Why The Ukraine Arms Race Won't Stop
After Germany and the U.S. finally approved sending heavy combat tanks, Kyiv now eyes fighter jets. Who could ask them to do otherwise? And does the West really have a choice but ensure Russian defeat?
PARIS — There is a familiar ring as war tensions rise again, followed by the German and American decisions to finally deliver heavy tanks to Ukraine. Since the start of the Russian invasion 11 months ago, each escalation in the type of weapons provided to Kyiv has been preceded by the same reluctance and public contradictions — and ultimately a decision made under pressure.
And this certainly will not be the last time.
Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.Sign up to our free daily newsletter.
This was what happened at the beginning of the conflict, when Central and Eastern European governments considered transferring Soviet-era equipment to Ukraine; then for long-range artillery and missile launchers — and later, Patriot anti-aircraft batteries.
Each time, a two-fold hesitation: the fear of provoking Moscow and being involved in a wider conflict, and logistical questions.
But at every stage, the argument of Russian reaction has been quickly brushed aside. Even when Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is not "bluffing," or when Dmitry Medvedev, the former president, claims that Patriot deliveries would turn Westerners into "legitimate targets." None of this has happened.
Each time, the main argument has been the evolution of the conflict from a defensive to an offensive phase, and then to a relatively stable front line of almost 1000 km. And now, the anticipation of major offensives over the next months, as both sides hope to seize the advantage.
A Ukrainian soldier observes a tank on the northern front of Donbas, Ukraine, on January 15, 2023.
Edgar Gutiü©Rrez / ZUMA
Race against time
Russia has mobilized 300,000 conscripts — a number that may continue to grow soon — and relies on steamroller tactics. Ukraine, on the other hand, depends largely on superiority of its arms — or rather, on the superiority of Western arms, which are more sophisticated than Russian-made weaponry.
It is a real race against time before the spring thaw.
The West gradually engaged in this escalation, at each stage testing the Russian reaction, as much as the Ukrainians' ability to make good use of their weapons.
Ukraine wanted more, faster.
In April, two months after the start of the war, a Ukrainian leader requested "military aircraft, tanks, missiles, air defense systems, anti-tank missiles, etc." One after the other, these armaments are arriving in Ukraine. Kyiv's call has been answered, although slowly.
Combat aircraft for Ukraine?
The question of heavy tanks now seemingly resolved, the debate has swiftly moved to the delivery of Western aircraft. Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, called yesterday for "Western combat aircraft," and the Netherlands has indicated that it is is considering sending U.S.-made F-16s.
There is a logic to this permanent escalation: the West is now too involved in Ukraine to allow defeat
Putin’s victory would have grave implications for the international balance of power — not only in Europe, but worldwide.
Bit by bit, Ukraine is acquiring the most modern weapons that it asked for at the beginning of the war — a level of unwavering support that Russia did not anticipate before its fateful decision to invade.
- Time To Put NATO Military Intervention In Ukraine On The Table ›
- Beyond No-Fly Zones: Weighing The West's Options To Help Ukraine Militarily ›
- Dnipro, A Heinous Attack Sparks Hard Questions About Weapon Supplies — On Both Sides ›
- Inside The Polish-Led Push To Send Fighter Jets To Ukraine – Bypassing Germany - Worldcrunch ›