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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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Globalization Takes A New Turn, Away From China

China is still a manufacturing juggernaut and a growing power, but companies are looking for alternatives as Chinese labor costs continue to rise — as do geopolitical tensions with Beijing.

Photo of a woman working at a motorbike factory in China's Yunnan Province.

A woman works at a motorbike factory in China's Yunnan Province.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — What were the representatives of dozens of large American companies doing in Vietnam these past few days?

A few days earlier, a delegation of foreign company chiefs currently based in China were being welcomed by business and government leaders in Mexico.

Then there was Foxconn, Apple's Taiwanese subcontractor, which signed an investment deal in the Indian state of Telangana, enabling the creation of 100,000 jobs. You read that right: 100,000 jobs.

What these three examples have in common is the frantic search for production sites — other than China!

For the past quarter century, China has borne the crown of the "world's factory," manufacturing the parts and products that the rest of the planet needs. Billionaire Jack Ma's Alibaba.com platform is based on this principle: if you are a manufacturer and you are looking for cheap ball bearings, or if you are looking for the cheapest way to produce socks or computers, Alibaba will provide you with a solution among the jungle of factories in Shenzhen or Dongguan, in southern China.

All of this is still not over, but the ebb is well underway.

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