Hundreds of military ministers from NATO and other countries are scheduled to meet in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss weapon transfers to Ukraine, according to US officials, as Kyiv demands a major boost in armaments to help hold off Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. As the conflict has changed into a severe war of attrition, the battle for Sievierodonetsk, a city of scarcely more than 100,000 inhabitants before the war, has become the most important battle in Ukraine.
According to presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukraine requires 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, and 1,000 drones, among other heavy weapons. NATO-standard armaments, notably powerful US rockets, have been pledged by Western countries. However, deploying them takes time, and as stocks of Soviet-era weapons and munitions diminish, Ukraine will require ongoing Western help to transfer to new supplies and systems.
The conference is being headed by US Military Secretary Lloyd Austin on the margins of a NATO defence ministerial on Wednesday, and it is the third time the group of over 50 countries has met to discuss and coordinate assistance to Ukraine. The previous face-to-face encounter took place in April at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. “Despite its sluggish progress, Russia has not given up the battle… What we have is this grinding, gradual, incremental Russian operation,” a senior US defence official said on condition of anonymity.
“So the question is what do the Ukrainians need to sustain the success they’ve already seen in slowing down and obstructing that Russian purpose,” the person added. Officials from the United States anticipate to hear about additional weapons for Ukrainian military in the coming days. Since Russia’s incursion on February 24, the US has pledged $4.6 billion in security aid to Ukraine, including artillery systems like howitzers and longer-range missiles like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
Jessica Lewis, the US State Department’s assistant secretary for political-military affairs, is in Brussels for the meeting. She directs policy on international security, defence trade, and security aid. In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Lewis said that friends could request a large number of defence goods to help backfill armaments given to Ukraine. “I expect to see the entire spectrum here. So, not just air defence, but I believe people will be seeking for, you know, if they supply tanks, for example “According to Lewis, While the US continues to engage with allies, many are attempting to transition from Soviet-era equipment to NATO-standard equipment, according to Lewis.
“I think people are more scared because of Russia’s desire to attack Ukraine,” Lewis said. “Because of the crisis in Ukraine, countries view their security needs differently, particularly, obviously, if they are adjacent to Ukraine.” In February, Russia initiated a “special operation” in Ukraine, claiming it was necessary to clear the country of dangerous nationalists and weaken Ukraine’s military capabilities – goals the West dismissed as a pretext.
Fearing an escalation of the conflict, the Biden administration has gotten guarantees from Kyiv that the longer-range weaponry will not be utilised to attack Russian territory. According to Kyiv, it is losing 100 to 200 soldiers per day, with hundreds more injured. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy branded the fight for the eastern Donbas region, which has been partly held by Moscow’s proxies since 2014, as one of the most horrific in European history in a midnight address.