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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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Long trench war threatens: The West moves in the Ukraine aid – that’s about time

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And they are moving – finally, one has to say. Ahead of the Ukraine conference in Ramstein on Friday, the West appears ready to provide Kyiv with more heavy weapons and much-needed equipment. The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, now has his back to the wall on the tank issue.

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Poland indicated on Thursday that it would send Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine, if necessary without a “go” from Berlin. The leadership repeatedly announced by Scholz is currently coming from Warsaw and London. The British announced the delivery of Challenger main battle tanks earlier this week. It is likely that the federal government will follow suit on Friday and release Leopard deliveries.

At the same time, the United States is putting together another large arms package. It includes light tanks and rockets that can fly up to 150 kilometers, doubling the range previously possible with Himar’s rocket launchers. The delivered vehicles, together with the Leopards and Challengers, could decisively strengthen Ukraine’s planned spring offensive. In addition, Canada also wants to deliver 200 armored vehicles. Sweden and Estonia also announced large arms packages on Thursday. The list of countries and systems is likely to get longer on Friday.

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The spring package for Kyiv is only the material sign that the discussion about Ukraine and its goals in the war is changing. And that is perhaps even more important than what is already on the delivery lists.

Crimea as leverage at the negotiating table

As the “New York Times” reported on Wednesday evening, the US government can now get used to the idea of ​​a Ukrainian offensive in the direction of Crimea. So far, the West’s unspoken stance on all statements of support for Kyiv has been: leave it alone.

Because one thing is clear: when it comes to recapturing Crimea, Putin could resort to the last resort, nuclear means. More likely, Washington now seems to be calculating, he could sit down at the negotiating table to salvage what can be salvaged.

But it is also part of the truth – and that is why it is so important that the West finally acts decisively: At the moment Putin is certain of victory and is not even thinking about negotiations. Although he is in the meantime Plan D of his invasion after all others have failed. Plan A was the conquest of all Ukraine, Plan B the conquest of the Donbass, Plan C a victory in the energy war against Ukraine and Europe this winter. But this Plan D is showing initial successes.

Moscow’s army has recently tried to overrun the Ukrainian positions with human waves. In Soledar, in the battle for the city of Bakhmut, this tactic has already worked, albeit with astronomical losses. The Soledar strategy could provide the blueprint for a spring offensive by Moscow that once again envisages conquering the entire Donbass. Kyiv has been warning for weeks that Russia is preparing a corresponding offensive.

Putin’s Human Wave Tactics

Putin still has around 200,000 men from the last wave of mobilization up his sleeve, who are currently being trained in Russia and Belarus. This number is almost equal to the contingent he sent across the borders of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

We cannot allow the war to drag on and develop into a stalemate.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly

Not only must Ukraine stop this force and give the lie to Putin’s calculus that he has more men than Kyiv has bullets. It must also act offensively to avoid allowing Russia to dig in defensively and permanently across the board. If that were to happen, a semi-frozen conflict looming for years, which it is not clear whether Kyiv has the strength and the West the will to endure. Putin, on the other hand, is convinced that Russia has both.

Against this background, in the western capitals, the fear of a World War I scenario around. This is exactly what British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned about on Tuesday in Washington. “We cannot allow the war to drag on and develop into a stalemate,” he said.

To prevent this, the military from Ukraine and the West will meet in the next few days to coordinate the Ukrainian offensive plans with the arms deliveries from the West.

With the delivery of main battle tanks, a barrier also falls. Because it was – at least in Berlin – always seen as Putin’s red line. So far, however, there are no signs that he cares about what comes from the West. The Kremlin ruler has not reacted to any arms deliveries with an escalation. The main battle tanks could now pave the way for the delivery of longer-range missiles and perhaps even old Soviet fighter jets that are still available in Eastern Europe.

Combined with anti-aircraft capabilities, the training of tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers in the West, accurate artillery and rocket launchers, and now-dexterous light and heavy tanks, Ukraine is capable of fighting on an equal footing with Moscow. The Ukrainians have already shown that they use western resources surprisingly efficiently.

All of this is a prerequisite that this war may end this year and at the negotiating table with a strong Ukraine – and not in one World War I scenario.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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