The extremely difficult positional war continues. Despite some help from the West, Ukraine is facing an enemy with incomparable resources – human and technical. And with incomparable rage, because Ukraine is waging a war in compliance with human norms, while Putin’s Russia has long since crossed the line of human – torturing, murdering, committing atrocities. The current situation raises many sensitive questions for all those who are accustomed to analysis.
Probably the key one is the seemingly incurable short-sightedness of the leaders of a number of partner countries. Their lack of feeling of someone else’s pain is understandable, because each country solves its own tasks first of all at the expense of someone else’s war, from its own strengthening to banal episodic profits. But it is one thing to reject the obviousness of war crimes and genocide against the whole nation, and quite another to stubbornly not feel the possibility of a global catastrophe.
Putin’s existential aspirations and the fears of those who seek to “save his face”
By and large, from February 27, 2022, Putin, who then began outright blackmailing with nuclear weapons, must at least be neutralized and removed from power as a global threat to human existence. The world, in the form of a powerful union of five dozen countries, seems to have begun fighting it, but the common will is still not strong enough to remove a deadly tumor from the body of the planet. Ukraine has become a scalpel, but its sharpness still leaves much to be desired.…
The truth is that without the strong, adequate help of partners, Ukraine will not be able to win this war. This is both an axiom and a starting point in the current equation of war with many unknowns. Variables X and Y of the equation are assistance to Ukraine with armament and the implementation of a really tough sanctions policy. The latter, by the way, involves strong international control.
Columnists of various mass media and experts said from the beginning of June that Ukraine is bleeding and cannot perform an effective counteroffensive due to a lack of weapons. All Ukrainian top officials later picked it up. Finally, the danger of such formed parity was recognized at the interstate level. In particular, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin acknowledged that Ukraine is facing a crucial moment on the battlefield, and the stakes in this situation are very high. It’s worth mentioning the words of the initiator and leader of the meeting that the meaningless invasion of Ukraine is a threat not only to Ukraine itself but also a direct threat to European security and the entire international order, which are publicly questioned by the continuation of dangerous balancing.
In fact, the Russian-Ukrainian war could last for years, in which the “collective West” would be interested. After all, this implies a slight reduction in the level of prosperity of the West as a payment for the bloodshed of Ukrainians who stand between Russia and the West and protect the peace of the latter.
The doubts of the Americans, the British, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Baltics, are different. The United States and Britain understand that even a small victory for Russia in the occupied territories in 2022 is a sign of Western weakness and a harbinger of even greater war after Russia finally recovers from its March defeat. Strengthening of China in this case, which maintains neutrality, but de facto is on the side of Russia, also is painful to Washington.
The CEE [Central and Eastern European] and Baltic countries fear the fall of Ukraine and the [subsequent] invasion, which is why they are so eager to provide arms. Of course, such parity is also beneficial to the Kremlin, as it allows it to secretly feed its military machine and conduct covert mobilization against the background of imperfect sanctions, with the intention of increasing the level of threat to all. But first of all for Ukraine, which has already become a “pain in the Putin’s neck.”
But how and at what expense did the Russian invading forces regroup and rebuild? Why did Russia succeed in achieving this, despite looking battered in the second half of March, when Putin, “tailing his tail”, announced on March 25, through one of his generals, an unexpected change in strategy in this war?!
The course of events shows that the “collective West” simply did not dare to give Ukraine the opportunity to send Putin’s criminal regime after his ship. As soon as Russia begins to lose its military potential, Western partners almost simultaneously stop supplying weapons. Nobody in the West is going to take into account losses of Ukraine – soldiers at the front, tortured and killed during missile and air strikes on civilians, all the more territories. And sometimes it seems that the territory of Ukraine itself (because the partners strongly do not advise to transfer the war to the territory of Russia) has turned into a truly giant living laboratory, where a cynical study of human capabilities is taking place.
Of course, all of us Ukrainians should be grateful to our Western partners for saving the sovereign and independent part of Ukraine. But in fact, they are saving Ukraine just as much as they are saving NATO and the EU from Putin’s plague.
According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Ukraine received from Western partners about a tenth of the weapons it requested to counter Russian troops. This is a figurative statement because it is not a question of the number of weapons provided, which in fact cannot be counted on a huge scale in the middle of a war. The issue is the selectivity of the range of weapons and the timeliness of their supply.
Ukraine’s victory directly depends on rearmament, and all players on the world stage are aware of this. It is worth mentioning that all requests from official Kyiv to receive aircraft, modern air defense missiles and powerful anti-ship missiles of Western production were denied. Europe does not even want to provide its tanks, because it is an offensive weapon! However, over time, in addition to the Stinger MANPADS, air defense forces with a range of 7 km and later 10 km appeared in the Ukrainian defense forces (Soviet SAMs are not taken into account here). Later, modern artillery systems and even MLRS and the Harpoon coastal anti-ship complex with a range of more than 100 km entered Ukraine as part of the western slow approach. However, the United States’ provision of HIMARS multi-role missile systems is a reflection of all Western policy: first were supplied 4 launchers with volley fire missiles with a range of about 70 km, then (after proving the ability to use HIMARS effectively) – 8 more…
So when the United States, France and Germany say out loud that nobody will force Ukraine to make concessions, it is an act of hypocrisy. Because the “weapon leverage” works better than the words.
Putin is also quite satisfied with the current state of affairs. The Western world, as a global opponent, allows him to move deep into Ukraine, even without the need to announce a general mobilization. The West allows him to make almost a billion dollars a day on oil and gas (Russia earned 93 billion euros in 100 days of the war); steal grain in Ukraine and block ports to spread hunger to a prominent part of the planet; to circumvent sanctions and sign contracts through civilian enterprises to replenish their weapon components and even buy satellite images en masse through shell companies. The West is hesitant whether to judge Putin or to call him, and the bloody dictator likes that. Nuclear blackmail works if Europe is afraid to irritate it.
Especially since there are countries that consciously wish Putin a quick victory. Because when China’s defense minister says the United States is “prolonging the conflict between Russia and Ukraine by providing weapons and support,” it not only inspires Putin to commit massacre and demolish entire neighborhoods in cities, but also allows him to smile cynically, while decorating various honors to units that raped, tortured and killed civilians.
“Presidential” landing: work on mistakes?
Ukraine’s best partners – the United States and the United Kingdom – sincerely wish Ukraine victory. There are a number of others who simply do not want to defeat Putin. These are, as we already know, different things. Supporters of this position are the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Turkey.
So when President Macron, Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Draghi (the visit of Romanian President Johannis was apparently a coincidence) go to Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin and make sincere statements about Ukraine’s unconditional support, it looks like a strong psychological encouragement. And such a visit may well be considered compensation – for not providing previously promised weapons, for flirting with Putin, for willingness to maintain the current criminal regime in Russia.
Surprisingly, when Scholz says in Kyiv that Putin should withdraw troops and “sit down at the negotiating table”, he does not even realize that this is an insult to Ukraine. Because he does not consider the need to overthrow Putin’s criminal regime at all.
Macron also insults Ukraine when he openly assures: The West helps Ukraine defend itself against Russia, but “does not enter the war”, so it was agreed not to supply Kyiv with certain weapons, such as fighter aircraft or tanks. Let’s be honest: not because the West is “not going to war,” but because of Putin’s outright fears and West’s flirtations with him, and because of West’s intention to keep Putin as head of state.
Well, the visit proved that the status quo will remain for the time being… In Europe, Ukraine will be helped in the future – not to fall. Unless Britain, which, by the way, according to the results of “Ramstein-3” decided to provide an additional 20 M109 ACS, and the United States. will continue to do the work. As part of a new aid package (totaling $ 5.6 billion), the Americans will strengthen Ukraine with two more Harpoon coastal missile systems, a batch of the aforementioned M142 HIMARS launchers, and many more weapons. Washington claims to have achieved record deliveries.
The West has indeed succeeded in supplying some of its armaments. For example, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Millie, said the other day that a total of 383 artillery and rocket systems and nearly half a million artillery shells had been provided to Ukraine.
Perhaps few people in the West realized that the classic war of the third generation, that is, the same as the Second World War, if conducted in the XXI century, has a different look. And another dimension. The West is in no hurry to provide Kyiv with a new generation of weapons. And this is a manifestation of the West’s infantile policy towards Ukraine and the Russian threat.
It would be naive to think that the panorama of the current war will be sharpened one of these days. Because the moment of realizing that such a Russian-Ukrainian war suits everyone has already taken place. In fact, the war could last for years, at least until Putin’s sudden death or his removal in Russia. The West fears the use of nuclear weapons, so blackmail will continue. The West fears the collapse of Russia and the consequences of this process, so Putin’s balancing act will continue to be fueled by the West. It should be noted that there is no anti-Putin coalition yet. Although it can and should appear.
The dismemberment of Ukraine vs the dismemberment of Russia. Will the world last?
“If Ukraine receives the necessary weapons, the counteroffensive may end by the end of the summer,” Major General Dmytro Marchenko told Radio Svoboda in an interview. The general suggested that the Ukrainian army may lose some time, during which the occupiers will be able to fortify in the temporarily occupied territories.
In fact, Ukraine has already lost in time. During the months of the war in 2022, its partners carried out this rearmament too slowly and chose, so to speak, a “mirror” Russian armaments nomenclature.
The most important factor in Ukraine’s future military success should be a different approach to rearmament – providing the state’s defense forces with weapons that are a generation superior to Russia’s. This should not be expected from Europe (except Britain), at least in the near future. Only the United States can begin this process. And this is exactly what Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov hints at when he says that Ukraine will return Crimea by military means.
Interestingly, before the visit of high-ranking guests from Europe to Kyiv and before the Ramstein meeting, The Washington Post published an illustrative article by Max Booth – with well-founded criticism of the Biden administration.
Biden made a serious mistake in March when, because of overblown fears of Putin’s reaction, he refused to facilitate the transfer of Poland’s MiG-29 fighter jets. But it’s not too late to rectify that blunder.
While the MiG-29s would still be useful, in general we should be transitioning Ukraine to NATO equipment such as MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, F-16 fighter jets, A-10 “Warthog” ground-attack aircraft and Patriot air-defense systems. The Gray Eagle, capable of carrying Hellfire antitank missiles, is a much larger drone than the U.S. Switchblades and Turkish TB2s that Kyiv has been receiving. The A-10, designed to withstand ground fire, would be perfect for pulverizing Russian artillery. The F-16 would allow the Ukrainians to shoot down more Russian warplanes and bomb Russian troops. The Patriot system could shoot down not only aircraft but also missiles.
The West should be sending hundreds of howitzers and multi-launch rocket systems, thousands of rockets and hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds. This should include Excalibur GPS-guided rounds for the M177 (range: 24 miles) and Army Tactical Missile Systems for the Himars (range: 186 miles). Those longer-range munitions would enable the Ukrainians to target Russia’s artillery, rockets and supply lines without risking their new weapons close to the front lines.
This is the approach when advanced weapons, multiplied by the resilience and endurance of Ukrainian defenders, can complete the task. Ukrainians undertake to “work” for everyone. But for that, the West must fully trust Ukraine and be sincerely aware of the need to end Putin’s criminal regime.
History repeats itself. Let’s be honest: the world today has the prospect of cultivating a new Hitler of the XXI century – in the form of “Putin with a preserved face.” To be honest, this has practically happened, Ukraine simply bears the brunt of the probable world war.
Flirting with Putin is the way to a new war, but an even bigger and bloodier one. If world does not recognize Putin as an international criminal, and Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, it will lead to even more massacres, this time in EU territory. And the most motivating factor for the Kremlin thief could be the capture of Ukraine. This is what all western capitals should be aware of.
Volodymyr Horbulin, professor, former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Director of the Institute of National Security Problems
Valentyn Badrak, director of the Center for Army Research, Conversion and Disarmament