In recent months, there has been a turning point in allies’ attitudes toward the war. Ukraine is now fully transitioning to NATO weapons.
The West is significantly increasing arms deliveries to Ukraine. Although no final decision has yet been made regarding some weapons, the array of equipment that is about to arrive in Ukraine indicates Western consolidation in major directions.
Let's take a look at the key segments and aspects of the new aid and how the new reinforcement of the Ukrainian army may affect the subsequent course of the war.
Allies significantly expanded military aid packages
At the recent contact group meeting on military assistance to Ukraine at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany (January 20), Pentagon Chief of Staff Lloyd Austin characterized the current moment as perfectly as possible:
"Russia is regrouping, recruiting troops and trying to reequip. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a tipping point. Now is not the time to stop. We need to dig deeper; the Ukrainians are looking at us, the Kremlin is looking at us, history is looking at us," Austin said, referring to countries providing military assistance to Ukraine.
"This is a crucial moment for Ukraine and a crucial decade for the world," he said. Western countries will support Ukraine "for as long as it takes".
And most Western allies have shown support for this position not in word but in deed.
Even before the Ramstein meeting, many countries announced unprecedented large packages of military assistance to Ukraine. Some countries have multiplied their support. For example, Finland in January approved a military aid package worth € 400 million, although the entire previous military aid of this country amounted to € 190 million. Similarly, Estonia will allocate € 113 million, which is half of all last year's aid.
The countries that have traditionally provided the most assistance to Ukraine, primarily the United States and Great Britain, are only expanding their military aid packages, both in quantity and in assortment. Even Italy and France, where the "doves of peace" used to have definite political influence, have become much more active in supporting Ukraine.
Putin's dreams and calculations that "the West will get tired of war" have not only not come true – everything is exactly the opposite. The recent heated discussions about supplying weapons to Ukraine demonstrate changes in the position of many European countries. And these changes are obviously in favor of Ukraine.
British Challenger 2 tank
Tanks for Ukraine: has it finally happened?
The most dramatic plot unfolds around the topic of tanks. No matter how much military art and technology develops in the 21st century, tanks are still the main offensive weapon.
The Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, General Valery Zaluzhny, previously said that the AFU needed 300 tanks (plus 600-700 IFVs and 500 artillery systems) to launch a counterattack. Of course, it will take a long time to form such a large grouping, but in any case, it is necessary to start now. And Western partners are becoming more and more resolute in this matter.
First, France broke the taboo on NATO tank deliveries by deciding to hand over AMX-10 wheeled tanks. Although these tanks are classified as "light", this can already be considered progress. Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron did not rule out supplying Ukraine with Leclerc heavy tanks.
AMX-10 wheeled tank of the French army
The next step was taken by Britain when it decided to supply 14 Challenger tanks, which are some of the most powerful tanks in the world. Unfortunately, not many of them were produced, and Britain will not be able to supply a significant number to Ukraine. But as they say, a good beginning is half the battle.
Germany turned out to be the least “compliant”. The most popular tank in the NATO countries is the German Leopard. It can be supplied by Germany itself, or by 15 countries which have them in service. However, according to military contracts, a country cannot supply armament to another party without agreement with the producing country. Therefore, none of these countries can independently decide to transfer them to Ukraine without Germany’s agreement.
Some of these countries, first of all Poland, have begun to exert some pressure on Berlin. Prime Minister Tadeusz Morawiecki even stated that Poland would be ready to supply tanks to Ukraine even without Germany's permission. The main condition for Poland is "the creation of at least a small coalition of countries" that would be ready to jointly transfer a certain number of tanks to Ukraine.
On January 22, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Germany would not prevent Poland from sending German-made tanks to Ukraine.
Leopard 2A6 tank of the Bundeswehr
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz himself had long made deliveries of tanks from Germany dependent on deliveries of Abrams tanks from the United States.
Scholz's position looked more like a political move than a pragmatic decision. After all, supplying U.S. Abrams tanks to Ukraine would have been fraught with a number of difficulties. First, the Abrams run on aviation fuel, not diesel one. This could create some logistical problems for the AFU (although this is hardly a critical issue). Secondly, apart from the USA, there is no one to supply them to Ukraine. Because Poland will be only the second NATO country that has Abrams in service. U.S. allies in the Middle East have a certain number of them, but they do not support Ukraine with military supplies.
Finally, on January 25, the German government officially announced that Ukraine would receive modern German Leopard 2 tanks from its partners. We are talking about one company of Leopard 2 tanks (namely 14 units) from Germany's own reserves. In addition, the German government has given permission to other states to supply these tanks to Ukraine.
As of January 25, delivery of 14 Challenger tanks from the UK, 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks from Germany, 14 Leopard 2A4 tanks from Poland is fully confirmed. Regarding deliveries from other countries, including 30 Abrams M1 tanks from the U.S., a full confirmation is expected.
So, the process is under way. Of course, not as fast as we (primarily Ukrainians, who lose their people every day) would like it to be. But we should always be aware that war is a very "cumbersome" process, and many decisions often take time.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian tankers will soon begin training on Leopard and Challenger tanks. So, both tanks will eventually arrive in Ukraine and will strengthen our counterattack capabilities.
More NATO armored vehicles and artillery
The new deliveries of armored vehicles and artillery will be the most tangible on the battlefield. And this is the most urgent need. According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, the Ukrainian side is very pleased with the upcoming deliveries.
According to Forbes Ukraine, a total of more than 1,300 armored vehicles and 145 artillery systems are expected to be supplied with the latest support. And except for 10 howitzers from Estonia these are all modern NATO systems. New armored vehicles are often equated with tanks.
U.S. Bradley IFVs
The U.S. has approved the transfer of 109 Bradley IFVs to Ukraine in the last two military aid packages. They have better armor and more powerful weapons than the armored vehicles given by the allies before. And it will significantly enhance the attacking capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
The U.S. has also decided for the first time to supply heavy M109 Paladin SPHs. Although these U.S. self-propelled howitzers were previously supplied by Britain, Norway and other allies, the United States itself avoided supplying them. Technically, they are considered offensive weapons as well.
This, in particular, prompted Sweden to supply two of its powerful systems. Ukraine will receive 50 Stridsfordon 90 (CV90) IFVs and 12 Archer SPGs.
As experts note, the CV90 IFVs are even closer to tanks than the Bradley and Marder. The Swedish vehicle has a powerful 40 mm automatic cannon as standard. While other heavy IFVs typically have a 20-30 mm cannon. Modified Stridsfordon 90 can have a turret with up to 120 mm cannon, which is the caliber of a tank.
Swedish Stridsfordon 90 (CV90) IFV
Archer SPG is considered the most modern and fastest artillery system in the world. It switches to a firing position in less than 30 seconds and has a firing rate of eight rounds per minute. In three minutes, the SPG can fire its entire ammunition and disappear from the firing position. This makes it almost inaccessible for the anti-battery warfare. The range of fire is up to 60 km. And Ukraine will receive 12 of them at once (in total, about 48 units of this system have been produced today).
Will Ukraine have enough ammunition?
With the current intensity of fighting, ammunition shortages, the so-called “ammunition hunger”, were foretold not only for the Russian army, but also for the Ukrainian army, too. The allies have responded: the new military aid packages will contain quite a lot of ammunition.
In the last four packages for December-January, the U.S. decided to transfer more than 475,000 shells of NATO and Soviet calibers to Ukraine. This is almost a half of the total 2022 deliveries from the U.S. Last year, United States supplied about 1 million munitions, Forbes Ukraine calculated.
Swedish Archer SPG
More than 100,000 rounds of ammunition will be supplied from Britain's stockpile. Several countries, including the Baltic states, have not disclosed the amount of ammunition they plan to transfer.
Taking into account that the AFU's need for shells is usually cited at the level of 5,000 shells per day, the announced supplies should be sufficient for at least 120 days of intensive combat operations. That is, in the next three to four months the Ukrainian military should not experience a shortage of ammunition. And this certainly creates preconditions for possible planning of active operations at the beginning of spring on the Ukrainian side.
Closing the sky over Ukraine: Air defense and/or missile defense systems
Although massive shelling of Ukraine with the aim to destroy critical infrastructure has become less frequent in recent weeks, such terrorist attacks by Russia cannot be ruled out in the future. Therefore, building an echeloned air defense system for Ukraine, as before, is an urgent problem. This was one of the main issues discussed at the Ramstein meeting.
U.S. Patriot surface-to-air missile system
The Ukrainian side has long insisted on the need to supply long-range missile defense systems such as the Patriot. Missile defense systems differ from air defense systems in the speed of the interceptor missile and, accordingly, the ability to intercept supersonic targets, such as ballistic missiles.
NASAMS and IRIS-T, previously supplied to Ukraine, are very effective, but in regard to slow targets, such as cruise missiles. They are practically powerless even against old but fast Kh-22 missiles (NATO designation: AS-4 'Kitchen'), reaching speeds of about 4000 km/h. It was one of these missiles that hit the high-rise building in Dnipro.
They will also be ineffective if Iran decides to supply Russia with its ballistic missiles. In addition, Russia is actively using missiles from its air defense systems, the S-300 and S-400, which also have high speed.
Now Ukraine is to receive three Patriot batteries and a SAMP/T battery. Each of these complexes has interceptor missiles for fast targets in its arsenal. They will significantly expand the capabilities of the Ukrainian air defense system and will be able to "close" several strategic directions.
SAMP/T surface-to-air missile system, which France and Italy are jointly preparing to deliver
Ukraine will also receive an additional NASAMS battery from Canada, nine short-range Avenger systems, RIM-7 Sparrow interceptor missiles and other short-range systems.
Thus, the Ukrainian air defense system gradually becomes more saturated and acquires additional capabilities. And this should increase the effectiveness of Russian missile interception.
Moreover, the Netherlands announced that they are ready to consider the issue of the transfer of F-16 fighters to Ukraine if the Ukrainian government requests it. Aircraft deliveries will be another turning point in Western support. We hope that in our next articles we will already be talking about new aircraft.
How might the new supplies affect the course of the war?
Given that Putin is preparing a new offensive in the spring (regardless of which sector of the front), Ukraine's goal is to effectively counter the new outbreak. And thanks to the new supplies that we have reviewed here, the AFU will be well supplied with everything it needs even if not to actively attack, but at least to effectively defend and hold their positions.
The Ukrainians have enough resilience: they are morally prepared to defend themselves as long as necessary and to attack – the main thing is to have something to attack with. Our partners have repeatedly noted the professionalism, ingenuity and high morale of the Ukrainian military.
More importantly, there has been an important breakthrough in the minds of the allied West. Most Western leaders have finally realized that they need to talk to Putin ONLY IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE FORCE. This is what we have been saying ever since the early days of the full-scale invasion. And the West finally saw this for themselves. Russia, apart from terrorizing civilians, has not responded in any way to the delivery of powerful new weapons systems at the battlefield. It is obvious that the aggressor country is not capable of directly confronting NATO, even having nuclear weapons.
Sanctions and economic pressure should certainly be present and intensify, but the main bet on a "peaceful" settlement cannot be made. Now everyone understands that the moderate and restrained position of the West is not capable of convincing Putin to put weapons aside and return to political tools.
The question of negotiations has already been put into cold storage, as the Ukrainians insisted. Negotiations will take place only after the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. And finally, the West is consolidating around this main goal: not the containment and pacification of Putin, but the real liberation of the Ukrainian territories.