As Russia launches new offensive, aid from Western allies for Ukraine could be too little too late – POLITICO

More weapons. More money. More penalties. More commitments to provide security guarantees.

Major Western allies on Tuesday promised Ukraine more than just about every kind of assistance, but could offer no further assurances that none of it would stop Russia’s brutal new military assault on eastern Ukraine, or prevent the Kremlin’s armies from conquering Ukraine. all of Donbas or commit further atrocities of the war.

The pledges of additional support came after a video conference of allied leaders called by US President Joe Biden. But, in fact, the promises were largely a recitation of previously promised aid to Ukraine, with only vague suggestions of new assistance, raising the risk that Ukrainian forces will run out of ammunition and weapons at a potentially decisive moment. in the war. .

Russia unleashed a fierce bombardment on Monday night, hitting targets across Ukraine as it began what senior Kremlin officials described as a new phase of the war centered on the eastern Donbas region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials have asked the West for more weapons and ammunition, while insisting that their forces will not hand over any territory.

Joining Biden’s video conference on Tuesday were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Polish President , Andrzej Duda, the Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis, and the British Prime Minister, Boris. Johnson, as well as the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

A senior EU official said it was important for the leaders to reconnect, but also acknowledged there was “no real outcome” to the call. Rather, the official said, the leaders gave updates on assistance being provided by individual nations and discussed theoretical plans to help ensure Ukraine’s future security and to rebuild the country.

In the meantime, however, the fierce battles already underway in eastern Ukraine could determine the fate of the country. “What happens in the east could have a catastrophic effect on the whole situation in Ukraine,” the senior official said.

Asked as he disembarked from Air Force One landing Tuesday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, if he would send more ordnance to Ukraine, Biden replied simply, “Yes.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki then offered minimal additional clarity, saying, “Yes, President Biden and leaders on the call this morning did talk about providing more ammunition and security assistance to Ukraine.”

The White House had previously announced $800 million in additional military assistance, which senior Pentagon officials said had begun arriving by air shipments on Monday, followed by seven more cargo flights in the coming days. It was unclear whether Biden’s “yes” reflected any aid beyond what was already approved.

Meanwhile, Scholz, the German chancellor, made vague comments of his own on Tuesday, suggesting that Berlin was prepared to help resupply Eastern European NATO allies that provide Ukraine with Soviet-made weapons.

Germany said late last week it would provide more than 1 billion euros in military assistance, in part by offering money for Ukraine to make its own purchases in order to sidestep a debate over shipping heavy weapons such as tanks.

But after the video conference, it was still unclear how much help Germany was willing to provide, or exactly what kinds of heavy weaponry it would allow to buy with its help. Instead, Scholz focused on making use of Russian-made material currently possessed by Eastern European nations.

Western allies, Scholz said, “have come to the same conclusion that it makes more sense if weapons systems that are still in use in NATO’s eastern partner countries are put into use from there, and then we make sure that the very security of those countries remains assured in the future.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Scholz said Western countries would provide the necessary money for Ukraine to “buy military equipment from industrial production in our countries,” referring to a decision made last week.

While Scholz said this could also involve heavier weapons that “can be used in an artillery battle,” he again ruled out handing over German tanks like the Leopard or Marder, which kyiv had repeatedly asked for, to Ukraine.

A diplomatic adviser to Macron, the French president, said the leaders had used the videoconference to discuss “security guarantees” for Ukraine, which would be “strong enough to prevent another war.” The adviser added: “We will need an international framework to respond to those needs.”

But such discussions seemed oddly premature given the ongoing active Russian assault on Donbass and the continued fierce shelling of besieged cities, including Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces and civilians are holed up in a metallurgy factor. The French official said Macron had not spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin since the revelations of atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other cities near kyiv that had been occupied by Russian forces.

A video conference readout from the Italian prime minister’s office made no mention of the proposed security guarantees.

Instead, the Chigi Palace summary highlighted the consensus among allied leaders on “the need to reach a ceasefire as soon as possible” and “the importance of close coordination regarding support for Ukraine in all its dimensions, with particular attention to the contribution to the country’s budget”.

The Italian summary also cited the “need to increase pressure on the Kremlin, including by adopting more sanctions, and increase Moscow’s international isolation,” as well as “the common commitment to diversify energy sources…reducing the dependency on Russian supplies.

In London, a Downing Street spokesman said Prime Minister Johnson had “updated leaders on his visit to kyiv earlier this month” and “stressed the critical need for increased military support for Ukraine in the face of a major Russian offensive.” in the Donbas and ongoing”. attacks elsewhere.

Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, told his counterparts on the call that Tokyo now plans to provide $300 million in loans to Ukraine, up from $100 million, according to Japan’s foreign ministry.

The British spokesman added: “The leaders agreed to work together to find a long-term security solution so that Ukraine can never again be attacked in this way. They discussed the need to increase pressure on Russia with more sanctions against Putin’s war machine, as well as more diplomatic isolation.”

In the call, Western leaders did not review their decision to refrain from direct intercession in the Ukraine conflict, meaning that whatever aid is sent in the coming days, Ukrainian forces will continue to fight Russia on their own.

“The leaders affirmed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemned the humanitarian suffering caused by Russia’s unprovoked and unwarranted invasion,” said Psaki, the White House spokeswoman. “They also discussed their respective diplomatic commitments and their coordinated efforts to continue to impose severe economic costs to hold Russia to account.”

Meanwhile, in the nearly destroyed southeastern city of Mariupol, Ukraine officials said Russian forces were using bunker buster bombs to attack the Azovstal metallurgical plant, where civilians had sought refuge and some Ukrainian forces were making a last stand.

A Zelenskyy adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, called on Western powers to create humanitarian evacuation corridors from the Azovstal plant. Otherwise, he tweeted, “the blood will be on their hands too.”

Maïa de La Baume, Cristina Gallardo, Hans von der Burchard, and Hannah Roberts contributed to this report.

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