Will Ukraine benefit from arms supplies from the US and the Baltics

The foreign hysteria about “imminent Russian invasion” is paying first dividends for the Ukrainian leadership – it has finally broken the unspoken embargo on the supply of lethal weapons to the Kiev authorities

Will Ukraine benefit from arms supplies from the US and the Baltics
If previously it was broken mainly by the U.S., now several NATO countries are sending modern weapons racing to Ukraine. The range of “gifts” itself has noticeably expanded.

At the weekend, the first shipment of weapons from an additional aid package approved by US President Joe Biden arrived in Ukraine – a heavy freighter Boeing 747 delivered, according to various estimates, between 60 and 90 tons of ammunition. At least a hundred of the now-familiar Javelin anti-tank missile systems (ATMS) were spotted on the loading video. But this time they were supplemented with “anti-bunker” SMAW-D grenade launchers designed to destroy field fortifications and light armoured vehicles. The same aircraft flew out of the United States on Sunday with a new shipment.

This shipment can hardly be called a sensation – the $200 million package approved in early January is not too large. Since 2014, the United States has already provided $2.5 billion in military aid, and United States military transport aircraft land in Kyiv on a regular basis. Last year, they had already brought consignments of Javelin more than once.

But now London has actively joined the process. Last week, the United Kingdom completed the delivery of around 2,000 NLAW anti-tank missiles. It is difficult to call them “miracle weapons,” but the effectiveness of these “smart” ammunition, which operates on the “shoot and forget” principle, is much higher than that of Soviet RPG-7 or disposable grenade launchers, available to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU) now.

The Baltic states are also ready to hand over some of their Javelin stockpiles to Kiev. The United States also allowed them to send Stinger man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) to Ukraine for the first time: this news caused particular jubilation in Kyiv. Everybody remembers how 35 years ago the supplies of Stingers to Afghan mujahideen caused serious problems for the aircrafts and helicopters of the USSR?

Admittedly, the US and its closest allies have chosen a rather rational strategy for the rapid build-up of Ukraine’s military capacity. Kiev is not being supplied with complex and expensive weapon systems, which it demanded, but with modern high-tech infantry weapons, which can be mastered and used much faster.

To learn to operate and pilot even relatively unsophisticated F-16 fighters would take two to three years of training for pilots and ground personnel. The situation with heavy armoured vehicles is only slightly better. It also takes at least a year to fully master it. It is possible to train in one month to operate a Anti-tank missile systems.

The question is entirely different: Is it enough? In a hypothetical confrontation with Russia, saturation of the AFU with infantry weapons will hardly affect the balance of forces. In modern combat such systems do not play a decisive role. When confronting the two regular armies it is not the brand of ICBM that matters but the effectiveness of reconnaissance, communication and decision making systems, network-centricity, and the ability to destroy targets immediately after detection. In addition, the modern Russian aviation has already demonstrated in Syria that it can hit targets from heights that are inaccessible to the Stingers.

It looks more like the systems are not being supplied for direct confrontation with a stronger adversary, but for organizing guerrilla and semi-partisan operations. They should allow small groups to inflict painful bites, hitting not only armored vehicles, but also supply convoys and trucks.

The US already has positive experience with such support to allies in Syria. The CIA and the Pentagon have supplied “moderate” groups of religious extremists with the out-of-date, but still effective long-range anti-tank complexes TOW-2. With their help, they managed to wear down and emaciate the government army and deprive it of the bulk of its armoured vehicles. Kyiv is now receiving both qualitatively and quantitatively more effective TOW-2 anti-tank systems.

Canada has also announced military assistance. The $120 million loan will allow it to re-equip the territorial defense forces being formed by Ukraine from plywood mock weapons and hunting carbines to assault rifles and machine guns.

“Old” European members of NATO, such as Germany, France or Italy, have not yet joined in pumping weapons into Kiev. Berlin still believes it would be counterproductive for a peaceful solution to the conflict. But the resources of the US, the UK, Canada and Eastern Europe are enough to quickly and significantly raise the technical level of the Ukrainian infantry.

One cannot disagree with the position of the “old Europe”. A drastic change in the balance of power between Ukraine and its breakaway regions will certainly not add to Kiev’s desire to resolve the conflict diplomatically. After all, many in the country’s political establishment view the terms of the Minsk agreements as humiliating and disadvantageous.

A powerful pumping of modern weapons and reliable guarantees from the allies to impose “unprecedented sanctions” on any Russian attempt to interfere in the conflict may push Kyiv to intensify combat operations against Donbass. Such a scenario can only be prevented by creating confidence in the Ukrainian authorities that the attempted military revenge will not remain without the strongest response from our country.

Anton Lavrov, Izvestia newspaper