Germany will send Cheetah tanks to Ukraine to fight Russia. (Photo: via Associated Press)
UKRAINE – French Caesar guns, Dutch armored howitzers, German Guépard armored vehicles … After a long refusal, several countries have agreed to provide Ukraine with heavy weapons in recent days to help it fight the Russian army that invaded its territory 62 days ago.
During a meeting hosted by the United States on Tuesday (April 26th), about forty countries also agreed to coordinate their efforts to provide military support to Kyiv. What do these new ads mean for the rest of the conflict? Marie Dumoulin, Director of the Wider Europe Program of the European Council on Foreign Relations, responds to Huffpost.
The United States, France, Germany and other allies with Ukraine have announced the sending of heavy weapons to Kyiv. What does this change?
The real difference is the origin of the delivered material. Until now, Ukraine has received mostly Soviet-style weapons, which the Ukrainians themselves had and were able to use. The countries of the former Warsaw Pact (the military alliance between the countries of Eastern Europe and the USSR during the Cold War, Editor’s note)like Poland, could supply Kyiv.
The Ukrainian army can defend itself, but it must have enough material, and its reserves are not inexhaustible. At this stage of the conflict, Ukrainians have other military needs. That is why Westerners are intervening with weapons that need to be prepared for use.
Westerners are sticking to their strategy, given that the war will be long-termMarie Dumoulin, Director of the Wider Europe ECFR Program
Therefore, we are moving from old Soviet equipment to Western production, but the military will not differentiate between offensive and defensive weapons. Regardless of qualification, these weapons are used in war, both for defense and for attack.
Does this mean a strategic turning point for the West in the war in Ukraine?
I don’t think we can talk about a turning point. This is a continuation of the strategy of supporting Ukraine, taking into account the new fact: that the war will be long.
At first, everyone expected a rapid advance of the Russian army due to its apparent superiority on earth. For this reason, in particular, the West did not provide weapons immediately, fearing that they would fall into the hands of the Russians. But, in spite of everything, the Ukrainians survived and lasted for two months.
Is further Western intervention at risk of escalating the conflict?
The escalation comes from how Moscow sees it. But the Russians already see themselves at war with NATO. For them, the logic is to say that Ukrainians have no autonomy and are puppets of Western people. These deliveries confirm this vision. The risk exists when Russia realizes that it cannot prevail with conventional weapons. This could lead to the use of other weapons, such as chemicals.
In any case, it is difficult for the West to maintain an escalation-free approach when the opposite Russia builds its discourse on the fact that the escalation has already taken place.
As you have just said, the Russians already see themselves at war with the West. Several days ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West was waging war against Russia in Ukraine. Are we really at war?
From a legal point of view, delivering weapons to a country in conflict does not make you a country in a state of war. Westerners do not intend to enter into conflict, although the Russians do not accept it. Vladimir Putin says and repeats that Russia had no choice, it was forced to intervene if it did not want to be attacked first. In its propaganda, Moscow claims to be waging a defensive war.
But if NATO were directly involved, we would not have such a conflict at all. It would be much more difficult for Moscow, and the escalation would be nuclear. Maybe I’m an optimist, but for me Lavrov is rhetorical. He goes on to say that Russia is at war with the West, but that does not mean it will go on the attack, because the nature of the conflict will change and become much more destructive.
See also HuffPost: Ukraine: The French army is refueling NATO planes in full flight over Poland
This article first appeared on The HuffPost and has been updated.