Smaking significant advances on the ground for months, and with the parties focused on publicizing daily feats in their aerial attacks, Ukraine seeks to overcome the shortage of its arsenal and the impasses in sending aid from its two largest allies, the United States and the Union European Union (EU), through its own production of weapons, not only to immediately survive Russian aggression, but with the goal of being self-sufficient and a power in the long term.
“The United States will not need to send major security aid to Ukraine indefinitely if Ukraine can produce its weapons,” argues a report released last week by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a ‘ think tank’ based in Washington.
Ukraine could become a “modern weapons production center in Europe”, through cooperation with international industry, as is already happening with at least ten European partnerships, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal declared in June, and surpass not only its own needs for missiles, projectiles and ammunition, but also to supply global shortages.
“Ukraine’s prospects for sustaining its military forces with limited long-term assistance are excellent. Ukraine is heavily industrialized, with a highly skilled and technically sophisticated population. It had a huge arms industry during the Soviet period and has continued to be a important arms exporter after independence”, highlights the ISW document.
According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine produced three times more equipment and weapons in 2023 compared to the previous year, and the state-owned Ukroboronprom (Ukrainian Defense Industry) increased its production by 62 percent.
However, the document warns, in order to become self-sufficient and become an “arsenal of the free world”, in the words of the Ukrainian Minister of Strategic Industries of Ukraine, Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine needs to immediately contain Russia’s advances, which regained total initiative in the war, with the exception of the Kherson region (center of the country), and then recovered the occupied territories in Zaporijia (south) and part of Donbass, in the east, where its resource extraction capacity and related industry.
This objective was compromised, in the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the second half of 2023, by “insufficient and poorly timed equipment deliveries” from the allies, says the ISW, against “a military improvement” by Russia, which will have learned from its mistakes and increased its its capacity to replace fighters and ‘stocks’ of missiles and ‘drones’.
Taking advantage of the lack of ammunition in Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defense, Russia attacked the main Ukrainian cities and infrastructure with unprecedented violence since the beginning of the invasion, on February 24, 2022, and is preparing, in turn, an increase of 67, 6% for defense in the period 2024-26, a third of total expenditure and a record amount that exceeds social spending for the first time.
Despite this, Ukraine, endowed with a great capacity for innovation and integration of Soviet and NATO systems, as well as being a pioneer in the development of electronic warfare weapons and ‘drones’, “has the opportunity to stand alone in the future if it is decisively strengthened now”, concludes the ISW.
With attention focused on the war between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas and the new conflicts emerging in the Middle East, Kiev managed to gain prominence in the first moments of the World Economic Forum, at the beginning of the week.
At the Davos meeting, the Swiss Alps served as the setting for meetings at the level of national security advisors from 83 countries involved in discussions on the Ukrainian President’s peace formula, but none of them is Russia. Neither does China, whose presence Kiev considers indispensable, but which, for now, has distanced itself from the initiative, which could evolve into a global summit format.
The approaches to peace, both by Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, continue to be supported by a total defeat of their respective adversaries, when the combat front on land appears “frozen” and the Kremlin seeks to saturate Kiev’s forces, whose aerial attacks continue, however, to cause severe losses in the Black Sea fleet and Moscow’s aviation and to raise alarm in the Russian regions close to the border.
On Tuesday, during a visit to Moscow by the head of diplomacy of North Korea, an almost pariah state to which in exchange for weapons the Kremlin is trying to give the international respectability it never had, Putin stated that any negotiation process is an attempt to encourage Russia “to abandon the gains it has made over the last year and a half”, assuring: “It’s impossible.”
In the same vein and simultaneously, the Ukrainian President reiterated in Davos the importance of defeating Russia and noted that Putin will not change in relation to his maximalist objectives, commenting that all attempts to restore peace have failed two years after the start of the invasion of troops from Moscow and ten after the illegal annexation of Crimea and the pro-Russian uprising in Donbass.
Faced with the alarm of a possible military defeat and the impasse in Washington and Brussels, several partners have reinforced their support for Ukraine. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the Ukrainian capital on January 12, where he declared a pledge to increase aid to £2.5 billion (around €2.9 billion) in 2024, signaling the “gravity of the situation”: an “oxygen balloon” that Zelensky needed that made him “more optimistic” about Western support.
The Republican majority in the US Congress continues to block an aid package requested months ago by President Joe Biden valued at 56 billion euros and the White House has meanwhile declared that aid has “completely stopped”, while, in the EU, the Hungary has persisted in vetoing the transfer of 50 billion euros to Kiev.
France, in turn, is preparing to announce similar aid, having already committed to sending 40 long-range Scalp missiles and “hundreds of bombs” to Kiev, where French President Emmanuel Macron is expected in February , while Germany, in a joint statement with Paris, reiterated its support as long as necessary, but has not yet authorized its Taurus cruise missiles, widely requested by Ukrainian forces.
Still in the support chapter, 2024 is the year of presidential elections in the United States and a return of Republican Donald Trump to the White House could represent the end of aid from Kiev’s largest bilateral partner – with 44.2 billion dollars (40.3 billion euros), in financial and military aid, according to the State Department, since the beginning of the war – and from NATO itself.
“If 2024 Brings Us ‘America First’ Again [lema de Trump]it will be Europe on its own more than ever”, warned Alexander De Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium, the country that holds the semi-annual rotating presidency of the EU, in the European Parliament, challenging Europe not to fear this scenario and that “the take over.”
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