"Increase the price of aggression" - Who is arming Ukraine for a possible war with Russia?
The situation around Ukraine continues to heat up. World media and Western officials report that Russia continues to deploy troops along the border with Ukraine. The meeting between the US Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister in Geneva on January 21 did not help defuse the situation. It later became known that the United States and Great Britain are beginning to evacuate members of the families of their diplomats from Ukraine.
In parallel, some Western countries provide assistance to Ukraine, including the supply of defensive weapons. The Ukrainian hromadske media outlet analyzed how much this assistance would help Ukraine and whether it could influence the course of a possible war.
Over the past week, the UK sent eight military aircraft to Ukraine, all delivering weapons from Her Majesty’s government. Thus, the British demonstrated that in the face of the threat of new aggression from Moscow, they support Kiev – not only with words.
London was not the only one. After the failure of negotiations in the Russia-NATO format, other countries began to declare their readiness to provide Ukraine with weapons.
This contrasts with 2014. Then, in response to the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of hostilities in the Donbas, the West only expressed “deep concern”.
What changed? Who provides Ukraine with weapons, and what kind? Do these deliveries affect the balance of power between the armies of Russia and Ukraine?
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Why has the position of the West changed?
Compared to 2014, the situation around Russian aggression in the world as a whole is radically different.
Firstly, previously, Russia tried to act in a hybrid way and hide its army under conditional “miners”.
“In the current situation, there are no hybrid approaches. Russia puts forward an ultimatum to the West. In turn, Western countries have more freedom to act, including in the supply of weapons”, Igor Levchenko, an expert at the Army Research Center, explains.
Secondly, Western countries have a different attitude towards Ukraine itself – because of the development of its own army and self-determination of Kiev in relation to foreign policy priorities.
“Starting in 2010, Ukraine declared neutrality and non-alignment, destroyed its armed forces and had conflicting relations with Western countries. Therefore, at that time it was difficult to imagine that the West would immediately begin to supply us with weapons and military equipment”, says Mikhail Samus, deputy director of the Center for Army Research, Conversion and Disarmament.
Thirdly, there have been changes in the Western countries themselves. The UK has implemented Brexit and, paradoxically, this has played into the hands of Ukraine.
“Britain is becoming a global player again. It left the EU, regaining certain opportunities for geopolitical and economic influence in the world”, Vadym Prystaiko, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, said in an interview with Radio Liberty.
Now London looks like a locomotive for providing Ukraine with arms assistance. After the first planes landed in Ukraine, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the Daily Mail that Britain was ready to send even more weapons to thwart the Russian invasion.
Which countries provide weapons to Ukraine?
Currently, the largest amount of aid has come from the United States. Last year, the Americans allocated $450 million to support the Ukrainian army. In late December, the Biden administration added another $200 million privately. This year, Washington has allocated $300 million to help the Ukrainian armed forces.
During a recent visit to Kiev, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stressed that the United States provided Ukraine with more aid last year than at any time since 2014. He added that support would continue, and in the event of a new Russian aggression, the assistance would become even more large-scale.
The UK has also stepped up. “We have been helping Ukraine to strengthen its defense capability for eight years now and have decided to step up this assistance in the light of Russian aggression. Britain stands by its allies”, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the Daily Mail.
Over the past week, it has become known that Denmark will provide 22 million euros for military reform in Ukraine, and Kiev will be able to receive weapons from the Czech Republic. Canada is also considering a request to provide weapons.
And Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have already received permission from the US State Department to send anti-tank missiles and other American-made weapons to Ukraine.
At the same time, Berlin’s position remains adamant: not to provide Ukraine with weapons. “Germany will not supply weapons to Ukraine, and will try to stop Russian aggression through diplomacy”, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
In general, apart from the United States, Britain and countries that constantly support Ukraine, there is no one else willing to provide Kiev with weapons, concludes Igor Levchenko from the Army Research Center.
However, journalists from the British edition of the Daily Mail suggest that supplies from the UK may convince other Western governments to increase their assistance.
What weapons are given to Ukraine?
Since 2018, the Americans have been supplying Javelin anti-tank missile systems to Ukraine. Also, heavily armed patrol boats arrived in Odessa from the USA. And this spring, six helicopters are expected that were previously in service with the Afghan army.
Earlier, Turkey also sold Bayraktar attack drones equipped with guided missiles to Ukraine.
“Bayraktar” and “Javelins” have already been tested in the Donbas, however, the latter were only used during training exercises.
The Politico publication reports that in the near future the United States will begin the process of supplying armor-piercing missiles and ammunition to Ukraine.
Javelins were to be sent to Ukraine and Estonia, in addition to them – 122 mm caliber howitzers. To do this, Tallinn must obtain permission from third countries: in the case of the Javelins, it has already arrived from the United States. At the same time, Lithuania was allowed to send Stinger missiles to Kiev.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said London could provide Ukraine with 2,000 anti-tank missile launchers. We are talking about NLAW anti-tank grenade launchers, which are effective in urban combat conditions. This weapon destroys a tank at a distance of up to 800 meters and penetrates armor more than 500 mm thick.
According to Sky News, these installations have already arrived in Ukraine. And along with them, 30 British special forces arrived, who are supposed to teach the Ukrainian military how to handle new anti-tank weapons.
“Give us something that is easy to use and does not take a long time to train operators. It is easier to give a hand-held grenade launcher than an anti-tank missile system that requires operator training. They give something that can quickly increase the stability of Ukrainian troops in certain areas”, explains Igor Levchenko, an expert at the Army Research Center.
In addition, together with the British, Ukraine is also participating in a longer and more ambitious project. We are talking about the development of the Ukrainian navy. London intends to allocate 1,25 billion pounds for this. Thanks to this assistance, Ukraine will be able to build bases on the Black and Azov Seas – in Berdyansk and Ochakov, as well as build eight missile boats.
It is also known that next week the Czech government plans to make a decision to send artillery ammunition to Ukraine.
Western countries also provide assistance with instructors, communications and medical equipment.
Will the balance of power change?
Deliveries of lethal and modern weapons to Ukraine have already caused a negative reaction from the Kremlin. Among its demands on the United States and NATO, Moscow asked the West to refuse to arm the Ukrainian army.
This is despite the fact that the received weapons from the United States, Great Britain, Turkey and other countries do not really affect the balance of power.
“This is an adaptation of our capabilities to the imbalance that exists in the forces of Russia on the one hand and Ukraine on the other”, expert Igor Levchenko explains.
Mikhail Samus from the Center for Army Research, Conversion and Disarmament does not see any strategic changes in this balance either – only about tactical changes in the military confrontation in the Donbas.
“When we get missile boats with strike potential, we can talk about changing the strategic balance in the Black Sea – and the Black Sea generally changes the balance in the confrontation with Russia. Also, missile defense could change the situation. We need a weapon that will stop missile attacks, possibly launch missile attacks on Russian territory. Such weapons will change the strategic balance”, concludes Mikhail Samus.
But while globally acquired weapons don’t change the balance of power in Russia’s war against Ukraine, they already add to the cost of the Kremlin’s aggression. Simply put: the more American or British aircraft deliver weapons to Ukrainian airfields, the more cargo 200 will return to Russian cities and villages in the event of an offensive by the Russian army – and Russian population will grow more dissatisfied with military aggression against Ukraine.