Recent advances by Ukrainian forces retaking territory from the Russian invaders show that allies in the West must continue to back the country in its war efforts.
That the underdog has been able to not only fend off the Russians, but now start beating them back has much to do with the military aid provided to Ukraine. Providing more will help the Ukrainians do more.
The current offensive relies heavily on intelligence from US and British sources. Weapons systems, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and HARM air-launched missiles, have been used to devastating effect on Russian military targets. Supply lines have hit hard, making it difficult for Putin’s aggressors.
Ukrainian officials say the counteroffensive has reclaimed more than 3,000 square kilometres of territory, forcing the Russians to retreat and leaving troops completely demoralized. More of that is precisely what’s needed.
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Rather than simply rolling back the latest incursions, the Ukrainians should be looking to force Russians and Russian-backed collaborators out of the eastern Donbas region, as well as retaking Crimea, illegally annexed in 2014. The West should increase military support to make that happen.
Clearly, Vladimir Putin’s plan to control the whole of Ukraine was in jeopardy almost immediately following his unwarranted invasion in February. Invading force has met with more resistance than expected from the Ukrainian military and the general public.
The blowback against Russia was immediate and global, turning the country into an economic and cultural pariah.
While the sanctions against Putin and his supporters – not just his fellow kleptocrats, but also those who help him remain in power – haven’t had an immediate impact on the war situation, they remain an important long-term strategy to punish Russia. They should remain in effect until such time as the country makes the kind of sweeping changes needed to welcome it back into the global community.
Given the spike in energy prices brought on in part by the turmoil Russia caused, the country has benefited financially from its oil and gas resources. Moves are being made to provide Europe with alternatives, though Russia is finding outlets in other pariah states, including China, North Korea and Iran.
Putin’s intentions remain uncertain, though the invasion does appear to be part of an effort to restore some kind of Soviet-era buffer zone between Russia and NATO countries. That the authoritarian styles himself in the vein of Peter the Great, seeking a return to tsarist empire. In that, he contrasted himself in the wake of the passing last week of Mikhail Gorbachev.
The dictator’s bid to rebuild the empire is playing out brutally in Ukraine. That he may have wider aspirations is one of the many reasons to back the Ukrainians, crushing any such thoughts. That situation is also why we’ve seen a boost in NATO’s readiness, particularly in the Baltic states. Fast-tracking membership for Finland and Sweden is a sign of Western resolve, and the antithesis of what Putin may have in mind.
Putin has certainly railed against NATO membership for Ukraine, and indeed against any Europeanization of that country. It’s a stance that has involved manipulating the Ukrainian electoral system and, of course, direct invasion.
That Ukraine is leaning westward rather than kowtowing to Moscow chafe’s Putin, and at least partly explains the West’s quick action to condemn and punish the invasion. Russia and US, among others, have invaded and occupied other countries and regions without this kind of response, but this time it’s an authoritarian regime terrorizing a Europeanized nation.
Moreover, 20th century history shows us the risks of appeasing similar acts of annexation among European neighbours for often dubious reasons backed by spurious claims.
That history is precisely why we must continue to support Ukraine until it is whole, and free from any renewed threat.