Added Weapons Will ‘Push’ Putin Toward Peace, Ukraine Says

This runs counter to the thinking in some Western capitals, that the provision of more advanced weaponry could prolong hostilities.

AP/Daniel Cole
Soldiers carry the coffin of a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat, Eduard Strauss, during a farewell ceremony at Kyiv February 6, 2023. AP/Daniel Cole

If the situation along the front line in eastern Ukraine is looking no less difficult as winter lumbers on, new weapons deliveries for the Ukrainian army could have the dual effect of helping to repel further Russian advances and taming the Kremlin wolves. That is the view of Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Andriy Melnyk, who told the German morning news program ZDF Morgenmagazin about the Russian strongman, “We already want peace today, but Putin does not seem to be ready, and therefore we need weapons to push him towards it.”

It is a viewpoint that runs counter to the thinking in some Western capitals: that the provision of more advanced weaponry, like longer-range missiles and high-tech combat tanks, could prolong hostilities, which are now just shy of the one-year mark. Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. President Putin, whom a former French president has described as “radically rational,” is clearly piqued at the prospect of Russian troops squaring off against German Leopard 2 tanks in Ukraine — he said as much in a speech last week to commemorate the Battle of Stalingrad. The question is, will the Russian at some point be pushed to the negotiating table?

For now, Ukraine does not have time to dwell on hypotheticals. In his interview, Mr. Melnyk, who prior to his current post served for nearly eight years as Kyiv’s ambassador to Berlin, called on Germany to take more of a leading role. “We hope that, as with the Leopard issue, the Germans will play a leading role, even after a long hesitation. Because one thing is clear: This war cannot only be won on the battlefield, we need the air force, we need the navy,” he told the German network from Kyiv. “Germany is able to help Ukraine with Eurofighters and Tornado fighter jets,” he said, adding, “We believe that a grand tank coalition will emerge.”

“We hope that this coalition will emerge faster than it took over these nine months with this tank birth,” Mr. Melnyk said. He also made a direct appeal to Chancellor Scholz and the German defense minister, Boris Pistorius, to take the decision to train Ukrainian soldiers. Men and machines are interrelated, of course: “We don’t want to sacrifice our soldiers, we need modern war equipment for this,” Mr. Melnyk said. 

From the White House to Westminster by way of Turtle Bay and other relevant locales, the feelings regarding prospects for any kind of ceasefire are about as bright as February sunshine over the Donbas. That is exactly where Mr Melnyk described the situation as “precarious,” and what explains the relentless focus on getting more weaponry on the ground (and maybe eventually in the air). 

Aware of some of the well-known contemporary German sensitivities with respect to matters of a martial nature, he even offered an apology of sorts for his persistence: “Unfortunately, sometimes decisions are only made as a result of this political pressure. I’m sorry that I sometimes have to do that,” he said. 

In the meantime, the British armed forces are taking part in Exercise Tallinn Dawn, in Germany, alongside Challenger 2 and Leopard tanks, which according to the British ministry of defense “are soon to be a regular sight in the fields of Ukraine.”

“It is highly likely that Russia has been attempting to restart major offensive operations in Ukraine since early January 2023,” the ministry stated, adding that Moscow’s operational goal “is almost certainly to capture the remaining Ukrainian-held parts of Donetsk Oblast.” However, Russian forces have “only managed to gain several hundred meters of territory per week,” which is “almost certainly because Russia now lacks the munitions and maneuver units required for successful offensives.”

Not only that, but Moscow is on the back foot with regard to defending the motherland. The Moscow Times reported that bomb shelters across Russia, including in the Moscow region, are now undergoing systematic inspections and repairs under Kremlin orders. 

Even if a Ukrainian intelligence assessment that Moscow could be preparing to mobilize up to half a million additional conscripts ahead of a spring or summer offensive holds true, the pressure is building on Mr. Putin. If Moscow’s war on Ukraine comes back to haunt Moscow in the form of direct attacks on Russian cities — there have already been attacks on Russian air bases — expect that pressure to reach a breaking point. Then the hope will be that Mad Vlad behaves less radically, and more rationally.

As Mr. Melnyk reminded his German viewers, “it takes two to dance.”

The New York Sun

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