As Russia launches new offensive, Western allies’ aid to Ukraine may be too little, too late – POLITICO
More guns. More money. More sanctions. Other obligations to provide security guarantees.
Key Western allies on Tuesday promised more of virtually any kind of help to Ukraine, but they could no longer reassure that any of it would stop Russia’s brutal new military offensive in eastern Ukraine or prevent the Kremlin’s armies from conquering all of Donbass or to continue to engage in war atrocities.
The pledges of additional support came after a video conference of allied leaders convened by US President Joe Biden. In fact, however, the pledges were largely aid previously promised to Ukraine, with only vague proposals for new aid – a high risk that Ukrainian forces would run out of ammunition and weapons at a potentially pivotal moment in the war.
Russia unleashed a ferocious bombardment Monday night, hitting targets across Ukraine as it began what senior Kremlin officials described as a new phase of the war centered on the eastern Donbass region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials have begged the West for more arms and ammunition, while insisting their forces would not give up territory.
Biden’s video conference on Tuesday was attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU Council President Charles Michel and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
A senior EU official said it was important for leaders to reconnect but also acknowledged the call had “no real result”. Rather, the official said, the leaders gave updates on the aid provided by individual nations and discussed theoretical plans for ensuring Ukraine’s future security and rebuilding the country.
In the meantime, however, bitter fighting in eastern Ukraine could decide the country’s fate. “What is happening in the east could have catastrophic effects on the whole situation in Ukraine,” the senior official said.
When asked as he disembarked Air Force One upon landing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire Tuesday if he would send more artillery to Ukraine, Biden simply replied, “Yes.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later offered minimal additional clarity, saying, “Yes, President Biden and the leaders who were on the conference call this morning spoke about providing more ammunition and security support to Ukraine.”
The White House had previously announced $800 million in additional military aid, which senior Pentagon officials said arrived Monday by air cargo, with seven more cargo flights to follow in the coming days. It was unclear if Biden’s “yes” reflected any help beyond what had already been granted.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Scholz made his own vague remarks on Tuesday, implying that Berlin stands ready to help supply Eastern European NATO allies supplying Soviet-made weapons to Ukraine.
Germany said late last week it would spend more than €1bn.
But after the video conference, it was still unclear how much help Germany was willing to provide or what types of heavy weapons it would buy with its help. Instead, Scholz focused on utilizing Russian-made material that the Eastern European nations currently possess.
Western allies, according to Scholz, “have come to the same conclusion that it makes the most sense if the weapon systems that are still in use in the eastern NATO partner countries are used from there and we then take care of our own security these countries remain secure for the future.”
Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Scholz said western countries would provide Ukraine with the necessary money “to buy military equipment industrially produced in our countries,” referring to a decision made last week.
Although Scholz said that heavier weapons could also be involved that “can be used in an artillery battle”, he again ruled out supplying German tanks such as the Leopard or the Marder, which Kyiv had repeatedly asked for, to Ukraine.
A diplomatic adviser to French President Macron said leaders used the video conference to discuss “security guarantees” for Ukraine that were “sufficiently robust to avoid another war.” The adviser added: “We need an international framework to address these needs.”
But such discussions seemed bizarrely premature given the active Russian offensive in Donbass and the ongoing ferocious bombardment of besieged cities, including Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces and civilians huddle in a metalworks. The French official said Macron had not spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin since revelations about atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other towns near Kyiv that had been occupied by Russian forces.
A reading of the video conference from the Italian Prime Minister’s office made no mention of the proposed security guarantees.
Instead, the Chigi Palace summing up emphasized the consensus among allied leaders on “the need to reach a ceasefire as soon as possible” and “the importance of close coordination in terms of supporting Ukraine in all its dimensions, particularly in terms of on the contribution to the country’s budget.”
The Italian synopsis also cited the “need to increase pressure on the Kremlin, including through the adoption of further sanctions, and to increase Moscow’s international isolation” and “a shared commitment to diversifying energy sources…to reducing dependence on Russian supplies.” “.
In London, a Downing Street spokesman said Prime Minister Johnson had “updated leaders on his visit to Kyiv earlier this month” and “the critical need for continued military support to Ukraine amid a major Russian offensive in Donbass.” and ongoing attacks underscored elsewhere.”
Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, told his counterparts on the conference call that Tokyo now plans to lend Ukraine $300 million instead of $100 million, according to Japan’s foreign ministry.
The British spokesman added: “Leaders agreed to work together to find a long-term security solution so that Ukraine can never again be attacked in this way. They discussed the need to increase pressure on Russia through further sanctions against Putin’s war machine and further diplomatic isolation.”
In making the call, Western leaders did not reconsider their decision to back off from direct intervention in the conflict in Ukraine, meaning that regardless of the aid that is sent in the coming days, Ukrainian forces will continue to fight Russia .
“The leaders reiterated their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemned the humanitarian suffering caused by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion,” said Psaki, the White House spokeswoman. “They also discussed their respective diplomatic obligations and their coordinated efforts to continue imposing heavy economic costs on Russia to hold it accountable.”
Meanwhile in the almost destroyed south-eastern city of Mariupol, Ukrainians officials said Russian forces used bunker-busting bombs to attack the Azovstal metal works, where civilians had taken shelter and some Ukrainian forces put up a last-ditch stand.
An adviser to Zelenskyi, Mykhailo Podolyak, called on the western powers to create humanitarian evacuation corridors from the Azovstal plant. Otherwise, he tweeted, “the blood will be on their hands too.”
Maïa de La Baume, Cristina Gallardo, Hans von der Burchard and Hannah Roberts contributed reporting.
https://www.politico.eu/article/russia-new-offensive-west-allies-pledge-help-ukraine/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication As Russia launches new offensive, Western allies' aid to Ukraine may be too little, too late - POLITICO