Call us

Quadruple military aid for Ukraine

Amanda Paul

Date: 06/10/2022
As a desperate Putin calls for mobilisation, annexes territory and threatens nuclear war, the EU and its allies must hold their nerve and ramp up military aid for Ukraine.

Nearly eight months have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine. The Kremlin has used all means (including grotesque war crimes) to crush the Ukrainian army and break the nation’s spirit. It failed, and it will continue to fail. Ukrainians will fight on because not only are they fighting for their land, but for their very existence – and winning! Europe must demonstrate the same mettle in their support for Kyiv.

While the war has disappeared from Europe’s headlines, the threat to the continent remains serious. It is an existential war that directly threatens Europe's security and stability. Gutsiness and military power are crucial to defeating Russia. As Ukraine’s stunning counter-offensives in the northeast and south of the country demonstrate, the country has proved it has plenty of the former. Europe must provide much more of the latter. Military aid –  heavy weapons and armoured vehicles in particular – must be ramped up. The EU must also share more of the burden with Washington, which has provided most of the military aid so far.

How Putin miscalculated

Russia’s full-scale invasion has been a disaster for the Kremlin. Putin underestimated Ukraine’s armed forces and over-estimated his own. The planned blitzkrieg to rapidly take Kyiv and bring down Ukraine’s leadership failed spectacularly in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance. Since the first days of the war, Ukraine has fought a courageous, skilled and complex military campaign against a brutal aggressor whose savagery has no limits.

While Ukraine has suffered major losses, its military, politicians, and citizens are united and motivated. Ukraine’s recent liberation of huge swathes of territory in the northeast and south of the country, breaking through Russia’s frontlines and forcing Russian troops to flee, stunned Moscow.

The Russian military is in disarray. Its reputation as being invincible has been shattered. Command and logistics’ chains are in meltdown, while morale among troops is at rock bottom. Losses are huge: between 70-80,000 casualties. The gains that Russia did make, have proven to be far from irreversible. The costs are also increasing, with the Kremlin spending some $300 million daily. Prominent Russians have begun to publicly criticise Putin's strategy.

Rag-tag reinforcements

In a desperate effort to replenish troops, Moscow resorted to rag-tag reinforcements, assembling a motley crew of units, including the homeless and prison inmates, lured by $3,000 pay-outs. Proving insufficient, Putin further upped the ante by calling for (a partial) mobilisation on 21 September. While Moscow officially says it is drafting 300,000 extra troops, the final figure is expected to be over one million.

By taking this step, Putin raised the stakes at home, leading to widespread hysteria and anti-war protests. Hundreds of thousands have fled Russia. Those sent to the front have little (if any) training and are inadequately equipped and mentally unprepared to fight a war. Despite the high numbers of men heading into battle, they are no match for the well-trained and highly motivated Ukrainian troops.

Still, while Russia may be on the back foot, Putin is far from done. He is preparing for a long war of attrition, even if it takes the lives of millions of Russians. Putin’s illegal annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian regions following fake ‘referendums’ demonstrates his readiness to escalate. He may send mobilised Russians to Belarus for a new northern offensive.

Moscow will also continue to do what it has been doing since the war’s early days: incessantly shelling or launching missiles on Ukraine from afar, inflicting severe damage on critical infrastructure, and bringing about evermore civilian casualties. It is likely that entire Ukrainian regions will suffer power blackouts and no heating during bitterly cold periods. An incident at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – such as a radiation leak – can not be ruled out. In keeping with his vile nature, Putin has also doubled-down threats to use nuclear weapons.

The West must not be cowed by Putin. He is a geopolitical bully who must be stood up to. The EU and its allies must act decisively and deliver more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine. The western military aid Ukraine has received has been critical to its resistance and military advances and is now more crucial than ever.

Western aid – a gamechanger

The speed and success of Ukraine’s recent operations demonstrate that Ukrainian forces are able to increase their advantage on the battlefield and repel Russia. However, the military aid that Ukraine has received so far is insufficient to fully crush the Kremlin’s invasion. Not all of Ukraine’s military units have the necessary heavy modern weapons. Some are seriously under-armed.

With Europe mired in Russia-instigated energy and cost-of-living crises, Putin is counting on waning EU support and divisions. This cannot happen. Ukraine’s allies must ramp up their military aid. Russia must not only be pushed back to at least its pre-24 February position. It must also endure costs so great that it will prevent the Kremlin from carrying out another invasion in the future.

The current window of opportunity – while Russia is in disarray - must be used effectively. Pauses in arms deliveries only give Russia more time to regroup and rebuild its military. That extra time also facilitates the Kremlin’s hybrid campaign of economic warfare, escalation threats, and spreading disinformation in Europe and elsewhere.

No dithering - more arms now

Ukraine needs more high-precision weapons. Much larger qualities of crucial arms, such as short-and medium-range air defence systems like the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), along with more advanced weapons like the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), are needed to maximize Ukraine’s impact on the battlefield.

Other long-range weapons, including Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), modern tanks, jets and artillery, are also vital. These weapons will allow Kyiv to further disrupt and cripple Russian offensives by taking out more ammunition and fuel depots, and other critical infrastructure, like bridges. Ukraine also needs a constant supply of ammunition, fuel, and spare parts. In parallel, Ukraine will also require sustained economic assistance from its allies (GDP is predicted to fall by 30% in 2022) to offset the massive costs of the war. This support is crucial if Ukraine is to hold its defence and eject Russians from its land.

The US has come through big time for Ukraine, providing billions of dollars worth of military aid, including its most sophisticated precision weapons, such as HIMARS, NASAMS and the High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). They have proven to be highly effective on the battlefield, and are key to the dramatic shift in momentum.

When it comes to Europe, there is a mixed picture. Some countries – particularly small ones – have done much more than larger, wealthier states. Relative to their GDP, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have gone above and beyond to provide military aid.

While the UK has supplied over €3 billion in military aid, and taken on a central role in training Ukrainian troops, it has yet to fully deliver on its initial pledges. And it is not alone. Many other larger European countries (those with the most money and largest armies) have also underperformed. While Germany has come under a lot of criticism, Berlin has now upped its game following increased pressure on the Chancellor from political parties, including coalition partners. Yet, resistance to sending in heavy weapons, including Leopard 2 tanks, remains.

Meanwhile, France, which has one of the largest military forces in NATO, has delivered less than €1 billion – less than 2% of military aid sent to Ukraine. Paris must do more, including sending its Leclerc tanks. In parallel, the European Peace Facility (EPF) has provided some €2.5 billion for military aid to Ukraine.

Not only does the EU need to deliver more and faster, but all European countries should also give aid proportionally. They must also share more of the burden with Washington, which has called on its partners to lend as much support as possible.

Staying the course

At the start of the war, the EU and its member states pledged to stand with Ukraine for as long as it took. However, with rising inflation, astronomical energy prices, and the growing threat of recession, there is a risk of cracks appearing in EU unity. Internal tensions are exacerbated by widespread Russian disinformation that continues to find its way into the European information space. This includes Putin’s nuclear threats, which are aimed at inciting fear and swaying public opinion against Ukraine. Namely, give in, or get nuked. The West urgently needs a strategy to avert this scenario, which must include urging China and India to condemn Russia’s nuclear blackmail.

While the growing social and economic costs of war are a major challenge, the pain that European nations are enduring is, to a large degree, self-inflicted. Some member states continued to increase gas imports from Russia despite Moscow’s history of weaponising gas. Furthermore, this pain will not last forever. It is also nothing compared to what Ukrainians continue to suffer every day.

Ukrainians have shown incredible resilience. The EU must do the same, if it wants its citizens to remain living in a secure and free Europe. EU member states must ramp up efforts to reinforce support for Ukraine. They must also find more creative ways to explain to populations across Europe why this is necessary. Europe is – albeit indirectly – at war with Russia, and this must be acknowledged.

Putin underestimated Ukraine. It is time for the EU to show that Putin also underestimated the Union’s commitment to stand with Ukraine for the long haul. If Europe fails to stand fast now, it will pay a much higher price in a few years. As Churchill said, “fear is a reaction, courage is a decision”. Only by choosing courage, can the EU hope to become the meaningful geopolitical power that it aspires to be.

Amanda Paul is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Europe in the World programme at the European Policy Centre.

The support the European Policy Centre receives for its ongoing operations, or specifically for its publications, does not constitute an endorsement of their contents, which reflect the views of the authors only. Supporters and partners cannot be held responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

This commentary is part of the Ukraine's European Future project.

Photo credits:

The latest from the EPC, right in your inbox
Sign up for our email newsletter
14-16 rue du Trône, 1000 Brussels, Belgium | Tel.: +32 (0)2 231 03 40
EU Transparency Register No. 
89632641000 47
Privacy PolicyUse of Cookies | Contact us | © 2019, European Policy Centre

edit afsluiten