Artillery vehicle

New tanks and artillery bolster Ukraine’s hopes of defeating Russia

A rush of howitzers, artillery shells and drones is heading towards Ukraine in a new $800 million package announced by President Biden on Thursday. The Pentagon says Ukraine now has more functioning tanks on the ground than Russia due to shipments from countries like the Czech Republic.

The big picture: With a potentially decisive battle now underway in the eastern Donbass region, the urgency to deliver weapons to the front lines is growing and fears of provoking Vladimir Putin are fading – at least in Washington.

  • Biden vowed to keep sending weapons “uninterrupted” and told Americans they should be proud that American weapons and intelligence are helping Ukraine “beat back Putin’s savagery.”

On the other hand, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under pressure from kyiv, EU allies and his own government for refusing to supply certain heavy weapons, such as tanks and other military vehicles.

  • Scholz defended his cautious approach this week in the Bundestag, saying Germany could not “go it alone” and had to consider its own defense needs and the risk of escalation beyond Ukraine’s borders.

There is also a growing debate what a realistic outcome might look like in the Donbass.

  • A European official told reporters on Tuesday that the latest assessment is that Russia will be able to take the rest of Luhansk and “a bit” of Donetsk – the two provinces that make up the Donbass region – as well as a very narrow land corridor to the Crimea.
  • At this point, within four to six months, there will be a stalemate and the possibility of more serious negotiations, the official predicted.
  • However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament this week that he saw no path to a diplomatic solution with Putin, and therefore “we must do everything we can to make sure he fails”.

Some experts claim that, with enough Western support, Ukraine could actually defeat Russia, which the Pentagon says has lost 25% of its combat power in eight weeks of war.

  • “If we continue on this path, accelerating deliveries with wider European production and contribution, in a few weeks Russia will unambiguously lose,” tweeted Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on Thursday. “It’s time to double down and aim for the Ukrainian victory.”
  • An analysis by the European Council on Foreign Relations asserts that if NATO countries engage in a Lend-Lease program for Ukraine – coupled with intensive training of Ukrainian troops on advanced systems such as fighter jets F-15 – Ukraine could take over.
  • If the war drags on, Russia will face dwindling stockpiles and sanctions could impact future production of some weapon systems.
  • Yes, but: It’s unclear exactly what a military victory for Ukraine would look like, as Putin’s outright surrender seems unlikely.

Putin at a televised meeting on Thursday ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to call off plans to raid the massive Mariupol steel plant where Ukrainian troops and hundreds of civilians are resisting, and shut it down instead.

  • Putin effectively claimed control of the key port city, but he pushed back on Ukrainian calls for a humanitarian corridor to allow troops and civilians out.
  • Major Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade which is defending the plant, declined to surrender but said Wednesday that “we are probably facing our last days, if not hours.”

Go further: Satellite images show mass grave in Ukrainian town near Mariupol