Russia’s War in Ukraine: Western Military Assistance

The tenth Brief in the “Russia’s War in Ukraine” series concerns the Western military assistance to Ukraine. 

Tony Lawrence, the Head of the Defence Policy and Strategy Programme at ICDS, examines donor dilemmas, and how the Western military assistance has changed the course of the war.

He highlights the steps made by Western Allies even before the 24th of February, and their considerations regarding “offensive” and long-range weapons, as well as Russia’s efforts to discourage donors. He concludes that most weapons can be used for both offence and defence, and therefore the Allies earlier argued about self-imposed restrictions. He states that the offensive-defensive dilemma was largely resolved when the war shifted to the east. Donor dilemmas include fear of escalation, the apparently limited capacity of manufacturers to produce replacements, and ensuring that Ukraine is provided with what it needs.

Lawrence concludes that the West’s military assistance, far from being historically unprecedented, has been uneven and broadly cautious. Ukraine’s victories are Ukraine’s alone, but they could not have been achieved without Western assistance. The outcome of the war will depend to a large extent on Western supply of weapons and equipment to Ukraine, as Russia’s military strength degrades.

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