Ahead of the meeting of the Ukraine contact group at NATO headquarters, Ukraine made its requirements clear. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, when asked what military aid his country is seeking now, showed reporters an image of a fighter jet.
Questioned about where he hoped they might come from, Reznikov said only: “From the sky.”
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushed hard for combat planes last week when he visited London, Paris and Brussels on just his second foreign trip since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, 2022. That plea came days after Western allies pledged to provide Kyiv with tanks.
What NATO allies have on their mind, though, is how to keep up a steady supply of ammunition to Ukraine without depleting their own stockpiles.
According to some estimates, Ukraine is firing up to 6,000-7,000 artillery shells each day, around a third of the daily amount that Russia is using.
Moscow’s forces have been pressing in the east of Ukraine while bolstering their defensive lines in the south. The war has been largely static during the winter months, though both sides are expected to launch offensives when the weather improves.
The Russians appear short on resources for any major offensive at the moment, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Tuesday. “Overall, the current operational picture suggests that Russian forces are being given orders to advance in most sectors, but that they have not massed sufficient offensive combat power on any one axis to achieve a decisive effect,” it tweeted.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that finding ammunition and air defenses is “much more important at the moment than the discussion about fighter jets.”
Pistorius told reporters that getting pilots up to speed on new aircraft and “training just to fly them takes several months, never mind teaching the abilities needed to deploy the weapons systems.”
He said Ukraine’s partners “should focus on what is now at center stage, particularly in view of a Russian offensive that is apparently taking place.”
He said Germany has signed a deal to produce ammunition for self-propelled, anti-aircraft guns it provided to Ukraine, after Kyiv ran into problems finding munitions elsewhere.
That ammunition is crucial for Kyiv to counter Russian attacks, especially on Ukraine’s power infrastructure aimed at disrupting heating and drinking water supply.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday urged Ukraine’s Western allies to step up their military support.
Asked when he expects Russia’s so-called spring offensive to begin, Stoltenberg said that “the reality is that we have seen the start already.”
“For me, this just highlights the importance of timing. It’s urgent to provide Ukraine with more weapons,” he told reporters in Brussels.
Stoltenberg said that NATO sees “no sign whatsoever that President Putin is preparing for peace” and that arming Ukraine more quickly could save lives by bringing a quicker end to the conflict.
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