Mon, 26 February 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

Ukraine: Is Europe starting to change its strategy?

Update : 07 Feb 2024, 10:14

Several high-ranking NATO military officials recently warned, within days of each other, that the alliance needs to prepare itself for conflict with Russia.

"We have to realize it's not a given that we are in peace," Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, warned at a press conference following a two-day meeting at the end of January.

Against the backdrop of Russia's large-scale attack on Ukraine, launched two years ago this month, the Oslo daily newspaper Dagbladet reported that General Eirik Kristoffersen, the head of the Norwegian armed forces, said there was now a "window of perhaps two or three years in which we must invest even more in secure defense." Meanwhile, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces in neighboring Sweden, Micael Byden, also urged his compatriots and politicians to "move from understanding to action."

Several high-ranking NATO military officials recently warned, within days of each other, that the alliance needs to prepare itself for conflict with Russia.

"We have to realize it's not a given that we are in peace," Dutch Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, warned at a press conference following a two-day meeting at the end of January.

Against the backdrop of Russia's large-scale attack on Ukraine, launched two years ago this month, the Oslo daily newspaper Dagbladet reported that General Eirik Kristoffersen, the head of the Norwegian armed forces, said there was now a "window of perhaps two or three years in which we must invest even more in secure defense." Meanwhile, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces in neighboring Sweden, Micael Byden, also urged his compatriots and politicians to "move from understanding to action."

Military leaders' plea to politicians

Experts see this as a plea from military leaders to European politicians for a change in strategy in the conflict with Russia. In an interview with DW, German security expert Nico Lange commented that the hope of a swift end to the war in Ukraine, aided by Western arms deliveries on one hand and sanctions against Russia's war economy on the other, had not been realized.

Above all, both military leaders and analysts are concerned about the lack of ammunition and new military equipment, and about current arms production capacities in Europe.

In this respect, NATO's military deterrence potential is closely interlinked with supplying Ukraine. Last year, the EU promised to deliver one million shells to Ukraine by March. That promise was not fulfilled. According to Lange — an expert on Ukraine and Russia who also works for the Munich Security Conference — one reason was that the German government was too late issuing underwriting guarantees to manufacturers.

"They're doing it now, two years later," Lange says. Yet Ukraine is not the only one urgently in need of these supplies. So are the NATO countries' depleted ammunition depots.

Investment in drones, ammunition, combat vehicles

In the worst-case scenario, Lange says, NATO has only five years in which to upgrade its weaponry, to ensure it can still successfully deter a potential Russian attack on NATO territory. An analysis by Christian Mölling, head of the Center for Security and Defense at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), drew a lot of attention at the end of 2023 when it pointed this out.

In a more recent analysis, Gustav Gressel from the Berlin-based think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) wrote, "The West and Europeans in particular need to overhaul their financial regulations and create economies of scale to radically stimulate the production of drones, ammunition, armored fighting vehicles, and more."

Gressel says the strategy of supplying Ukraine primarily with familiar, Soviet-produced weapons from the reserve stocks of Eastern European states is reaching its end because there is simply nothing left. He warns that weapons production has to be ramped up massively — for both Ukraine and European NATO countries.

Tactical withdrawals from liberated territory?

In this second winter of war in Ukraine, military leaders and analysts are focused above all on Ukraine's inferiority in artillery combat with Russia. It seems that Russia is able to plug its obvious gaps with supplies from North Korea, whereas Ukraine has been forced to ration ammunition.

In a recent podcast from the series "War on the Rocks," analyst Michael Kofman from the American Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) said Russia has "established a five-to-one fires advantage at the front" — that is five Russian missiles launched for every Ukrainian shell. More pessimistic analyses put this ratio at 10-to-1.

Kofman believes it is possible the Ukrainians will have to withdraw from the contested town of Avdiivka on the eastern front. There is also a danger of a major Russian attack on the city of Kupiansk, further north.

In a recent radio interview, Christian Mölling of the DGAP said it was increasingly clear that the past two years of delays in supplying Ukraine with ammunition and military equipment now mean it will have to withdraw from territory it has liberated.

 

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