With the help of billions of dollars in new military aid from the West, including infantry fighting vehicles (but not German tanks), Ukraine will be ready to strike back and stop Moscow’s attempts to keep its invasion going.
But Kyiv is in dire need of other weapons systems to win decisively. According to military analysts, as Russia prepares for a protracted war, it is not clear that defense production – at least in Europe – can sustain the high level of military aid.
The USA and Finland announced new military aid packages worth $2.5 billion and €400 million ahead of talks at the Ramstein airbase on Friday, which failed to unlock the idea of supplying Ukraine with Leopard main battle tanks made in Germany.
The latest US aid includes 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers (APCs) and 59 Bradley fighting vehicles with powerful guns, adding to the 50 Bradleys promised earlier this month and French and German infantry fighting vehicles.
Polish defense analyst Konrad Muzyka stated over the phone, “it will undoubtedly have a tactical impact on the battlefield.” He was referring to the arrival of more than a hundred Bradleys.
On Thursday, a group of nine European states, including Britain and the Baltics, vowed to supply heavy artillery, air defense, ammunition, infantry fighting vehicles, and main battle tanks requested by Kyiv.
The Ramstein talks were dominated by disputes over whether Germany would approve the re-export of Leopard main battle tanks used by NATO militaries. No progress was made on Friday on this matter, which is sensitive to Berlin for historical and political reasons.
Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk told Reuters he believed it was a matter of time before Berlin approved the supply of tanks, a claim echoed by Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian president’s office on Telegram.
“We are getting stronger. We will receive everything that we have not yet received,” Yermak said, referring to the tanks.
The infantry fighting vehicles supported Kyiv’s counterattack plans, according to Zagorodnyuk, who also emphasized the significance of big ammo deliveries.
“The rate of ammunition expenditure is enormous. It has probably not occurred since World War II. Additionally, we observe APCs, Bradleys, and Strykers, which indicates that the allies have faith in our counteroffensive,” he said.
BEAT THE ENEMY
Ukraine, invaded last February, faced Russian forces from around its capital, its north, its northeast, and a fringe of the south, maintaining the initiative on the battlefield for much of its 11-month duration.
Fearing that Russia will take advantage of the winter cold – which has slowed down the fighting on the front lines – to regroup, rearm and launch a new major offensive, Ukraine has wanted to launch its own counterattacks.
Zagorodnyuk thinks that Russia can only launch small-scale attacks right now. He thought that Russia, which had just put General Valery Gerasimov in charge, might be using the winter break to change its war plan and prepare for a long war.
“For us, that is categorically not interesting. I don’t think the time suits us at all. I think we have to finish most of the effort this year,” he stated.
But a senior official in the Biden administration said on Friday that top officials are telling Ukraine to hold off on a major counteroffensive against Russian forces until the last US weapons supplies are in place and training has been given.
Paris has promised to deploy AMX 10-RC armored fighting vehicles, considered tank destroyers, and Berlin has promised to provide 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles by the end of March.
Muzyka said the first combat vehicles would not arrive until March or April in an optimistic scenario.
Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the top general in the Ukrainian armed forces, told The Economist in December that his forces needed 300 main battle tanks, 600-700 infantry combat vehicles, and 500 howitzers to repel the attackers. “I know that I can beat this enemy. But I need resources,” he declared.