How to better help Ukraine protect itself against the missiles and drones that Russia used massively on Monday and Tuesday? It was the “number one priority” for the allies at the Ukraine contact group meeting on Wednesday in Brussels, as a prelude to a meeting of NATO defense ministers. Kiev has been begging for more air defenses for months, but the attack — more than 100 missiles that killed at least 26 people and destroyed part of Ukraine’s energy network — convinced some allies to act quickly.
About fifty countries were represented at this meeting, which is repeated every month to take stock of military aid to Kiev. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov attended and spoke before the meeting about the “moral imperative to protect the sky to save our people”.
Behind him fluttered the American and Ukrainian flags. To his right sat US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Publicly opened the meeting, condemned the latter “the evil and cruelty of Putin’s chosen war, rooted in aggression and conducted in profound disregard for the rules of war.”
“The Last Weeks”he added, “Ukraine has made extraordinary gains on the battlefield. And despite this new attack, Ukrainian forces have changed the dynamics of this war. They have liberated hundreds of cities from Russian occupation. And they have recaptured thousands of square kilometers of their territory”.
The American effort
The United States, clearly at the forefront of this contact group, pledges to support Ukraine militarily “in the coming months and years,” or, as President Biden put it, “as long as it takes.”
To support Ukrainian air defense in an emergency, the United States supplies a battery of Norwegian surface-to-air missiles to Nasams. Germany, for its part, supplied an Iris-Ts guided missile launcher. Further announcements are expected from the Allies. “It’s not just the system (air defense defence, editor’s note) must be delivered, but also ammunition, spare parts and trainingNATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
The American effort is colossal. Two weeks ago, Washington announced an additional envelope of $1.1 billion. This includes providing Kiev with eighteen Himar artillery systems, dozens of radars, hundreds of vehicles, Austin said. Expenses incurred by Washington since the start of the invasion on February 24 totaled $16.8 billion.
The ammunition problem
The US Secretary of State has acknowledged that some weapons still need to be produced and may not be delivered for months or even years. Indeed, the Allies, including Belgium, are facing shortages of ammunition and shells. The arms industry is busy producing more – and for the long term.
“We have to rebuild (ammunition stores, editor’s note) to ensure our defense and to be able to continue to support Ukraine“, explained Jens Stoltenberg.
NATO – as an organization – is not involved in military support for Kiev, but its member states. The Alliance plays its defensive role. It has deployed around 30 ships, aircraft and submarines to the Baltic area and is preparing to conduct its annual planned nuclear defense exercise before the start of the invasion.
The Kremlin, for its part, says it expects an offer of mediation from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan this Thursday during a meeting with Mr Putin in Kazakhstan. Turkey is a member of NATO but has refused to join Western sanctions, giving it room to maneuver with Moscow.