As Ukraine prepares for a counter-offensive against Russia’s invasion, it has received a significant boost in its firepower from the US and the EU, who have supplied it with heavier and more advanced weapons systems.
Among the weapons that have been delivered or are on the way are tanks, combat vehicles, long-range rocket launchers, anti-aircraft missiles, sniper rifles, and encrypted communications. Some of these weapons have been described as game changers for the Ukrainian forces, who have been facing a relentless aerial assault from Russia.
The US is by far the largest contributor of military aid to Ukraine, followed by the UK and the EU. President Joe Biden announced further funding of almost half a billion dollars in military aid to Ukraine in February, and has pledged to support its ally for “as long as it takes” to defeat Russia.
The US is sending 31 of its Abrams tanks, the most capable tanks in the world according to Biden, as well
as 155 mm howitzers and long-range heavy artillery like the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System). The US has also provided Ukraine with Stinger and Javelin missiles, which are portable and shoulder-held, and can target aircraft and tanks respectively.
The UK is providing 14 Challenger 2 tanks and Germany, 14 Leopards 2 tanks. The Leopard 2 is used by a number of European countries, and is considered to be easier to maintain and more fuel-efficient than most other Western tanks. Spain says it’s sending six of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Several European countries have also sent similar systems to the HIMARS, such as the MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) and the Caesar (CAmion Equipé d’un Système d’ARtillerie). These systems can fire rockets and shells at targets up to 300 km away.
Ukraine has also received sniper rifles, helmets, medical kits, encrypted communications, and lots of ammunition from various countries. However, no NATO country has yet agreed to requests from Ukraine to send fighter jets.
The Western weapons have reportedly turned the tables on Russia’s aerial assault, which has involved hundreds of missiles and drones. Ukraine claims to have intercepted or destroyed most of the incoming projectiles with its air defenses, which include Patriot defense systems supplied by the US.
The Western weapons have also given Ukraine an edge in ground combat, where it has been able to repel Russian attacks and recapture some territory. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his forces need Western battle tanks urgently to defend its territory and to push Russian troops out of occupied areas.
Ukraine’s counter-offensive is expected to begin soon, as it seeks to liberate its eastern regions from Russian occupation. The Western weapons will play a crucial role in this operation, but they also carry a risk of escalating the conflict and provoking a stronger response from Russia.