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After the next round of major fighting with Russia, Ukraine may be living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ with Western gear, expert says

Ukrainian soldiers of Da Vinci Wolves Battalion firing artillery in the direction of Bakhmut, April 3, 2023.Members of Ukraine’s Da Vinci Wolves Battalion fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut on April 3.

Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • The US and its NATO partners have provided Ukraine with heaping military aid to start the year.
  • But after the next round of fighting with Russia, Ukraine could find itself hamstrung by support.
  • One military expert said it will be a challenge for the West to help Kyiv maintain an advantage. 

As Ukraine and Russia wage a grinding war of attrition along a largely static front line, Kyiv is receiving billions of dollars in Western security assistance to help it continue the fight. With more intense fighting on the horizon, there are doubts about whether Western countries will be able to maintain that level of support.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced $2.6 billion in new military hardware for Ukraine, most of which has to be ordered from industry and will take months to arrive on the battlefield. In the near-term, the ammunition, vehicles, and spare parts in the latest package will complement a stream of heavy armor and advanced tanks that Ukraine has long sought from the US and its NATO partners.

The new package also comes as anticipation builds for a Ukrainian counteroffensive this spring. Western arms have flowed into Ukraine for months, and Ukraine’s military has the capacity to carry out offensives during the spring and possibly into the summer, according to Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses.

After this next round of fighting, however, Kyiv’s partners may have trouble replenishing Ukraine’s arsenal to the level needed for a clear advantage over Russian forces, Kofman said on an April 3 episode of the War on the Rocks podcast.

Ukrainian soldiers of the Aidar battalion at their artillery position in Donetsk oblast, on April 4, 2023.Ukrainian soldiers of the Aidar battalion at an artillery position in Donetsk on April 4.

Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

While providing Ukraine with enough ammunition and artillery to sustain defensive operations is one thing, Kofman said, it’s another to give Kyiv the equipment and ammunition needed “to attain a decisive advantage over Russian forces” when Ukraine is on the offensive.

“However this offensive goes, Ukraine is going to lose personnel, it’s going to lose equipment, and it’s going to spend a lot of ammunition,” Kofman said.

Losses in Bakhmut — where Ukrainian troops have fought a bloody months-long battle against attacking Russian forces — and in other battles may factor in at that point, “because after this, there’s a good chance that Ukraine may be living paycheck to paycheck in terms of what it gets in military assistance from the United States and from Western countries in key categories,” Kofman said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be the case, but it very well could be.”

After a future offensive, Ukraine’s military will have to replenish its stocks of artillery ammunition and replace its troop losses.

The challenge may end up being that “after this offensive the Ukrainian military doesn’t have enough left in the tank, so to speak, to sustain the momentum and then has to go into another operational pause that becomes a period of indeterminate fighting,” Kofman said.

“Then after that period comes the question of whether or not Western countries have the will and the capacity to provide Ukraine a sufficient military advantage again,” Kofman added.

Ukrainian soldier of the Aidar battalion fires artillery in the direction of Bakhmut in Donetsk oblast, on April 4, 2023.Members of the Aidar battalion fires artillery toward Bakhmut on April 4.

Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After a year of intense fighting in Ukraine, each side’s losses remain unclear, but estimates put the totals as high as 200,000 troops for Russia and 120,000 for Ukraine.

Hundreds of pieces of valuable military equipment, like tanks and artillery pieces, have also been destroyed, and both sides have burned through artillery shells, sometimes tens of thousands of them a day.

The high casualties and ammunition expenditures have alarmed some in NATO. “The scale of this war is out of proportion with all of our recent thinking,” US Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said earlier this year, adding that defense industrial production capacity “remains vital, absolutely vital.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in February that Ukraine is using a massive amount of munitions and that the fierce rate of fire is straining defense firms and Western stockpiles. Because of these battlefield trends, the US has been scrambling to provide more ammunition to Ukraine while seeking to boost production for its own stocks.

While Western countries have announced a number of investments in defense production in recent months, such investments should’ve been made last year or earlier “in order to be relevant in what could be the decisive period of the war, which is the coming months,” Kofman said.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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