Ukraine has been provided with military weapons and equipment by more than thirty counties since the onset of the Ukaraine-Russia conflict in Feb 2022. On his visit to the US, Mr Zelensky said that the US is not doing any charity by supplying military aid to Ukraine but investing in security for the future.
In terms of spending on military weapons and equipment since the start of this conflict, the US has committed about $18.5 billion, highest so far compared to other countries, followed by Germany, the UK, and Poland. And if other aid such as humanitarian, financial and social clubbed together, the total amount goes to $50 billion. As per some estimates, Ukraine’s cost of defense is about $5 billion per month. [i]
After Russia invaded Ukraine, many European countries pledged to enhance the upcoming military budgets. The war may fast-track to a continuing trend in global military expenditure; in April, SIPRI stated that roughly the global military spending would reach $2.1 trillion in 2021, which could be an all-time high.
Eastern Europe’s arms industry is booming and roiling out guns, artillery shells and other military equipment much faster in attempts to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia. This was not seen since the Cold War’s end in 1991. Eastern Europe’s weapons industry dates back to the 19th Century when Czech Emil Skoda began manufacturing weapons for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. [ii]
French President Emmanuel Macron took many military strategists by surprise last week when he declared that France would provide ‘light tanks’ to assist Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Similar commitments from the US and Germany followed quickly after this. These systems offer Ukrainian forces critical new capabilities, but they also pose logistical hurdles and the potential for an escalation of conflict. [iii]
The vast range of weaponry, training, spare parts and other support is necessary, but the most important thing is that the man behind the machine matters the most, which Ukraine lacks.
The weapons supplied to Ukraine, which proved very effective, are shoulder-launched anti-tank weapons, unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and mobile rocket launchers. They are game-changing systems that have helped Ukraine derail Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign.
Implications of weapons and military equipment supplied to Ukraine. Though the merits of supplying weapons to Ukraine have been much publicized, a dispassionate assessment of the associated risks has occurred mainly behind closed doors and not discussed in public. Ukraine’s right to self-defense, taking a stand against an illegal war of conquest, and military reverses to Russia could decide the further flow of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine. Whatever success is achieved by Ukraine’s armed forces, much of its credit goes to weapons and military equipment supplied to Ukraine.
Since the Ukraine-Russia conflict started, a debate has been swirling among the US and other NATO allies about whether the states can supply weapons to Ukraine or not in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict. Some have begun to worry that this supply of weapons violates the law of neutrality, which might be an act of war against Russia. Some officials in the US warned that arming the Ukrainians could make the countries co-combatants or parties to this ongoing conflict.
As the Ukraine-Russia conflict indicates remote chances of abating, Ukraine’s Western associates are struggling to uphold a supply of arms, ammunition and military equipment to Ukraine, which has been recognized as decisive on the battlefield, without letting their stockpiles fall to the point that it could jeopardize their own readiness levels. [iv]
Flooding Ukraine with weapons, ammunition and military equipment does not come without risk. Despite the fact that the results may justify the means, there are a host of security and strategic implications that policymakers, legislators, and the public must anticipate carefully to put safety measures in place to avert future conflict, violence, and instability.
The most apparent and instantaneous risk of the weapons supply in Ukraine is infuriating and aggravating twisting with Russia, which, at least verbally, has stated that international military support to Ukraine is equivalent to partaking in the conflict itself. Transfers of the most advanced missile systems with their longer ranges and at least the technical ability to reach into Russian territory have been seen as provocative. Ukraine has already conducted cross-border raids, thus raising the stake and risking escalation. Russia has already conducted retaliatory measures and even has issued a nuclear threat.
Digression is a risk inbuilt intrinsic to all arms transfers. However, it becomes particularly severe when there is ongoing fighting and when the transfer of weapons is made at such a vast scale without proper safety and security in place. Such an extraordinary outpouring and vast build-up of new military hardware will likely go beyond Kyiv’s inherent absorbent capacity despite battlefield needs. Handling the logistics of such massive stockpiles is complex and beyond the capacity of Ukraine. Now that the attention is comprehensibly fixated on the frontlines, the risk that equipment could be lost or find its way to illegal markets is dangerously high.
Furthermore, Ukraine has an unfortunate history of the illicit arms trade. When USSR collapsed, Ukraine’s considerable stockpiles of Soviet arms, ammunition and military equipment became a very lucrative source of funds for criminal entrepreneurs.[v] Widespread new weaponry, loose controls, rapidly shifting political and governance dynamics and active hostilities led to the extensive looting of military and security facilities after the war in Crimea in 2014. Also, the US and its allies had such an experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The war now moves into a long-drawn-out phase defined by heavy artillery and long-range rocket and missile exchanges. The dangers to people who remain in war zone areas will aggravate. Though Russia has been mainly responsible for destroying cities and towns, the risk of civilian damage at the hands of Ukrainians using western supplied weaponry also remains high. Ukraine’s war in the Donbas has been active since 2014 and has included indiscriminate destruction by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
With the earnestness to facelift Ukraine’s combat zone situation, the Western world, led by the US, is intentionally or unintentionally becoming part of the conflict. Allowing Ukraine’s right to self-defense is a worthy endeavor with moral and strategic necessities. That support is not incompatible with open-eyed assessments of the immediate and long-term risks. Neither the Western world led by the US nor Ukraine is well served by failing to consider them entirely. And while it may be easy to dismiss these concerns by assuming they’ve already been weighed in and considered by the countries supplying these weapons.
There is a need to develop measures to enhance the monitoring and vetting by the western world through their intelligence agencies. Must devise reduction measures now when their effect is more meaningful. This could include more robust end contextually tailored end-use monitoring procedures that reflect the difficulty and complexity of Ukraine’s operating environment. The transfer of weapons and military equipment to Ukraine by the Western world led by the US creates additional responsibilities.