviet republics, will transform a country that has relied heavily on weapons and equipment since Soviet times.
But sustaining that military aid is not easy. It is expensive and politically dangerous for some supplier countries. It is taken from Western stock, which must be replenished at some point. That’s why US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin convened a meeting at Rammstein Airport in Germany on Tuesday and is paving the way for it to continue for a long time to come. It will be attended by defense ministers and military leaders from about 40 countries.
Austin said the goal was not only to support the Ukrainian defenses, but also to help them win against a major invading force.
“We hope they can succeed if they have the right equipment and the right support,” Austin said Monday after returning from a visit to Poland that includes a discussion on Ukraine’s military needs. He added that the goal was to “see that Russia is too weak to do what it did in the occupation of Ukraine.”
Despite its initial defeats, the Russian military still has some advantages that will be tested in the eastern Donbass region, where even as the United States and its NATO allies fight to obtain artillery and other heavy weapons, they are gathering more troops and firepower. To that area at a time that makes a difference.
With the end of the war in doubt after two months, the Pentagon is providing the US military with 90 modern howitzers, 183,000 rounds of artillery – and other sophisticated weapons that could give the Ukrainians a major lead in the war. The United States is arranging additional training for Ukrainians on key weapons, including howitzers and at least two types of armored drones.
On Monday, Austin and Blink announced $ 713 million in foreign military aid to 15 allies and allies in Ukraine and Europe; Kiev has been allocated about $ 322 million to help Ukraine transition to advanced weapons and air defense systems. The rest will be split between NATO members and other countries that have provided important military supplies to Ukraine since the start of the war with Russia, officials said.
Such funding is different from previous US military aid to Ukraine. It is not a donation of weapons and equipment from Pentagon reserves, but money that nations can use to buy what they need.
The Ukrainians say they need more, including long-range air defense systems, fighter jets, tanks and many missile rocket systems.
“It is true to say that the United States is now at the forefront of ensuring that Ukraine converts to Western-style weapons and arranges training for Ukrainian soldiers,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba.
Philip Breitlow, a retired US general who led NATO in Europe from 2013 to 2016, summarizes Putin’s desire in Ukraine and Russia, saying “arms out, NATO retreats, US no.”
“Whatever happens, Mr. Putin gets exactly what he does not want. He’s getting more weapons forward, and he’s pushing NATO forward, and he’s getting more America in Europe,” Breitlow said in an interview.
The difficulties in pursuing Western military assistance to Ukraine are a reminder that its troops are in danger, even if they are fully occupied in a brutal war. Before launching the invasion, Putin said that Moscow could not tolerate what was seen by Moscow as a Western attempt to make Ukraine a practical member of NATO. He argued that Ukraine’s interest in Westernization and being out of Russia’s orbit were due to “external forces” such as US pressure.
Putin has demanded that Ukraine abandon its membership in the NATO alliance, and went beyond that, insisting that the clock be drawn back to 1997 before NATO begins to add former Soviet and Soviet allies to its ranks.
Ukraine has little chance of joining NATO, but Russia’s war has really brought NATO closer to Ukraine. The Russians have some advantages in the eastern Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting since 2014.
AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.
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