The West is running out of time to step up arms deliveries to Ukraine amid signs that Russia will attempt to encircle the eastern Donbas region within four to six weeks, officials have warned.
An unnamed official told The Times that if the besieged area becomes surrounded, Ukraine’s defenders will face an even “harder” challenge to sustain their resistance while fighting in multiple directions. The coming weeks would be a “critical period” in the conflict, the source said.
Appealing for further deliveries of lethal aid, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov warned that his country faced “major destruction”. In a statement on Facebook, he said: “Some extremely difficult weeks lie ahead.”
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Western leaders are already pledging to send further weapons to Ukraine. Laying out the UK’s aims for the war and the push to bolster the defence of Ukraine’s eastern flank, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss this week said that allied nations needed to dig “deep into our inventories” to supply more “heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes”.
In a keynote speech at Mansion House in London on Wednesday, Truss said that “we must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine”, because “Ukraine’s victory is a strategic imperative for all of us”.
Her argument for sending further fighter jets was bolstered by a tweeted Ministry of Defence intelligence update that said “Ukraine retains control over the majority of its airspace”.
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin had also “pressed 40 nations for arms deliveries”, during a speech at Ramstein Air Base in southwest Germany on Tuesday, Al Jazeera said.
“The briefings today laid out clearly why the coming weeks will be so crucial for Ukraine. So we’ve got to move at the speed of war,” Austin told reporters shortly after returning from a trip to Kyiv for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The US was facing “tremendous demand” “for munitions and weapons platforms”, said Austin, who promised that the White House would give “staunch support to Ukraine, while also meeting our own requirements and those of our allies and partners”.
The push to help Ukraine is being backed by German lawmakers, who yesterday “overwhelmingly voted in favour” of sending “heavy weapons and complex weapons systems”, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported.
The vote “represents a historic shift in policy” for Berlin, said the news site, and paves the way for the delivery of “anti-aircraft systems and armoured vehicles”, as well as including “provisions for sending heavier equipment to eastern Nato allies”.
Emmanuel Macron, fresh from winning a second term as French president, has also given the green light for “the delivery of modern artillery pieces” that could “help stem Russia’s new offensive in the east of the country”, ABC News reported.
Macron gave the go-ahead shortly after Vladimir Putin phoned to congratulate him on his election victory and wish the French leader “success in your activities” – though the Russian president “probably was being more polite than sincere”, the news site added.
Escalation in force
Since Putin gave the order to invade Ukraine back in February, Nato member states have largely “supplied only light weaponry and defensive anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons out of fears of escalation”, The Times said. Zelenskyy and his advisors have “repeatedly requested heavy armaments” to “help it to match the men and material that Russia is deploying”.
In a plea last week as Russia ramped up its bombardment of Donbas, the Ukrainian president said: “You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons.”
The battle for control of Donbas “may be harder” and “just as important” as the resistance that repelled Russia from Kyiv, said The Economist. And to help secure victory, the West will almost certainly need to send “more and better weapons”.
If Ukraine is going to “hold the Russians back”, its fighters will need “tanks, planes, artillery and an abundant supply of ammunition”, the paper continued. But “the good news is that Nato’s supply lines into Ukraine, mainly from Poland, are now well established”.
And “if the weapons continue to flow and the war grinds”, Moscow is unlikely to “be able to keep supplying weapons on the same scale that Nato can”.
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.