Geopolitics Military Affairs

On how Ukraine desperately needs help from the West and why its victory in the war is in our best interest

Tomáš Iliev

In February 2024, two years have passed since the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine. From the beginning, the total war on the Russian side gradually transformed into a situation where Ukraine was able to push the occupiers out from the Kharkiv region or Kherson. However, Ukraine is currently paying for the disunity of the Western allies concerning the issue of military support for Kyiv, which allows Russian forces, even at the cost of enormous losses, to advance on some battlefields of the thousand kilometres long front line. Ukraine is in urgent need of arms and ammunition supplies. However, the West is procrastinating, which may ultimately lead to the breakthrough of Ukrainian defensive positions and the advance of Russian troops. Therefore, if the West does not act urgently, the Ukrainian army will not be able to sustain the onslaught of the occupying forces for a long time.

The current battlefield situation is critical for Ukrainian defenders. Ukrainian commanders are trying to hastily build new defence lines, as Russian troops are advancing relatively quickly on some sections of the front. Many experts agree that the primary and backup defensive positions should have been built earlier. This is turning out to be a colossal failure, especially since the long-awaited summer offensive in 2023 did not achieve the expected goals, and many units of the Ukrainian army are still decimated and exhausted nowadays.

In addition to the lack of manpower, Ukraine also lacks ammunition, especially artillery. The war gradually transformed into an artillery duel between the two armies. The Russian advance is conditioned mainly by artillery superiority when the tired defenders often retreat from their positions due to the lack of ammunition, with which they would repel the Russians’ ongoing attempts to conquer them. The situation on the battlefield is critical in this regard also because the USA has cut off the supply of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. Hope for Ukraine may come from the $60 billion aid package approved by the US Senate. However, the aid is still questionable because Biden cannot yet approve the law on assistance for Ukraine, as he first needs both chambers of Congress to do so. However, Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives and are blocking this move. In addition, whether Ukraine will receive help from the US remains questionable. The reason is the possible victory of Donald Trump in the presidential elections, which would likely mean the end of any hopes for Ukraine. Trump has long refused to help Ukraine, which he also confirmed during the campaign when he promised that he would not be willing to send financial or military aid to Ukraine if elected.

That is also why the burden of helping Ukraine lies with European partners. On February 1, 2024, EU member states agreed on additional support of 50 billion euros for Ukraine. However, the goal of the package is not the purchase of ammunition but the Ukrainian economy and society. The funds will be used for the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine. In March 2024, the countries of the European Union also agreed to provide 5 billion euros intended for military support to Ukraine, which, however, is currently insufficient and cannot stop the Russian initiative on the front. Despite promises, the European Union cannot supply Ukraine with one million pieces of artillery ammunition. This is also why Ukraine and its partners are focused on the ambitious plan of Czech President Petr Pavel. He is counting on purchasing 800,000 pieces of ammunition for Ukraine from an unspecified supplier. Funding for the purchase comes from contributions from 18 countries, including Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark.

But help must come quickly. Ukraine does not have time, and the frontline collapse in some parts of it has not yet occurred only at the cost of high losses and enormous efforts of the Ukrainians. However, such a situation is unsustainable. Ukraine, first of all, needs an expedited supply of ammunition, while the Western allies must be active and rely on the determination of the Ukrainians. Situations when Ukraine will need a large amount of ammunition or military equipment will be repeated, and the West must be ready for it. Western partners must, therefore, also help Ukraine reduce its dependence on external support. An example can be the German company Rheinmetall, which announced a plan to build four factories in Ukraine, where ammunition, military equipment, gunpowder and anti-aircraft systems will be produced. At the same time, Ukraine must continue in active defence, which helps to gain time to replenish human and technical capacities and, at the same time, weaken the Russian army, which loses a considerable amount of men and equipment when trying to capture Ukrainian positions. Concerning the disparity between Russian and Ukrainian capacities, it is necessary to consider that the fate of Ukraine will depend on the West’s continued help. It is currently, also due to the influence of the USA, inconsistent and insufficient. Above all, European countries must finally realise that supporting Ukraine is much more beneficial than the alternative, which is the presence of the Russian army on the borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

The ramifications of this scenario would be increased spending on defence against a potential attack by Russia or increased pressure on politicians to guarantee security to these countries. In addition, the consequences of not providing aid to Ukraine are far more significant. This is also why Western leaders should realise that helping Ukraine is the best solution for maintaining EU and NATO security.

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