Concerns push the West to transfer tanks to Ukraine

That fear shows that the opportunity for a counter-attack for Ukraine does not last forever and that the country needs to soon receive more powerful Western weapons such as main battle tanks, armor and modern air defense systems. , to build on the results achieved a few months ago.

This contrasts with the optimism of last spring, when the Russian army suffered consecutive defeats and had to withdraw from northern Kiev. The collapse of Russia’s strategy of “hit fast, win fast” caused Western countries at that time to hope that the longer the war lasted, the more chances Ukraine had to prevail.

Western officials say that if Europe and Washington keep their spirits up and maintain a united front after a difficult winter, economic difficulties and a series of setbacks on the battlefield could force Russia to find a way back. out of the conflict, even deciding to sit at the negotiating table.

Some tough sanctions from the West, such as an oil embargo and a ceiling on Russian oil prices, are only now taking effect. The Russian economy is projected to suffer a severe recession this year and may continue to decline for many years to come.

But as the Russia-Ukraine conflict is about to drag on for a year, that confidence is increasingly shaken. There is little indication that the sanctions have shut down the Russian military or put enough economic pressure on the Kremlin to undermine domestic support for the military campaign in Ukraine.

Russia has not shown any sign that it wants to end hostilities soon. Instead, the Kremlin appears to be looking to launch a new offensive campaign in the coming months, with nearly 300,000 better-trained reservists about to be sent to the front lines, ready for fierce battles. . Recent Russian advances around the city of Bakhmut, in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, are the best example of this.

This has some Western countries worried that Moscow could regain the advantage in a protracted war of attrition. Therefore, the current dominant view in the US and Europe is to provide Ukraine with more advanced weapons, in order to help it overwhelm Russian firepower and change the course of the war.

British officials recently stated that the threat posed by Russia could increase over time and that it was necessary to immediately supply Ukraine with equipment and weapons to help it break the deadlock.

“We have had the opportunity to accelerate our efforts to ensure lasting peace for the Ukrainian people. Let’s keep pushing for it,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote on Twitter on January 25 in a congratulatory message. Welcoming the decision of Germany and the US to supply heavy battle tanks to Ukraine.

Western officials say public opinion in Europe and the United States remains steadfast in support of military and financial aid to Ukraine. But President Putin can bet that such support will not be able to sustain through years of conflict and the US will have a presidential election in 2024. This is also the reason why the West has accelerated efforts to support. weapons for Ukraine.

According to observers, the change in Western thinking about accelerating the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine is a major turning point. A few months ago, when Ukraine launched a successful counteroffensive, recapturing much of its territory, Western officials believed that Kiev had what it took to make further progress.

At the time, some countries called on Western allies to step up their support to Ukraine to prevent a conflict that would drag on for years.

“Russia is still a large country and has more resources in terms of the number of soldiers and the ability to produce weapons without the need for components imported from the West,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, one of the Russian Foreign Ministers. the earliest proponents of increased support for Ukraine, say. “The more time we give them, the more people they can gather to attack Ukraine.”

But many Western countries at that time were still cautious about their decision to increase military support for Ukraine.

Even when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced last week that Berlin would ship Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, he noted the biggest concern among Kiev’s allies about sending more weapons, equipment, and weapons. more advanced equipment.

“We will do what is necessary and possible to support Ukraine, but at the same time must prevent the risk of the fighting escalating into a conflict between Russia and NATO,” he said.

Some Western officials are also concerned about whether increasing military support to Ukraine will help the conflict end more quickly.

Destroyed Russian military vehicles lie in a field earlier this month in the Kharkov region.  Photo: AP.

Destroyed Russian military vehicles lie in a field earlier this month in the Kharkov region. Photo: AP.

Although the Ukrainian military has far exceeded expectations in terms of speed of getting used to the operation and integration of complex Western military equipment, it is not certain that Kiev will once again be able to successfully carry out the process. counter-offensive campaigns as they achieved last fall. Nor does the West have much faith that President Putin will accept an end to the conflict when Ukraine has not yet submitted.

Anna Wieslander, director of the Nordic region at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, said she was skeptical that Western allies had developed a clear strategy ahead of the option. scale up the supply of weapons to help Ukraine confront Russia.

“This is a very volatile period in the conflict, but the response from Western countries so far has been purely tactical,” she said. “We lack a common vision for how the conflict will end and how these batches of tanks and missiles fit into that vision.”

Vu Hoang (Theo WSJ)

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