Accessing the Future Prospects of Western Support in the Ukraine War

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BY Muhammad Shahzad Akram and  Tayyaba Khurshid 

During a press conference following the February 27 meeting of European leaders in Paris meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron was asked if Europe was prepared to send troops to Ukraine against Russia. Macron’s response, “Every option is open to us,” caused a stir in the media, suggesting that the possibility of a boots-on-the-ground intervention had been discussed. However, European countries quickly clarified that no such decision had been made, as crossing Russia’s red lines could lead to escalating tensions and potential nuclear war. These red lines include Ukraine not joining NATO, no threat to Russian borders, and no provision of weapons capable of causing mass casualties or large-scale destruction in Russia. Despite the clarifications, the potential for Western powers to cross these red lines remains a concern for Russia, leading to President Vladimir Putin’s warning of the consequences.

Despite Western sanctions, the war in Ukraine, and significant losses, Putin’s approval rating during election times remains high in Russia. The Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia include Crimea and parts of Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kherson regions. The war has resulted in approximately 45,000 Russian casualties, making it the biggest loss of Russian lives since World War II. Despite significant support from Western powers, Ukraine has lost several strategically important cities, including Avadiivka, and 18% of its territory. The war is being fought on Ukrainian soil and the human cost is substantial, with both sides presenting exaggerated numbers.

Russia has fortified its position with deep trenches, artillery barrages, and a network of tanks, air defenses, and drones, making it difficult for Ukraine to break through. The Ukrainian side has also dug trenches and fortified its position, but its defenses are weaker than the Russians. To compare the battlefield to the Western Front of World War I, where it took four years to break the stalemate. Ukraine needs offensive weaponry and aid from Western powers to break the stalemate and take back its territory, but the promised aid of $162 billion has not been fully approved or delivered. Ukraine will receive the aid soon due to political considerations and competing priorities in the US and Europe. Without adequate military support, Ukraine is unable to push back the Russian forces and break the deadlock on the battlefield.

Russia is estimated to require over 5.4 million artillery shells to defeat Ukraine by 2025, and while it is producing 2.1 million domestically, it allegedly acquired 2.5 million from North Korea. Ukraine, on the other hand, is facing a severe shortage, needing at least 200,000 shells per month, but only receiving 500,000 from European powers due to production constraints. The US, which had initially provided 2 million shells in the first month of the war, is now unable to send any more due to opposition from the Republican Party. In the production of fighter jets and air defense missiles, essential components of modern warfare, Europe is also lagging behind. European experts acknowledge that their industry is not prepared for a war economy, as they have been living in peace for an extended period.

Moreover, there has been an inability of Europe to withstand Russian aggression on its own and the role of the United States as a result. Moreover, NATO officials have criticized Europe for not investing in its defense industry years ago, allowing Russia to occupy a large portion of Ukrainian territory. Russian intelligence has been detected wiretapping conversations between European states and army officers, including a conversation between German army men discussing providing Ukraine with Taurus cruise missiles and potentially attacking Russian territories. This has left Europe ashamed and worried about the leak. Europe cannot withstand Russian aggression alone, and the United States has been supporting countries like Ukraine as its frontline states in the war against Russia and China. The United States has been using Ukraine for spying on Russia for the past 10 years, as evidenced by a report in The New York Times. In 2014, when pro-Western protesters seized power in Ukraine, they contacted the CIA and MI6 for help against Russia, leading to the building of a network against Russia on the Ukrainian-Russian border. The collaboration between the CIA, MI6, and the Ukrainian government grew stronger after the downing of Malaysia Flight 17 in 2014, which was shot down in Russian-backed territory in eastern Ukraine, and for which there is evidence of Russian involvement. The Americans were wary of giving intelligence to the Ukrainians but grew more trusting after this incident.

There has been a complex relationship between the CIA and Ukrainian intelligence during the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Despite the CIA providing intelligence to help Ukraine, there were limits to their cooperation due to the potential harm it could cause to Russia. One example is the Ukrainian request for satellite maps of Russian train depots to target with commando attacks, which was denied by the CIA due to the risk of Russian retaliation. Moreover, US intelligence also prevented Russian assassination attempts on the Ukrainian president and the killing of a Ukrainian colonel working with the CIA. Today, the CIA and Ukrainian agency “HUR” have established forward bases along the Russian border for spying operations. However, Russia has responded with target killings of Ukrainian officials and spies. There is the possibility that the change in the US government in upcoming elections might result in decreased support for Ukraine, which could leave the country at a disadvantage in the ongoing war. The protracted nature of war suggests that Western support to Ukraine might decline in the coming months and that can have severe consequences for Ukraine.