All the fine words and plaudits will be meaningless unless the military assistance arrives soon, before it is too late
TELEGRAPH VIEW 15 February 2023
The anticipated Russian offensive in Ukraineappears to be under way. Russian forces bombarded Ukrainian troops and towns in an attempt to render promised Western help redundant. Kyiv said its forces had repelled attacks in five settlements in Luhansk and six in Donetsk over the past 24 hours.
Even as the attacks began, Nato allies were still debating when to send tanks, how many and whether to include fighter planes in the package. The recent diplomatic efforts of Volodymyr Zelensky to reinforce Nato support were made all the more urgent by his expectation of a mass onslaught to coincide with the first anniversary of the invasion. Russia has been amassing men and arms for this push and has already reportedly lost thousands of soldiers in an effort to recapture territory retaken by the Ukrainian army, including the beleaguered city of Bakhmut.
President Zelensky says he needs 300 tanks but is unlikely to get anywhere near that. In addition, the capacity of Nato to resupply Ukraine with ammunition and artillery shells seems to be less than that of Russia, whose defence manufacturers have been placed on a war footing. Their troops are firing more shells in a day than European factories produce in a month. Ukraine also wants fighter jets, but is meeting resistance to the idea.
As the Nato meeting got under way at the Ramstein air base in Germany, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general, said Kyiv would be supported “for as long as it takes”. He said there was no sign that Vladimir Putin was preparing for peace. But all the fine words and plaudits will be meaningless unless the military assistance arrives soon, before it is too late.