The West is becoming dangerously complacent and failing to provide Kyiv with the weapons it needs says Con Coughlin Defence Editor for the Telegraph 26 May 2022.
In Ukraine’s desperate battle for survival, there has been no shortage of pledges of support from Western leaders who want Vladimir Putin to suffer a catastrophic defeat. Everything from tanks, heavy artillery, and warplanes to powerful anti-ship missiles have been promised to Kyiv to make sure the Russian president does not achieve his goal of seizing control of his southern neighbour.
Yet, with the conflict now entering its fourth month, Ukrainian commanders have good reason to ask themselves why, for all the fine words from Western leaders, they now find themselves desperately short of firepower.
Nato’s military support in the early phase of the conflict certainly made an important contribution towards helping Ukrainian forces to withstand Russia’s initial assault on Kyiv. But as the old saying goes, just because Russia lost a key battle – albeit a humiliating one for Mr Putin – it does not necessarily follow that Moscow cannot win the war.
Mr Putin has moved quickly to address the campaign’s early failings. Commanders have been sacked, intelligence chiefs arrested and the entire focus of the invasion shifted from its original objective of capturing the whole of Ukraine to the more achievable goal of seizing control of the Donbas region in the east.
Nor does the Russian leader appear unduly concerned about heavy losses, both in terms of men and equipment, with the casualty rate now well in excess of the 15,000 Soviet deaths suffered during the ten year military campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Mr Putin has simply redeployed the bulk of his fighting force to concentrate its fire on the Donbas where, to judge by the latest Western intelligence estimates, the Russians are finally enjoying some success. Russian forces are reported to have made significant gains during their assault on the eastern city of Severodonetsk, with Ukrainian officials warning that the “fate of the country” could be decided if the Russians succeed in their attempts to capture the city, thereby cutting vital supply lines to the region.
While Ukrainian forces continue to offer stiff resistance, their efforts are being hampered by shortages of equipment and supplies. In particular, Ukrainian commanders claim that much of the equipment promised by Western leaders has so far failed to materialise.
Supplying arms to Ukraine in the middle of a bitter conflict was never going to be easy. But given that Kyiv has been warning for weeks that Russia was mobilising for a major offensive in the Donbas, and was in desperate need of armour to repel the Russian advance, the failure to get sufficient armaments to the front line is seriously undermining Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.
It also raises the question of whether, after the succession of well-publicised setbacks Russia has suffered during the early salvoes in the conflict, the West is in danger of becoming complacent about the eventual outcome, believing that Mr Putin has little chance of emerging victorious.
A Russian defeat, though, is by no means guaranteed. The early successes Russian forces have achieved in the Donbas, together with Mr Putin’ s determination to maintain his offensive at all costs, means the possibility of a Russian victory, certainly in terms of occupying eastern Ukraine, must be taken seriously. And if Mr Putin succeeds in his long-held ambition of “liberating” that part of Ukraine, what is to prevent him from regrouping his forces and launching a fresh offensive to capture the rest of the country?
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Ukraine, March 5 2022 by Vadim Ghirda-AP