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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

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?

Picture of an American fighter jet about to be launched.

Nimitz, Philippine Sea : An E/A-18G Growler fighter aircraft from the Cougars of Electronic Attack Squadron 139, launched on December 31, 2022.

Mc2 Justin Mctaggart/ ZUMA
Pierre Haski


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.

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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.

Picture of a Ukrainian soldier walking towards a heavy tank in a snowy forest.

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.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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