The situation on the battlefield has changed, and Russia has shifted its battle axis to eastern Ukraine, prompting the West to increase the supply of heavy weapons to Kyiv.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on April 11 that Russia is strengthening its forces around the Donbass and a large military convoy is approaching the city of Izyum, but has not yet launched operations in eastern Ukraine, only in the area.” Redeploy troops”.
The Russian military moved troops to eastern Ukraine after announcing the completion of the first phase of the special military operation and the withdrawal of most of its troops from the suburbs of Kyiv and northern Ukraine.
The Kremlin described the decision to withdraw troops as a “show of goodwill” in negotiations with Ukraine, but two weeks have passed since the March 29 meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, with no further talks between the two delegations. face-to-face meeting. Observers said it was the “calm before the storm” as both sides struggled to combine forces and equipment in preparation for a decisive battle in eastern Ukraine.
The Kyiv authorities, their allies and experts estimate that in the upcoming fighting in the east, the Ukrainian armed forces will face completely different fighting conditions and forms from the first phase of the war.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said last week that Ukraine had been successful in the early stages of the war, holding off Russian troops in the north due to a combination of urban and tactical fighting. , harassing enemy supply lines.
However, the situation of the Donetsk and Luhansk battlefields in eastern Ukraine will be a different story, as the fighting takes place on open terrain, causing the Ukrainian army to lose its advantage in urban warfare. Russia’s logistical lines are no longer as “flanking open” as they once were, and Russian troops and separatists have established a stronger foothold in the Donbass.
Both Ukrainian and Western defense officials believe that in the new battlefield situation, Kyiv will need a lot of heavy weapons, rather than staying on anti-tank missiles and man-portable anti-aircraft missiles as has been the case for the past month.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kouleba stressed last week that the country needs more Western support for fighter jets, armored vehicles, land-based anti-ship missiles and heavy air defense complexes. He warned that the next phase of hostilities in eastern Ukraine would involve fighting on the same scale as World War II, involving thousands of tanks and artillery batteries.
“We still have to rely on our partners for arms. Unfortunately, we do not have enough arms to end the conflict as soon as possible,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on April 11. “If we have enough heavy armor and artillery, we can break the siege of Mariupol.”
Zelensky warned that if the West does not quickly supply Ukraine with more heavy weapons, it will “waste the time and lives of the Ukrainian people”.
Western intelligence agencies predict Ukraine has only a few weeks left to increase its numbers and deploy heavy weapons on the eastern front. Russia will need a similar time to redeploy its troops, adding weapons and equipment to the Donbas offensive.
Once the goal of complete control of the Donbass and even to the right bank of the Dnieper is achieved, the Russian army will have more advantages to change tactics, consolidate ground defense and control, and enter the stage where the conflict lasts for a long time and consumes a lot of the opponent’s resources.
Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe under former President Barack Obama and Donald Trump, said Ukraine doesn’t have much time to rearm before the next phase of hostilities begins.
“The next three weeks are crucial and could determine whether Ukraine has a chance to stop the advance of Russian troops, or if the fighting will continue for months or years,” he said.
A Western official told Reuters that NATO was focusing on assessing whether the fighting in Ukraine had a chance of ending quickly or turning into a protracted armed conflict, as in Syria. Bloomberg. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the Western military alliance “needs to be ready to supply Ukraine with more weapons” and member states are aware of the urgency of the situation.
With a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions by the United States and its allies so far doing little to alter Russia’s strategic calculus, British Armed Forces Minister James Heppey said the West should place more emphasis on aid weapons to create a balance of power in Russia. Eastern Ukraine battlefield.
NATO was initially hesitant to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons, especially after Russia threatened to send Western arms to Kyiv as a “legitimate target.”
However, as the risk of a violent war in eastern Ukraine increases, the West has become less reticent about sending heavy weapons aid to Kyiv.European defense officials told Washington post As the battlefield has changed, the West is conducting a more detailed assessment of the number and types of weapons destined for Ukraine.
According to the officials, Ukrainian troops have demonstrated their combat capabilities while demonstrating that they can stop Russian troops and adapt well in training with Western weapons.
“In the beginning, we mainly supported weapons that the Ukrainian army could use immediately. Now we realize that they need more modern weapons,” said Lithuanian Deputy Defense Minister Margiris Abukevičius.
During a surprise visit to Kyiv on April 9, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Agreed to send an additional 120 armored and anti-ship missiles to Ukraine. According to reports, sources familiar with the military said the Czech Republic will provide Ukraine with at least five T-72 tanks, five BMP-1 armored vehicles and some Strela-10 close-in air defense systems. Reuters.
Australia has also announced plans to send 20 Bushmaster armored vehicles at the request of President Zelensky, along with a package of weapons and anti-tank ammunition worth about $20 million. Also last week, Slovakia provided Ukraine with the S-300 long-range air defense missile system and also received the Patriot air defense system from NATO.
The United States has announced the dispatch of the Switchblade unmanned fighter jet to Ukraine and more Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. The U.S. Department of Defense is also considering plans to sell M1 Abrams to Eastern European countries to persuade them to transfer Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Sullivan has revealed that the Pentagon is considering adding a new arms aid program to Ukraine that includes many “unprecedented” modern weapons that will have the ability to make a difference. .
These moves are expected to provide the necessary impetus for Eastern European countries to increase heavy weapons aid to Ukraine. Lithuanian Deputy Defense Minister Abukevicius said it was always a difficult choice to be the first country to send tanks to Ukraine. Efforts to help with heavy weapons will be easier once you have the “icebreaker” pioneer, he said.
“As the United States and the Czech Republic make increasingly drastic decisions, Western countries can now begin supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons to define the battlefield in the east of the country.” William Alberk, Director of Strategy, Technology and Weapons UK International Strategy Control of the Institute (IISS).
Zhongren (according to Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington post)