Analysis: West plans to increase military aid to Ukraine as Russia plots next big assault

Zelensky’s latest appeal, which has Western leaders wondering how far they are willing to test President Vladimir Putin’s red lines, came as he warned there were ‘tens of thousands of dead’ in the southern port city of Mariupol which has endured weeks of bombardment. .

“Ukraine needs support for its army, including planes and tanks,” Zelensky said in a virtual speech to South Korea’s parliament on Monday.

“South Korea has various defense systems that could defend against Russian tanks, ships and missiles,” Zelensky said.

“If Ukraine can have these weapons, not only will they save ordinary people’s lives, but they will save Ukraine,” he said.

The heroic resistance of Ukrainian troops, with the help of Western anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, has already won a famous victory: the rescue of the kyiv government and Zelensky. But now Russia has appointed a new general to lead what has been a chaotic war effort and is regrouping its forces in eastern Ukraine for a fearsome and concentrated assault that could stretch outnumbered Ukrainian forces like never before. previously.

The shift in strategy is forcing Western leaders to ponder their own willingness to supply more offensive weaponry to kyiv ahead of what promises to be a vicious battle that could dictate Ukraine’s survival as a nation-state.

The pressure on the West to do more is heightened by the fact that Russia’s new approach bodes even more carnage for the civilians it has deliberately targeted with a vicious war plan.

As Washington weighs how to respond to Russia’s latest maneuvers, the US capital breathed sighs of relief when French President Emmanuel Macron won the first round of the presidential election. But the survival in power of a key member of the Western ruling coalition will only be assured if he can beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen – a longtime Putin sympathizer – in the tight campaign ahead. the second round in two weeks.
New questions for the West about how best to bolster Ukraine’s resistance follow concern in Washington early in the war over opposition to Putin with, for example, the transfer of jet planes from the Soviet era from NATO states like Poland to Ukraine. More recently, the United States has signaled its readiness to help partners get Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine. And Britain has pledged a robust arms package following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spectacular visit to Kyiv on Saturday.

Decisions on exactly what kind of weapons to supply could hinge on what endgame the West sees in the country, especially after Zelensky’s increasingly caustic calls for more offensive weapons in the wake of the discovery. atrocities against Ukrainian civilians when Russian forces withdrew from kyiv.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, gave the impression Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Washington’s policy would follow kyiv’s lead. But he also hinted that broader US assistance and unprecedented sanctions against the Russian economy were also aimed at better positioning Ukraine for future ceasefire talks – despite those efforts having failed so far. at present, given that there are few signs that Putin is serious about a de-escalation.

“This is not the story of someone standing by,” Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “We are taking aggressive action with the goal of both helping Ukrainians succeed on the battlefield and helping Ukrainians get the best possible position at the negotiating table.”

But Republican Representative Liz Cheney has given voice to a faction in Washington that says the United States should do much more, although the Wyoming congresswoman does not advocate sending American troops to Ukraine. Western leaders fear igniting a direct conflict with Russia amid fears of a nuclear escalation.

“We shouldn’t be talking, as Jake Sullivan did earlier, about improving Zelensky’s position at the negotiating table,” Cheney said, also on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s about defeating Russian forces in Ukraine. It’s about much more than Ukraine,” Cheney said, calling for tanks, artillery and armored equipment to be sent to the country. “We need to do a lot more, faster.”

Russia tackles escalation in eastern Ukraine

CNN reported over the weekend that Putin had, for the first time, put a single military officer in charge of invading Ukraine, which has so far been plagued by poor strategy, problems of supplies, indiscipline and low morale of the troops.
The appointment of Army General Alexander Dvornikov as commander of Russia’s Southern Military District has raised alarm bells in Washington.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned that Dvornikov was responsible for the “atrocities we saw in Syria” and promised that the United States would continue to work to ensure that Ukraine has the weapons she needs.

Washington vacillated between supplying Ukraine with materials that would enable it to repel the Russian invasion and inflict heavy toll on Putin’s troops and being seen as taking steps that would turn the war into a direct confrontation between the United States. United and Russia, which could cause a dangerous escalation.

But there are now clear signs that the West is reassessing where those red lines lie as the war enters a new stage. The process comes as the world reels from atrocities against civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and an attack on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk that refugees were using to flee fighting in the east. from Ukraine.

Cheney told CNN the attack “is clearly genocide.” US and Western officials have stopped using the designation, citing the need for legal process over a term usually used with precision, but have frequently accused Putin and his troops of committing war crimes.

Both Psaki and Sullivan mentioned a two-hour call that took place between senior US military and administrative officials and senior Ukrainian officials last week. During this call, the Ukrainians compiled a list, item by item, of the equipment and armaments they requested. PSAKI said the administration was working to ensure that if the United States could not provide the requested materials, its allies could.

Johnson, for example, presented a package of equipment that the UK was prepared to provide, including 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems.

The limits that Washington could impose on the criteria of armament available to the Ukrainians were unclear.

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