Nato to send more, and possibly more powerful, weapons to Ukraine

Nato to send more, and possibly more powerful, weapons to Ukraine
Ukraine has been calling on the West to supply it with more powerful weapons and it is starting to get them. The UK delivered ship-killing harpoon missiles to Odesa this week. / wiki
By bne IntelliNews April 7, 2022

Nato will strengthen its military support by sending more weapons to Ukraine, possibly including more powerful offensive weapons, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg suggested during a press conference on April 7.

The Secretary-General said Nato was stepping up its military support for Ukraine “in many different ways” but remained uncharacteristically coy about what the nature of that support would be. He indirectly suggested it might be more powerful than the “tank-busting” Javelin missiles that have been sent by the US already before the war started on February 24 and whose deliveries have massively increased since.

The US Defence Department disclosed a list of weapons sent to Ukraine. In a memo circulated by the White House on April 7, the list included: At least 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems; more than 5,000 Javelin anti-armour systems; more than 7,000 small arms; 50mn rounds of ammunition; 45,000 sets of body armour and helmets; laser-guided rocket systems; night vision devices, thermal imagery systems, and optics.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for heavy weapons to defeat Russia. “If the world wants this war to end quickly, we need to be provided with these weapons,” Zelensky told the Indian Republic Media Network. He added that Russia is ready to use all kinds of weapons against Ukraine, including nuclear if it sees that Ukrainian partners are weak.

When asked by a reporter if the latest weapons Nato was supplying are defensive or offensive weapons, Stoltenberg said that he would prefer not to give details of the kinds of weapons being considered.

He added that “the question doesn't make sense, as Ukraine has been attacked and all its weapons are being used to defend itself,” but added a “wide range of weapons” would be supplied.

Stoltenberg said Nato countries, but not Nato as an organisation, are supplying many kinds of arms, but that the 30 allies can do more.

Since the massacre in Kyiv’s suburb of Bucha on April 3, Western support for Ukraine has stiffened and has already translated into more weapons deliveries.

Stoltenberg was speaking after a meeting of foreign ministers of the Nato alliance, as well as Ukraine, the European Union, Finland, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, at the end of a two-day meeting.

The UK has sent Ukraine ship-killing Harpoon missiles that have already arrived in Odesa and can be used against the Russian warships off the coast that have been shelling the city in recent days.

The US has also ramped up its weapons supplies to Kyiv. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a day earlier that “there are now ten Javelin missiles for every Russian tank.” The US has also said that it will send 100 Soviet era tanks to Ukraine, although no Nato personnel will go there.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba added to the speculation that more powerful weapons are on their way to Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been scathing in his criticism of the West’s lack of material support in its war against Russia and has called for more weapons to help it confront the invading forces. In an address to the UN on April 5 he told the organisation that it could either help Ukraine expel Russia from his country or “dissolve itself.”

In particular, Kyiv has been calling for tanks and jets to assist in the campaign, something that Nato has been reluctant to provide, afraid of escalating the war into a direct confrontation between the 35-member alliance and Russia.

Those fears seem to have been overcome after the Bucha massacre. When asked about western supplies of weapons to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Kuleba said that it was now just a question of the “timeline for when we get them,” without detailing what weapons will be sent.

"My agenda for the discussion (today) had only three items: it is weapons, weapons and weapons,” Kuleba said shortly before Stoltenberg spoke.

Kuleba said he was "cautiously optimistic" that some Nato members would increase their weapons supplies to Ukraine, but declined to say which countries would be providing equipment or what kind they would be. But he said the weapons must get to Ukraine quickly.

“One month ago you could ask what will be given. Today it is more important when they will be given. This is something that allies have to sort out and find suitable solutions… Either you help us now and I'm speaking about days, not weeks or, your help will come too late.”

Kuleba argued that by supplying Ukraine with more weapons to defend itself Nato is also investing in its own security, “so that President Putin will have no chance to test Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.”

If Nato supplies Ukraine with more powerful weapons then it runs the risk of being pulled into the conflict. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said three weeks ago that Russia could consider the Nato materiel as “legitimate military targets” and even suggested that Russia might attack the deliveries “before they reached Ukrainian territory.” However, he was careful to keep his statements vague and unspecific.

Stoltenberg was clear that Nato’s first responsibility was to prevent an escalation in Ukraine to a full-scale confrontation between Nato and Russia. But he went on to warn that if the war in Ukraine was protracted then that danger was a real possibility.

"Nato is not sending troops to be on the ground. We also have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from escalating beyond Ukraine, and become even more deadly, even more dangerous and destructive,'' he said.

Hopes for a peace deal have also taken a step backwards after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at an event in Moscow, said that the Ukrainian delegation had made changes to their proposals made in peace talks in Istanbul on March 29 that are “unacceptable.”

The peace negotiations are continuing on a day-basis in a videoconference format between the two teams. Kyiv proposed a ten-point list of proposals in Istanbul that was met positively by the Kremlin. However, reportedly the two sides have got stuck over the status of Crimea and the Donbas.

A fifth package of EU sanctions was imposed on Russia on April 5 that targeted Russian energy exports for the first time by banning coal imports from Russia. However, the ban proved controversial and was still being discussed by EU leaders two days later. The US also imposed a fifth package of sanctions on April 6 that hit Russia’s banking sector again and also sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two daughters.