Three very important events have recently taken place on the political and diplomatic front of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Firstly , the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, after a visit to Kiev, abandoned (at least for now) attempts to play a mediating role in some kind of peace settlement and, it seems, stopped advocating for “saving face” of Russia.
Secondly , Russia reacted very sharply to the start of Lithuania's implementation of EU decisions to limit the transit of sanctioned goods through its territory to the Kaliningrad region.
Thirdly , Russian diplomacy tried to start a conversation about ending the war - and directly with Washington, and not with Kiev. (Here we can leave out of brackets the question of the adequacy of this attempt. We can also leave out of brackets the question of the adequacy of that foreign policy approach as a whole, when the aggressor denies international subjectivity and equality to the country that has been attacked, and prefers to communicate only with the leading powers, to which he refers himself).
The very fact that the Kremlin is trying to find a way out of the trap into which it has driven itself into the war is important, and today it is making a choice between finding an acceptable ceasefire formula and a new escalation. At the same time, the threat of escalation is being used as an attempt to force the West to talk to Moscow and not abandon the thesis about the need to “save its face.”
In turn, the West continues to provide military and economic assistance to Ukraine, and the range of this assistance allows us to judge the political goal-setting of the Americans and Europeans in this war. And despite the fact that in the public opinion of different countries there are doubts about the sufficiency of this assistance, and there are often accusations against France and, especially, Germany for refusing the supplies Ukraine needs, all this requires an objective analysis.
Rearmament of Ukraine
For a better understanding of what role Western military assistance to Ukraine plays in the war and, accordingly, what is the strategy of the West in this matter, it is worth comparing the number of weapons received by Kyiv with what it had before the war and what it was able to capture from the aggressor during the fighting. actions.
It is important to understand that a large part of the weapons that Ukraine nominally had on the eve of a full-scale Russian invasion were naturally not ready for use. Another and also a considerable part was lost in battles with Russia or as a result of massive missile strikes in the first days and weeks of the war. Also, do not forget that even the surviving military equipment requires appropriate regular maintenance, has a finite resource, and after four months of war often needs major repairs. In addition, in rare cases, captured Russian equipment can be immediately put into operation and also requires serious repairs and resupply beforehand.
As can be seen from the table, the West is not only seriously engaged in maintaining the combat readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces, but, in fact, is radically rearming Ukraine. And all this in addition to the massive deliveries of anti-tank systems, man-portable air defense systems, anti-ship missiles, and in addition to the American lend-lease that has not even begun yet. With regard to the latter, it can be recalled that, according to the law on lend-lease, 60 days are allotted only for the development of a delivery procedure from the moment it was signed (and the law was signed on May 9).
The West, in fact, is radically rearming Ukraine
Moreover, with regard to cannon and rocket artillery, the decisive role is played not so much by the number of guns as by the number of shells for them. And if we proceed from the fact that Ukraine spends 6,000 shells of the main calibers, 122 and 152 mm, every day of the war, and the stocks of these shells are officially close to exhaustion, it means that with a total consumption of about 750 thousand shells, their stock on the eve of the war is unlikely to greatly exceed 1 a million pieces.
By the way, Russia, with its daily consumption of 60 thousand shells, should also face a shortage of them in the coming months. This follows from the fact that with much less intense hostilities and a much lower consumption of shells during the Chechen wars, their shortage began already in the summer of 2002, after 56 months of hostilities (12.1994-08.1996 and 08.1999-07.2002). Of course, we do not know at what pace Russia has been producing these shells over the past 20 years, but in 2014 it was decided to start restoring what had been produced earlier, including the Soviet period. The pace of such restoration was at the level of 570 thousand different shells per year (purchasing the same number of new shells would cost about 40 billion rubles), that is, by the beginning of 2022, Russia could repair about 4 million pieces.
Russia, with a daily consumption of 60 thousand shells, should face a shortage in the coming months
In this context, it becomes obvious that 220,000 shells supplied today to 108 M777 howitzers alone, or 36,000 shells supplied to a batch of L119 howitzers, is a very solid help. Here it is also worth considering that these are only the first packages of military assistance, and the accuracy, range and ergonomics of weapons supplied by the West exceed these parameters of Russian systems.
The table also shows that so far no attack aircraft has been delivered to Ukraine, with the exception of a certain number of Mi-24 attack helicopters and spare parts that allow maintaining the Ukrainian fleet of MiG-29 aircraft. This is due to the fact that the retraining of pilots for new equipment, the training of ground personnel and the preparation of the service infrastructure, even with maximum effort, require many months. And squandering resources on something that cannot be ready for use within a few weeks is irrational. The same, by the way, applies to American, British or German tanks. At the same time, of course, we are not talking about strike UAVs, which were supplied and are being supplied under contracts and as part of assistance - Ukraine has both trained pilots and the appropriate infrastructure to service them.
Today, Ukraine's urgent need for advanced medium-range air defense / missile defense systems that will be effective against, first of all, Russian cruise missiles, in addition to what it has in stock, is also obvious. And this is considered a much more urgent need than heavy tanks, helicopters or fighters, despite the fact that the training of operators of such systems, as well as the systems themselves, also takes months. Thus, in the fall or even earlier, we can expect the NASAMS systems from the United States and Iris-T from Germany to appear in Ukraine (Ukraine will purchase additional systems from Germany).
Is the help timely and sufficient?
It turns out that the volume and pace of military assistance to Ukraine from the West generally correspond to the scale of the threat that Ukraine faced on February 24, 2022. And under the circumstances, it was hardly possible to supply more weapons in a shorter time frame. Two factors act as objective constraints here.
The West could hardly supply more weapons in a shorter time
Firstly, this is the post-Cold War NATO countries' refusal to work at the warehouse as part of their defense policy - they simply do not have hundreds and thousands of idle howitzers, multiple rocket launchers and armored vehicles in stock. This is in addition to the fact that Ukraine does not have thousands of trained military men to send en masse to master these weapons while other trained military personnel fight Russia.
Secondly, the defense plan of the Alliance itself serves as a limiter: you cannot simply take away a large amount of modern weapons from some armies of member countries without a serious decrease in the defense capability of all allies together. For example, today only 8 out of 30 NATO countries fulfill the defense spending target of 2% of GDP (in 2014, however, there were only 3 of them). And the standard for spending at least 20% of the defense budget on new weapons is met by 21 NATO member countries (in 2014 there were only 7 of them). Complaining about the fact that not all allies turned out to be sufficiently far-sighted in previous years and did not spend enough money on their defense is only a test of the strength of their hindsight. There is only what is.
What does the West want?
Based on the foregoing, one can quite clearly determine what goals and tasks the West sets for itself in the current war. In general, support for Ukraine is aimed at the victory of Ukraine in this war. The main criteria for this victory, obviously, are the preservation of its statehood and the potential for sustainable socio-economic development in the long term.
In the applied dimension, military assistance to Ukraine, which will only increase in the coming months, is designed to start blocking the Russian threat in all directions: in the east, south, north and northeast. It is also designed to help Ukraine grind the Russian military potential as much as possible in the framework of defensive operations. And here it is important to understand that large-scale offensive operations with what Ukraine already had by May-June could push Russian troops somewhere, but, most likely, would allow Russia to better preserve its army and resources. Moreover, such an approach reduces, although does not completely eliminate, Moscow's ability to escalate the conflict with the involvement of new states from Moldova to the Baltic countries or Finland.
At the next stage, we will probably talk about stopping the Russian military threat: reducing the possibilities for shelling Ukrainian cities and infrastructure and conducting any offensive operations. And in the future - about its final leveling, both for Ukraine itself, and for Europe and the states of the post-Soviet states. In the latter case, Ukraine's already renewed military potential will complement those Western sanctions that have already been adopted and are being implemented, or will begin to be implemented in the coming months and which have yet to be adopted.
At the same time, we will not necessarily have to talk about attempts to quickly knock Russia out of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. On the contrary, the slow strangulation of Russia, coupled with the development of Ukraine against the backdrop of its current patriotic upsurge, is more likely to lead to Russia itself giving up the occupied territories. And the sharp resentment on the Crimean and, more broadly, on the Ukrainian issue, similar to the one that was in the societies of France and Germany on the issue of Alsace and Lorraine in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, will simply cease to receive nourishment in Russian society.