1682118401 Ukraine demands guns ahead of counteroffensive but westerners remain divided

Ukraine demands guns ahead of counteroffensive, but westerners remain divided The

SERGEY SHESTAK/AFP Soldiers of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army prepare 82mm mortars to fire on Russian positions near Ugledar, Donetsk region, April 21, 2023. (Photo by Sergey SHESTAK / AFP)


Ukrainian soldiers on the Donetsk front, here on April 21, 2023.

WAR IN UKRAINE — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday, April 21, during a meeting in Germany that he was “confident” that Ukraine was grounded in a likely counter-offensive for which Kiev is demanding more weapons and ammunition could win back the Russians.

At the American base in Ramstein, Kiev’s allies “reviewed the various capabilities, systems and supplies needed by the Ukrainians to regain more ground,” Jens Stoltenberg said. “I am confident that they (the Ukrainians) can gain even more ground now,” he said.

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A year after its formation, the group of around fifty countries supporting Ukraine militarily has “become an extraordinary community of action” that has enabled “impressive progress” on the ground, added US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Westerners remain cautious

During a visit to Kiev on Thursday, the NATO chief spoke to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has repeatedly urged Westerners to deliver more armaments, artillery, ammunition, but also aircraft weapons and long-range fire systems to hit Russian logistics far behind the front lines Line.

“All together we will ensure that Ukraine has everything it needs,” US Secretary of Defense Ramstein said. In particular, Lloyd Austin announced the delivery of American Abrams heavy tanks to Germany in the next few weeks, initially to train Ukrainian soldiers there before their deployment on the battlefield.

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Between insufficient inventories, fears of an escalation and logistical problems, however, Europeans and Americans have been more cautious than Kiev would like. In particular, the supply of fighter jets to Ukraine is dividing support for Kiev, with Germany appearing particularly reticent.

Slovakia and Poland began supplying Ukraine with Soviet-designed Mig-29 fighters. But shipping modern Western aircraft has yet to be discussed.

“A Battle of Attrition”

“We are all convinced that Ukraine urgently needs a ground-based air defense capability,” Lloyd Austin said. “In just a few months, the Contact Group delivered over 230 tanks, over 1,550 armored vehicles and other equipment and ammunition in support of over nine new armored brigades,” he recalled.

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For his part, Josep Borrell, the head of European diplomacy, recalled that “more than 16,000 Ukrainian soldiers have already been trained. More than 600 million euros in ammunition and missiles have already been delivered.”

“The Russians have significant air power and upgrading the Ukrainian Air Force from its current level to that of the Russian Air Force would require significant effort,” argued US Chief of Staff General Mark Milley.

The alliance is concentrating on the delivery of ammunition and spare parts so that the systems already in use “achieve the desired effect,” stressed Jens Stoltenberg. “It is now a battle of attrition, and a battle of attrition is becoming a logistical war,” he said. “We reiterated our demands for fighter jets,” said Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiï Reznikov.

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disagreements between Europeans

The European Union, which in March promised an allocation of a billion euros for ammunition withdrawn from existing stockpiles and a second billion euros for joint purchasing contracts with European companies, had to reassure Ukraine this Friday, with Josep Borrell assuring that the EU ” honors its commitments”.

The second part of the agreement is the subject of sharp disagreements in the ongoing negotiations in Brussels. “The EU’s inability to implement its own decision to jointly purchase ammunition for Ukraine is frustrating,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted on Thursday, stressing that “for Ukraine, the price of inaction is measured in human lives becomes “.

The agreement concluded in March provides for joint purchases from the “European defense industry”. France is very strict about this provision, several European diplomats have indicated. Paris refuses to refund purchases made by non-European companies or companies not established in the EU.

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But “a number of other member states doubt that in this case ammunition can be delivered to Ukraine on time, and we must not categorically exclude arms partners in Australia, South Korea, Southern Africa or Switzerland,” said one of them.

In addition, the largest European manufacturer of ammunition, the German concern Rheinmetall, has an ammunition factory in Australia and would like to benefit from European reimbursements for this production.

150 billion in aid since the beginning of the war

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced that Ukrainian, Polish and German representatives had also agreed in Ramstein to set up a “joint repair center in Poland” for Leopard 2 tanks.

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Westerners have provided more than $150 billion in aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February 2022, including $65 billion for the military, he said. After resisting Russian attacks on the Eastern Front all winter, Ukrainian forces say they are preparing their own offensive for spring or summer.

After heavy tanks, Ukraine announced this week that it had received the first American Patriot air defense systems, an operation coordinated by the United States, Germany and the Netherlands.

Jens Stoltenberg explained in Kiev that the “future” of Kiev lay in the “Euro-Atlantic family”, without saying anything about the timetable for possible NATO membership. The prospect fuels the Kremlin, which on Friday, through the voice of its spokesman Dmitry Peskov, chastised the Atlantic Alliance’s “aggressive nature”.

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