Ukraine has called on the West to provide 300 rocket launchers, 500 tanks and 1,000 howitzers ahead of a key meeting on Wednesday, amid fears it will push its demands for NATO-standard weapons to the limit .
The maximalist demand was made publicly by Mykhailo Podolyak, a key presidential adviser, on Twitter on Monday, where he argued that Ukraine needed “heavy weapons parity” to defeat Russia and end the war.
This would require, he said, 300 of the Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) – far more than the roughly seven committed so far by the US and UK – and more than the 60 or more that other advisors have previously said would meet his needs. .
Podolyak’s full list also included “1,000 howitzers” of the 155mm NATO standard, several times more than has been sent so far. The United States, the largest arms supplier, had delivered 109 by the end of May.
A special meeting of defense ministers is taking place in Brussels on Wednesday, which will be chaired by Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, to discuss future arms donations, the third such meeting since the start of the war. Ben Wallace, his British counterpart, is among those scheduled.
This comes at a time when the Ukrainian army is struggling to withstand an intense Russian artillery assault on its eastern region of Donbass and on some days is losing 200 soldiers killed in action in the heaviest fighting in Europe since the end of World War II. .
Amid such pressure, the meeting has taken on special significance in Kyiv, which wants substantial and rapid ammunition deliveries so it can try to force the Russian invaders out of its territory before the clock turns.
Some pundits said Podolyak’s tweet was best interpreted as a bargaining gambit. But there are also questions about whether such overt lobbying could be counterproductive, especially with countries like Germany, which has repeatedly wavered on arms supplies and been slower than the United States and the United Kingdom to deliver to Ukraine what it had publicly promised.
German weapons committed at the end of April include howitzers and Gepard mobile artillery, but artillery should arrive at the end of this month and specialized armored vehicles in July, much to the frustration of Kyiv.
Other demands from Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, were “500 tanks; 2,000 armored vehicles; 1,000 drones” – all heavy weapons in significant numbers that would significantly alter the military balance and, in some cases, drastically reduce Western supplies.
Three hundred MLRS would be roughly half of the existing stock in the United States. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the US military has 363 Himars rocket trucks and 225 M270 tracked launchers, and the US Marines have 47 more. The UK has 35 of its version of the M270s.
Last week, another Ukrainian presidential adviser, military analyst Oleksiy Arestovych, said Kyiv would need 60 rocket launchers to stop Russian invaders ‘dead in their tracks’ – and some believe the real demand for the ‘Ukraine is 100, far beyond the current level of Western offers.
A donation of 1,000 howitzers would roughly correspond to the American arsenal. The IISS figures, compiled before the donation of 109, show that the US Army has 518 M777 towed howitzers of the type already supplied and the US Marines have 481 more.
However, there are well over 500 tanks available to Western powers. The U.S. military alone has about 2,645 Abrams tanks and about 3,450 more in storage, according to the IISS Annual Military Inventory Review.
Before and at the start of the war, Western countries declared that they would supply Ukraine with “defensive weapons” only to deter an invasion or halt an advance. Russia, however, succeeded in occupying a significant part of the territory to the east and south, prompting calls for the expulsion of its forces.