NATO defense ministers are attending a two-day meeting to discuss further military aid to Ukraine as the country wages what increasingly appears to be a losing battle of attrition against numerically superior Russian forces to the country’s east and south.
U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin, who convened the meeting, urged the participating nations to demonstrate “our unwavering determination to get Ukraine the capabilities that it urgently needs to defend itself.”
“We must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense, and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory,” Austin added.
Last month, President Joe Biden acknowledged in an op-ed for the New York Times that the war in Ukraine can only end through a negotiated settlement. But, Biden added, “Every negotiation reflects the facts on the ground. We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.” Neither the Biden administration nor NATO’s leadership have clarified precisely what battlefield successes Ukraine’s armed forces should or can achieve before peace talks can commence.
Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov, who attended the meeting, said he was grateful for all of the military aid that has already been provided to Ukraine. “But we can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam,” Reznikov said, as per the Associated Press, reiterating Kyiv’s stance that current levels of Western military assistance are not nearly enough to enable the Ukrainian military to beat back Russia’s artillery-driven campaign in the eastern Donbass region. “No matter how much effort Ukraine makes, no matter how professional our army, without the help of Western partners we will not be able to win this war,” said Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Malyar, adding that Russian forces currently use roughly ten times more artillery rounds per day than their Ukrainian counterparts.
“Allies are committed to continue providing the military equipment that Ukraine needs to prevail, including heavy weapons and long-range systems,” said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, adding that he expects the alliance to draft a comprehensive Ukraine security assistance package at NATO’s upcoming Madrid summit later in June. "Sometimes these efforts take time. That's exactly why it is important to have a meeting like we have today... to meet with the Ukrainian representatives to identify the challenges and the issues they would like to raise with us when," Stoltenberg added.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.