A Ukrainian member of parliament has spilled the beans on her nation’s counteroffensive against Russia since June, going nowhere as planned. The blame for Russia gaining the upper hand lies entirely on the Western nations for not supplying Kyiv with arms at a steady pace or in large quantities.
In a televised interview with Sky News, removed from social media platform X (formerly Twitter) and reposted by Ukraine conflict watchers, Lesia Vasylenko slipped out the “truth” that Russia was winning the battle of protracted conflict.
Vasylenko blamed the Western nations for the Ukrainian debacle in the war with Russia, as they were delivering weapons and ammunition too slowly and in small quantities, with which Ukraine could not sustain its counteroffensive.
“The counteroffensive is going as planned,” she first muttered. But when the Sky News anchor questioned the rationale for her assessment, Vsylenko changed tune.
“Well, as much as we can have it going as planned with the amount of weapons and quality of ammunition we are getting. The steadier the deliveries and the bigger the armament deliveries for Ukraine, the faster the counteroffensive can go.”
This video of a Sky News interview with Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko was apparently deleted from X/Twitter after it was posted.
She slips out the "truth" about the so-called "Ukrainian counteroffensive" but in true Ukrainian fashion still manages to blame and beg their western… pic.twitter.com/YvyBaKKzCR
— DD Geopolitics (@DD_Geopolitics) October 3, 2023
Just One Month Before Winter Halts Counteroffensive
The anchor also seemed to have touched a raw nerve when she pointed out that Ukraine has regained less than one percent of the ground it had lost in Russia’s military operations in 2022.
“Unfortunately, that is the case—another month before the cold and the winter months set in. We will have to halt (the counteroffensive) till the springtime. That is sad news for us, and not just for us, but for all supporting countries,” the Ukrainian member of parliament admitted.
She also agreed with the anchor of Sky News that “it is getting harder and harder” for Ukraine “because Russia is winning the battle of protracted conflict today.”
She reiterated that Russia’s strategy of protracted conflict was forcing the hands of Ukraine and the world. “Unfortunately, we have to say that they (Russians) are gaining the upper hand yet again. They have done this back in 2014. Lessons haven’t been learned. The aid was being delivered too slowly and at a non-stable rate, which we are getting.”
Vasylenko blamed the rest of the world for the poor response to Ukrainian calls for military aid before February 2022. “I firmly believe that Russia could have been stopped in February 2022 when Ukraine was asking for weapons,” and it could have been supplied in late 2021 or early 2022.
She indicated that the weapons supplies before the conflict began could have stopped Russia. “The offer for us Ukrainians was to surrender before Putin’s demands.”
Europe’s Arms Industry Unable To Meet Supplies
The Ukrainian member of parliament’s candid admission of her nation’s counteroffensive not yielding results comes at a time when a New York Times report on September 23 claimed that Europe’s shrunken military industry was struggling to provide Ukraine with a promised million artillery shells by March 2024.
“The pledge last March sounded as catchy as it was ambitious: European Union states would deliver a million rounds of 155-millimeter ammunition to Ukraine within a year,” the NYT report said.
“Now, at a critical moment in the war and with Ukraine running short of artillery shells to drive its counteroffensive, experts, weapons manufacturers, and even some government officials are expressing growing doubts. Europe’s shrunken military sector, they say, may be unable to ramp up production fast enough to achieve the million-shell goal.”
The manufacturers have bagged at least eight contracts to manufacture the 155-mm rounds to supply and reimburse states that jointly produce artillery ammunition. But weapon makers are running into a familiar problem: Too few resources and too many supply chain bottlenecks to be able to meet the one-million rounds target.
“I don’t know where these rounds are coming from,” Morten Brandtzaeg, the chief executive of Norway-based Nammo, which produces about 25 percent of Europe’s ammunition, said. “The industry capacity is not there.” Brandtzaeg said he doesn’t think the one-million target is not achievable, but “I cannot see quite how, right now.”
Supplies From Existing Stockpiles Is The Easy Part
Last March, as Ukrainian soldiers were burning through thousands of artillery shells each day to retain control of the eastern city of Bakhmut, the government in Kyiv sent a dire plea to its allies for more 155-millimeter ammunition, which is fired from the howitzers that are the backbone of Ukraine’s military, the NYT said.
Within weeks, the European Union agreed to a US$2.1-billion plan to send Ukraine the one million rounds, drawing on donations from member states’ stockpiles and ammunition purchases. It also seeks to increase production at aging plants across Europe, with up to US$532 million in financing through mid-2025.
In August, the most recent numbers showed that the European Union states and Norway had sent Ukraine at least 223,800 artillery shells from February to May — about one-quarter of the goal. Most munitions came from military stockpiles, which were reimbursed US$1.1 billion.
But that was the relatively easy part, given that they came from ready supplies, the NYT noted. The report said that those stocks have run too low for most militaries to give more, quoting unnamed experts.
Under the terms of the program, many of the remaining rounds must be bought from manufacturers based in the European Union and Norway and purchased in joint procurement deals among those states to qualify for reimbursement.
Buying Ammo From Outside Europe Defeats Purpose
Though the European Union could, in theory, buy ammunition from beyond its manufacturers, such as Britain, the US, and South Korea, which are three major producers and exporters of the 155-mm rounds, the purpose of the one-million round target is to ramp up European manufacturing, which would be lost.
Moreover, buying from outside the European Union would mean forfeiture of the financial incentives to the European industry from the US$1 billion fund for the joint purchases.
South Korea has prohibited its weapons from being sent to Ukraine. Britain and the US are replenishing their stockpiles as NATO urges its members to bolster depleted reserves as a safeguard.
The Pentagon has said American manufacturers expect to produce 57,000 rounds of 155-mm shells a month by next spring. The report said that even if all of that were sold to European Union countries and then sent to Ukraine, it alone still would not close the gap.
Before the war in Ukraine, European manufacturers produced 230,000 rounds of 155-mm ammunition annually. The output is expected to be higher this year — even if it falls short of fulfilling the goal of sending one million rounds to Ukraine.
Brandtzaeg said Nammo had received about US$1 billion worth of artillery orders, compared with an estimated US$300,000 in contracts the company would usually sign over six months. Rheinmetall, the German defense industry giant, has predicted that it produce 600,000 artillery shells annually by the end of 2024, up from the 450,000 it expects to turn out this year.
Yet, there is uncertainty if the European industry will meet the one-million rounds targets within the one-year deadline set jointly by their governments in March.
- NC Bipindra is a 30-year veteran in journalism specializing in strategic affairs, geopolitics, aerospace, defense, and diplomacy. He has written extensively for the Times of India, New Indian Express, Press Trust of India, and Bloomberg News. He can be reached ncbipindra (at) gmail.com
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