Analysis: The West plans to increase its military aid to Ukraine with Russia planning its next big assault

Zelensky’s latest appeal, which has Western leaders grappling with the extent to which they are willing to test President Vladimir Putin’s red lines, came as he warned there were “tens of thousands dead” in the southern port city. of Mariupol, which has endured weeks of bombing. .

“Ukraine needs support for its military, including planes and tanks,” Zelensky said in a virtual speech to the South Korean parliament on Monday.

“South Korea has various defense systems that could defend against Russian tanks, ships and missiles,” Zelensky said.

“If Ukraine can have these weapons, they will not only save the lives of ordinary people, but also save Ukraine,” he said.

The heroic resistance of the Ukrainian troops, with the help of Western anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, has already won a famous victory – the salvation of the kyiv and Zelensky government. But now, Russia has appointed a new general to lead what has been a chaotic war effort and is massing his forces in eastern Ukraine for a fearsome, concentrated assault that could stretch Ukraine’s outnumbered forces like never before. before.

The shift in strategy is forcing Western leaders to consider their own willingness to provide more offensive weaponry to kyiv ahead of what is shaping up to be a fierce battle that could determine how much of Ukraine survives as a nation-state.

The pressure on the West to do more is exacerbated by the fact that Russia’s new approach spells even more carnage for the civilians it has been deliberately targeting with a cruel war plan.

As Washington weighs how to respond to Russia’s latest moves, there were sighs of relief in the US capital as French President Emmanuel Macron prevailed in the first round of presidential elections. But the survival in office of a key member of the Western leadership coalition will only be assured if he can beat the runner-up, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, a longtime Putin supporter, in the closely contested campaign to come. . before the second round in two weeks.
New questions for the West about how best to bolster Ukraine’s resistance follow nervousness in Washington earlier in the war about antagonizing Putin, for example, with the transfer of Soviet-era aircraft from NATO states like Poland to Ukraine. More recently, the US has signaled that it is willing to help partners bring Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine. And Britain promised a robust arms package following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s dramatic visit to kyiv on Saturday.

Decisions on exactly what kind of weapons to provide could hinge on the end game the West sees in the country, especially after Zelensky’s increasingly caustic calls for more offensive weaponry following the discovery of atrocities against Ukrainian civilians as Russian forces withdrew. from Kyiv.

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, gave the impression Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Washington’s policy would follow kyiv’s lead. But he also hinted that broader US assistance and unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s economy were also designed to better position Ukraine for future ceasefire talks, despite the failure of such efforts thus far, given that there are few signs that Putin is serious about impeachment. climbing.

“This is not the story of anyone being left out,” Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “We are taking aggressive steps in an effort to help the Ukrainians succeed on the battlefield and to help the Ukrainians get the best possible position at the negotiating table.”

But Republican Representative Liz Cheney gave voice to a faction in Washington that says the United States should do much more, even though the Wyoming congresswoman does not advocate sending US troops to Ukraine. Western leaders have been concerned about starting a direct conflict with Russia amid fears of a nuclear escalation.

“We shouldn’t be talking, as Jake Sullivan just did, about improving Zelensky’s position at the negotiating table,” Cheney said, also on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“This is about defeating Russian forces in Ukraine. It is about much more than Ukraine,” said Cheney, who called for shipments of tanks, artillery and armored equipment to be sent to the country. “We need to be doing a lot more, faster.”

Russia prepares for an escalation in eastern Ukraine

CNN reported over the weekend that Putin, for the first time, put a single military officer in charge of the invasion of Ukraine, which has so far been plagued by poor strategy, supply problems, indiscipline and low morale among the troops.
The appointment of Army General Alexander Dvornikov, commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, has raised alarm in Washington.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned that Dvornikov was responsible for the “atrocities we saw in Syria” and promised that the United States will continue to work to ensure Ukraine has the weapons it needs.

Washington has been walking the line between providing Ukraine with the hardware that would allow it to repel the Russian invasion and inflicting a heavy cost on Putin’s troops and being seen as taking steps that would turn the war into a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia. which could cause a dangerous escalation.

But now there are clear signs that the West is reassessing where those red lines are as the war enters a new stage. The trial comes as the world reels in disgust over atrocities against civilians in the kyiv suburb of Bucha and an attack on a train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk that refugees were using to flee fighting in the eastern Ukraine.

Cheney said on CNN that the attack “is clearly genocide.” U.S. and Western officials stopped short of using that designation, citing the need for legal process on a term that is generally used with specificity but has frequently accused Putin and his troops of committing war crimes.

Both Psaki and Sullivan mentioned a two-hour call that took place between top US military and administrative officials with top Ukrainian officials last week. During that call, the Ukrainians went through a list, item by item, of hardware and weaponry they had requested. Psaki said the administration was working to ensure that if the United States could not provide the requested material, its allies could.

Johnson, for example, presented a package of equipment that the UK was willing to provide, including 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems.

It was unclear what limits Washington might put on the criteria for weapons that might be available to the Ukrainians.

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