Ukraine emerging as major military power between NATO and Russia (2023)

A steady supply of Western military equipment could enable Ukraine to surpass Russian military stockpiles as the war unfolds, thus neutralizing a key advantage for the Kremlin and establishing a substantial military buffer between NATO and Russia.

“We can see that we receive weapons even from those countries who are not that much sure about [Ukraine’s] current application [to join NATO], as they're afraid to provoke the Russian Federation,” Dr. Hanna Shelest, an Odesa-based nonresident senior fellow for the Center for European Policy Analysis, told the Washington Examiner. “It seems to me that [with respect to] NATO application, we should speak more from the political point of view, while the weapons delivery more from the defense and deterrence point of view.”

(Video) Russia's military power: What the Ukraine war has taught us

The intended arms deliveries reflect a mix of commercial sales to Ukraine by Western defense companies and aid from the United States, the United Kingdom, and other NATO allies. Ukraine’s private sector arrangements are so substantial that Czech defense companies, one of the largest defense industries in Europe, “in many areas that are most needed, are sold out, only for Ukraine, for the next two years,” according to Czech Deputy Defense Minister Tomas Kopecny. Those supply networks could empower Ukraine, even as U.S. export controls and Western sanctions constrain Russia’s ability to replace the military equipment lost during its ill-starred campaign in Ukraine this year.

“They will get more and more of the military material they need, including heavy weapons,” Kopecny told the Washington Examiner. “Whereas Russia, as of now, does have a very limited stockpile that is currently still superior in quantities to the Ukrainians, but is finite with no significant refills on the horizon.”

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Kopecny and other Czech Republic officials have worked to provide about $160 million of military aid to Ukraine while brokering arms sales to Ukraine worth millions more. That assistance included heavy weapons that Czech officials rushed into Ukraine at a time when President Joe Biden’s team was still debating how to balance Ukraine’s requests for artillery against the fear of Russian retaliation, giving Prague an outsize battlefield impact.

Still, U.S. support has dwarfed all other donors, with $16.9 billion worth of arms deliveries since Feb. 24. That assistance began with the anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles that allowed Ukrainian forces to win the battle of Kyiv in March and April before expanding to include scores of howitzers, thousands of precision-guided artillery shells, and 32 HIMARS — the multiple launch rocket systems that Ukrainian forces have used to devastating effect in eastern Ukraine.

“There's some indication that the administration understands that they should be starting now to arm the Ukrainians for the intermediate time for the long, long term, but in the next, say three to five [years],” former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor said. “I think it’s emerging as a policy.”

(Video) A look at NATO's military exercises amid Russia's war in Ukraine

Those deliveries will be supplemented by continuing U.S. assistance and Western training, as Ukraine’s resistance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to conquer the country allows officials in Kyiv and across NATO to think not only of the immediate crisis but also of the long-term strategic outcomes of the war.

“Increasingly, you’re seeing NATO standard systems going to Ukraine to deal with the ongoing Russian aggression,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Friday. “I think going forward, what Ukraine wants and needs is a strong defensive and deterrence system that makes it less likely in the future that Russia will act aggressively toward Ukraine and that if it does nonetheless do that, Ukraine is very well prepared.”

Blinken refused “to get into the details of what that involves,” but the trajectory raises the prospect of Ukraine developing the equipment and training to field a NATO-grade military, even if the former Soviet satellite state remains outside of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Those provisions will figure prominently in a wider effort to improve the defenses of 17 other countries “potentially at risk of future Russian aggression,” as Blinken put it while visiting Kyiv last month.

The list of beneficiaries includes not only NATO allies such as Poland and the Baltic states but also countries such as Ukraine and Moldova that aspire to fix their place in the constellation of Euro-Atlantic societies.

“I think that it is, again, trying to separate out the immediate war-fighting from the long term,” former Ambassador Kurt Volker, who represented the U.S. at NATO and worked as special envoy for Ukraine during Donald Trump’s presidency, told the Washington Examiner. "They'd like to establish more of a deterrent capability in these countries so that wars don't happen and we're not in this position of, 'Are we in a war? Are we not in a war? Might there be a nuclear exchange?’ — try to deter all that by investing in these countries’ capabilities.”

Such an initiative could bring the clarity of hard power to Ukraine’s security arrangements, which have existed in an amorphous and vulnerable state throughout the last three decades of Ukrainian independence. Ukraine possessed a vast stockpile of nuclear weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Kyiv agreed to relinquish that arsenal in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the U.S., and the U.K.

(Video) Russia and Ukraine: How their military forces compare

Ukraine still shared the misgivings that inspired other former Soviet vassals, such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, to join NATO, and officials in Kyiv made their own attempt to enter the security bloc. Putin claimed early in his tenure not to have a position on Ukraine’s desire to join NATO — “at the end of the day, the decision is to be taken by NATO and Ukraine,” he said in 2002 — but by 2008, he had persuaded Germany’s then-chancellor, Angela Merkel, to conclude that NATO’s admission of Ukraine to the bloc “would be a declaration of war” with Russia.

So Germany and France blocked Ukraine’s application, although NATO allies at the 2008 Bucharest Summit reserved the right to admit Ukraine at some point in the future. Still, Ukraine’s application has remained dead in the water — as recently as the 2021 NATO summit, Biden and the other leaders refused to give Ukraine the “yes or no” answer that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requested — although Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014 galvanized additional cooperation between Kyiv and the West.

“We’ll continue to send weaponry, and I would say, mainly where Canada’s expertise is, is training of Ukrainian officers,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said Friday during an appearance alongside Blinken. “We have done that since 2014. Before the war, we had trained already 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers. And so we are partnering with the U.K. on this, and we are training out of the U.K. many of the Ukrainian officers.”

Such training initiatives are seeding Ukrainian forces with an officer corps that has “much better [training] in terms of logistics, management, leadership when your mid-rank officers can make decisions,” as Shelest put it, than their Russian adversaries.

“We are training, immediately, as much as possible, our soldiers; we're already talking about 10,000 people at least,” Shelest said. “But at the same time, we're training the narrow specialists, as we call them, the specialists in the new types of the weapons that we are receiving.”

Those training programs, in conjunction with Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s proposed legislation to authorize the training of Ukrainian pilots and crews to operate U.S.-made fighter jets such as F-15s and F-16s, have raised Shelest’s hope that Ukraine eventually will be outfitted with those platforms. “It seems to me that we cracked the ice,” she said.

(Video) This is where Russia could start a war with Nato

That assessment adds an optimistic tone to a subject that has frustrated Ukrainian officials throughout the war.

“If we would start training Ukrainian pilots in March, we would have, you know, 200-300 pilots ready to fly F-16s, F-15s, A-10s, and other, you know, Western platforms you have,” a senior Ukrainian official said. “You don’t even need them, actually, because you don’t use them anymore. And that would change the conflict significantly.”

Putin is also growing desperate for a change to the conflict, as evidenced by his “partial mobilization” of available Russian conscripts in recent weeks. Yet neither that announcement nor the putative annexation of occupied territory has stemmed the advance of Ukrainian forces, who are conducting a counteroffensive across eastern Ukraine. Those developments, along with the continuance of Western equipment and training, raise the potential for Ukraine to emerge from the war as a serious military power, whether inside of NATO or without.

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“Its demonstrated performance to have the most capable military on the European continent able to fight the Russians to a standstill and indeed push them back ... that’s a capability and a confidence and a reassurance that NATO would value,” said Taylor, the former ambassador and a decorated Vietnam War veteran. “The Ukrainians now have a very capable, battle-hardened, and increasingly, increasingly lethal [military].”

FAQs

Will NATO help Ukraine in the war? ›

Since Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO has helped to reform Ukraine's armed forces and defence institutions, including with equipment and financial support. Allies have also provided training for tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops.

Why is Russia against the Ukraine being part of NATO? ›

Russia has long argued that Nato's acceptance of these countries threatens its security. It has vehemently opposed Ukraine's request to join the alliance, fearing this would encroach too closely on its territory.

What is NATO response to Russian invasion of Ukraine? ›

NATO Unified, Resolute in Face of Russia's 'Illegal' Ukraine Invasion, Austin Says. NATO stands united in its support for Ukraine and strengthening the alliance's collective defense in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today at NATO headquarters.

How strong is NATO military? ›

The combined total of Nato military personnel currently exceeds 5.4 million – around four times as many as Russia, according to Statista. It has about five times as many aircraft, four times as many armoured vehicles and three times as many military ships.

Did NATO refuse helping Ukraine? ›

NATO officials vowed support for Ukraine and worked to downplay tensions between the bloc and Russia, which refused to recognize the impeachment of Yanukovych or the Yatseniuk Government.

Did NATO send troops to Ukraine? ›

Nato member countries have been providing weaponry and logistical support, but have said they aren't sending troops into Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance. We've looked at the evidence provided for these claims of Nato boots on the ground in Ukraine.

Who blocked Ukraine from NATO? ›

Since 2018, Hungary has been blocking ministerial-level political meetings between NATO and Ukraine as a sign of protest over Ukraine violating the human rights of its ethnic minorities.

What would happen if the US and Russia went to war? ›

Nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would kill more than 5 billion people – just from starvation, study finds. The toll of nuclear war would be instantly catastrophic for those who are within the immediate path of the weapons. But a new study shows just how deadly the scope of such a war would be.

Who has the biggest army in NATO? ›

In 2022, the United States had the largest number of military personnel out of all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, with 1.35 million troops. The country with the second largest number of military personnel was Turkey, with just around 447,000 personnel.

What are the top 5 strongest countries in NATO? ›

The 10 NATO Countries With the Largest Militaries:
  • United States.
  • Turkey.
  • France.
  • Germany.
  • Italy.
  • United Kingdom.
  • Greece.
  • Spain.
18 Apr 2022

How strong is NATO compared to China? ›

Firstly, NATO has by far the most military personnel with over five million active troops – thanks largely to the US military. China has around two million soldiers while Russia has just 850,000. NATO allies also dominate in the air with over 20,000 total aircraft.

How many NATO troops are on the Russian border? ›

The number of troops under NATO command stationed across the alliance's eastern flank has reached 40,000, nearly 10 times what it was last year.

Can a country be kicked out of NATO? ›

As of 2022, no member state has rescinded their membership, although it has been considered by several countries. Notwithstanding, a number of former dependencies of NATO members have never applied for membership subsequent to their becoming independent states.

Is Japan in NATO? ›

Japan, a key United States ally and not a NATO member, has delivered defensive supplies to Ukraine and imposed tough sanctions on Russia in tandem with the other Group of Seven (G7) countries.

How devastating would a nuclear war be? ›

A global all-out nuclear war between the United States and Russia with over four thousand 100-kiloton nuclear warheads would lead, at minimum, to 360 million quick deaths.* That's about 30 million people more than the entire US population.

What the world would look like after a nuclear war? ›

In the first month following nuclear detonation, average global temperatures would plunge by about 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees C), a larger temperature change than in the last Ice Age. Ocean temperatures would drop quickly and would not return to their pre-war state even after the smoke clears.

How many people will be killed in nuclear war? ›

In the event of a larger war between the U.S. and Russia, which together are believed to hold more than 90% of the world's nuclear stockpile, an estimated 5 billion out of 6.7 billion people worldwide would die, according to the research.

Who has the best army in the world? ›

Top 10 Strongest Armies in the World in Detail
  • The United States. The US possesses a fleet of ten aircraft carriers, which is its most significant conventional military advantage. ...
  • China. In terms of overall manpower, it has the world's largest military. ...
  • India. ...
  • Japan. ...
  • South Korea. ...
  • France. ...
  • Italy.
18 hours ago

What is the strongest army in the world? ›

With military bases in many parts of the world, the US armed forces remain the most powerful of any on the globe.

Who has the biggest army in Europe? ›

The Biggest Standing Armies of the European Union
RankCountryNumber of active military personnel, 2017 (in 1,000)
1Italy248
2France204
3Germany180
4Greece162
6 more rows
30 Jan 2018

What is the strongest country in Europe by military? ›

PowerIndex of military forces in Europe 2022

Russia had the most powerful military in Europe according to its PowerIndex score, which compares the strength and capability of different countries. According to this ranking, France had the second strongest military in Europe, followed by the UK, and then Italy.

Which country has the strongest militaries? ›

According to Statista, the most powerful military in the world is the United States military. Statista uses an index with 50 different factors such as military might to budget to give each country a score. The top eight most powerful militaries as of January 2022: United States.

What is the strongest Europe country? ›

1. Germany: Germany's economy is the fourth strongest in the world and the strongest in Europe.

Who has the most advanced military technology? ›

The country with the most advanced military technology is the United States of America (USA). Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom are the other countries with the most advanced military technology in the world.

Is Chinese military stronger than USA? ›

An Empty Threat

China wields by far the world's largest military, with 2.8 million soldiers, sailors and airmen—twice the American number. (The United States is number two; the only other countries with more than a million active duty troops are China's neighbors—Russia, India and North Korea.)

Who is stronger America or China? ›

The United States outweighs China in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), technology, and military spending. China's GDP is 15 percent of global GDP, compared to 24 percent of the United States.

Is NATO responding to Russia? ›

Fact: NATO fully abides by the NATO-Russia Founding Act. In response to Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and military build-up close to Alliance borders, NATO has deployed four multinational battlegroups – around 4,500 troops – to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland.

What did NATO say about Ukraine and the war? ›

NATO and NATO Allies provide support to Ukraine. We help Ukraine to uphold the rights for self defense. That is a right, which is enshrined in the UN Charter. And of course, Ukraine has the right to defend itself against Russia's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.

Is NATO helping Ukraine now? ›

NATO allies trained tens of thousands of troops, including special forces. This helped make Ukrainian armed forces bigger, better led, and better prepared to face Russia's renewed invasion in February 2022. Allies have since provided unprecedented aid, and NATO is part of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

Can Russian nukes reach UK? ›

Could they reach the UK? Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in Russia's possession have the capability to reach and destroy major global cities such as London or Washington. ICBMs can reach a top speed around 10 minutes after launch which could see one fired from Russia reach the UK in just 20 minutes.

Is China a part of NATO? ›

For the first time, NATO members included China in the Strategic Concept as posing a “systemic challenge” to Euro-Atlantic security. NATO 2022 Strategic Concept, NATO, June 29, 2022.

Videos

1. 300,000 NATO Troops On High Alert In Response To Russian Threat
(NBC News)
2. Ukrainian forces shower missiles on Russian troops fleeing Kherson
(The Telegraph)
3. Over 100 Russian missiles hit Ukraine after peace plan announced
(CNN)
4. Russian Navy Can't Fight Ukraine's New Strategy
(The Infographics Show)
5. Could Russia Win a War Against NATO?
(The Infographics Show)
6. Claims of Russian missile strike on Poland trigger NATO emergency talks - BBC News
(BBC News)
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