February 2023NATO

FOCUS on NATO: Receiving Aid

Madeline Rowe
Campus News Editor

A new plan will allow Ukraine to receive military aid from countries including the United States and Germany, which may begin a new chapter in the Russo-Ukrainian war. According to the U.S. Department of State, the intended effects of providing aid include reinforcing support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and allowing Ukraine the necessary equipment to defend itself against Russian forces. The offensive weapons the U.S. and Germany are allocating to Ukraine stand in stark contrast to the defensive weapons that Ukraine currently uses and will alert Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine is prepared to reclaim territory.   

The threat of an impending Russian counteroffensive this spring has led Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to repeatedly ask Western allies for modern tanks, CNN states. CNN provides background on the conflict that led up to the plan concerning military aid, explaining that for weeks, Poland and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) pressured Germany to allow Poland to supply the much-needed Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

An estimated 2,000 German-made Leopard tanks are held across more than 12 European nations. Poland had expressed intent to send its supply to Ukraine, even without the approval of Germany, which is required by the treaty. Ultimately, Germany will allow Poland to send its Leopard 2 tanks, a decision following the announcement of a U.S. plan to provide tanks to Ukraine, resolving U.S. apprehension to comply with Ukrainian requests for more sophisticated weaponry. 

Ukraine will receiving 14 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany, 31 Abrams tanks from the U.S., and 14 Challenger 2 tanks from the United Kingdom, in addition to the military equipment provided by upwards of 30 countries since the beginning of the invasion in February 2022, lists BBC News. The German Leopard 2 tanks are easier to maintain and require less fuel than some other Western tanks, while the 31 American tanks are of limited use on the battlefield and are thus more of a display of support than an attempt to change the Ukrainian strategic outlook. Although the Challenger 2 tanks are not as modern as some military options, they are more advanced than many tanks currently available to Ukrainian armed forces. 

NATO’s new move regarding military aid helps to reinforce the organization’s strength and support for Ukraine. However, although offensive, the new military aid being provided in Ukraine is not an attempt from NATO to threaten Russia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg regards the tanks as a way to “significantly strengthen [Ukraine’s] combat capabilities,” CNN reports. The aid will be utilized in the continuous effort to reclaim Ukrainian territory, and more than anything, is a message to Russia that Western aid to Ukraine is unrelenting. 

In addition to the West’s late-January decision to increase military aid, NATO has supported allies of Ukraine as they provide humanitarian and non-lethal aid, NATO explains. Its overarching goal is to support Ukraine as the country maintains its United Nations Charter-protected right of self-defense. NATO has also committed to support Ukraine as it rebuilds and reforms after the war. For now, Ukraine continues to wait for tanks to arrive, and even after the arrival of the tanks, members of the Ukrainian military must receive proper training to operate them. All of this contributes to the delay in Ukraine getting these necessary tanks onto the battlefield. 

As many Western officials believe that Russian forces are in a weak position, Zelensky believes that the forces supplied by the West will not only allow Russia to defend itself but may allow Ukraine to retake territory. While the new kind of aid Ukraine is receiving may increase chances of success within the war, the Center for Strategic and International Studies acknowledges that the new tanks alone will not guarantee a Ukrainian victory, but will instead bolster the estimated 800 tanks it already possesses. Victory for Ukraine will be secured with combinations of training for soldiers, the continuation of aid being provided by NATO, and with the resistance of Ukrainian citizens.

Image courtesy of NATO, Flickr

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