In the war between Ukraine and Russia, there is a third major player: the West, or NATO countries. At the beginning of the invasion, these countries were still reluctant to prevent escalation, but now one country after another is volunteering to supply arms to Ukraine.
For example, at the NATO summit, which concluded this afternoon, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that it would release more than a billion euros for military support and training for Ukrainian troops on British soil. Other European countries, including the Netherlands and Germany, also continue to provide Ukraine with weapons.
To stand a chance against the Russians, the country desperately needs those weapons, says Yuriy Sak, adviser to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. “Our Secretary of Defense loves Winston Churchills ruling: Give us the material and well do the work.”
On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine on 4 fronts: in the south (Kherson), the north (Kiev), the east (Soumy, Kharkov) and the south-east, the Donbas. How that invasion went from the beginning, you can see below:
For former commander Mart de Kruif, the war in Ukraine is now in a “weird phase”. The fight in the Donbas takes place effectively in an area as small as Drenthe, he says. “And the city of Lysychansk is as small as Assen. Its a battle with an enormous intensity of weapons and troops,” says De Kruif. The relationship between the Russians and the Ukrainians is skewed. “The Russians have much more weapons, but Ukraine is better organized.”
The approach Russia is now taking is to destroy the area with tremendous firepower. The problem with Ukraine is that the troops cannot shoot far. “They wont get to it. They need artillery to continue shooting,” says De Kruif.
And so it is waiting for the promised weapons from the West. De Kruif: “That takes a while, so when can Ukraine use those weapons?” Although they wont beat the Russians with it, says De Kruif. “It can lead to a kind of status quo. The Russians cant go on, the Ukrainians can stand and negotiate.”
For advisor Sak, Ukraines final goal is the complete withdrawal of the Russian troops to where they were before February 24. Thats what he calls the first phase. “Then there are parts of Donetsk and Luhansk and the Crimea peninsula, which are internationally recognized as part of Ukraine. From that perspective, then comes the second phase for us, which can be solved diplomatically or in another way. We are a sovereign country and we have the right to determine our future.”
But at the NATO summit this week, Ukraines borders were not discussed. “There is still a lot of space there,” says De Kruif. “Ukraine has to look diplomatically in the long term what can be achieved, because NATO is not clear about it. In the long run, this can also lead to political friction between Member States. Because there is still a big gap on that subject.”