The United States has once again diluted the red line established by the government of Vladimir Putin regarding its military support to Ukraine in the fight against the Russian invasion, which completes a year on the next 24th. The Kremlin’s reaction shows that the Western gamble seems to be paying off until here.
According to the Reuters agency, a new package of US$ 1.75 billion in weapons is being assembled in the USA. It includes a new weapon developed by the American Boeing and the Swedish Saab, the GLSDB (English acronym for Small Diameter Ground-Launched Bomb).
It is an innovative weapon: a rocket is coupled with old ammunition, transforming it into a small missile that can reach targets up to 150 km away — enough to reach all areas occupied by Moscow, the border of annexed Crimea and, something that Kiev always promises not to do, cities in Russia.
Today, the rockets launched by the American Himars systems are models with a range of up to 80 km, the maximum that Ukraine operates. The GLSDB does not reach the level of the ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System), with 300 km of range, but it would theoretically violate the red line that the Kremlin had established last September.
The new weapons have a crucial advantage. As they are made with old ammunition, their cost is low, at US$ 40,000 per piece. One ATACMS missile, $1 million. Ukraine already has GLSDB launch pads, such as the American M270 system.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitir Peskov was urged by reporters this Wednesday (1st) to speak on the subject. His response began with the usual criticism of the Western military buildup, but added: “This will not change the course of events.”
Of the two, one. Either Russia is confident that its offensive in the east of the country can generate a definitive breakthrough to take Donetsk, the least controlled of the four areas it illegally annexed in September, or it is just accepting realities.
Over the months, Moscow’s standard response was to complain about the Western escalation and, here and there, to threaten the risk of a nuclear conflict with NATO (Western military alliance) forces.
With that, the supply of weapons went from portable anti-tank missiles to artillery systems, anti-aircraft batteries and, in the last week, the formation of a coalition of countries willing to deliver war tanks to Kiev.
The government of Volodimir Zelensky spoke on Tuesday (31) of 140 armored vehicles of the type in a first wave, but a grain of salt is needed when assessing this.
Everything will depend on the time to prepare the tanks, on the formation of teams, taking into account that most of them will be German Leopard-2s used by European countries, but that the British promise 14 Challenger-2s and the Americans, 31 M1 Abrams complexes. In other words, separate training and logistics.
As the Russian roar has continued at this, however, the West is stepping up its moves to turn Ukraine into an armed fortress. It remains to be seen whether the objective is to force a negotiation with the Russians, which is more likely, or to actually try to give Kiev a military victory — something more difficult, especially when Zelensky says that this would only come with the return of Crimea, attached nine years ago.
The next step is the fighters. As British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace put it, the Ukrainian arms lobby always goes through three stages in the West: the “no”, the “we will study” and the “we agree”.
The US, UK and Germany have all said they are against Poland’s plan to send some of its 48 US F-16 fighter jets to Kiev – something that would also require training time and expensive logistics. Last year, Washington had already vetoed the transfer of the fleet of 28 Soviet MiG-29 fighters, which the Ukrainians already operate.
The Kiev Air Force survives by leaps and bounds. According to the Dutch open data observation website Oryx, the Ukrainians have already lost 57 of their 124 fighter planes in the conflict.
France, on the other hand, is already in stage two of the conversation, having said it is studying the possibility of supplying older fighter jets, probably of the Mirage model, to Kiev. But there is no deal, according to Emmanuel Macron’s government, which has conditioned any progress on the unrealistic promise that Kiev would not advance into Russian airspace.
This Friday (3), Zelenski will hold what he called a summit with representatives of the European Union, the bloc he would like to join. He will pledge reforms to his country’s corrupt political structure, which underwent an initial purge last week.
It will be another opportunity to bolster its arms lobby, which has so far taken nearly $30 billion from the US alone — almost ten times its prewar defense budget.
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