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Ukraine Needs More Western Weapons Now

M109 Paladin. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The war in Ukraine has entered a new intense phase that looks more and more like a large-scale war of attrition, grinding both the Russian and the Ukrainian armed forces in the process. Ukraine’s determined resistance has blunted the Russian advance but has not been able to prevent Russia from slowly gaining ground in the East and South, notwithstanding the high price paid.

The long frontline requires a lot of Ukrainian troops and especially equipment to hold it. Russia has vast post-Soviet munitions stocks, and until the Ukrainian military can destroy Putin’s long-range artillery and missile launchers this will remain an uneven fight. Congress and the Biden administration have clearly recognized that without continued Western military aid Ukraine will likely lose – the $40 billion aid package from the US has been a real morale booster for the Ukrainian people. But how long it will take to get additional weapons from the United States to Ukraine remains a key factor, putting even more burden on NATO’s European allies whose proximity to the front shortens the logistics chain. Much will also depend on how quickly Ukrainians can be trained up on this new equipment, especially on the more complex systems.

In this war, Ukraine is in a race against time. Western weapons deliveries have been at times slowed down at the decision point by governments debating whether this or that platform requested by Kyiv should be approved for delivery. More than anything else, Ukraine needs long-range artillery and missiles to ensure that its counter-battery fires can reach Russian artillery positions and missile launchers.

In order to meet this need, the United States has transferred 126 of its 155mm artillery systems along with some 260,000 rounds, with more forthcoming. The latest US aid package includes eighteen 155mm howitzers with 36,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition, plus eighteen tactical vehicles to tow the howitzers. Washington has also recently agreed to send Ukraine four HIMARS artillery rocket systems and ammunition, with more systems likely to follow.

Canada has announced that it will send additional 20,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition together with replacement barrels for the four M777 howitzers it supplied to Ukraine in the spring, and Slovakia has contracted to send eight self-propelled 155mm Zuzana 2 howitzers.

France has provided Ukraine with twelve 155mm Caesar howitzers and promised to send more.

Poland has already sent 18 of its excellent 155mm Krab self-propelled tracked howitzers, with a Polish-Ukrainian deal already signed to provide at least 50 more.

These weapons are beginning to shift the balance on the battlefield, but the numbers are still not enough to turn the tide decisively. Most importantly some of the systems are not likely to become fully operational before the end of June – or later – considering the requisite training of Ukrainian personnel.

The most important bottleneck, however, is ammunition. After the Cold War, the majority of NATO allies did not prioritize stockpiling, while today the rate at which artillery rounds, missiles and even small caliber ammunition have been expended in this war raises the question of whether the West, especially Europe, can surge production to sustain the effort in Ukraine and to replenish NATO’s stocks. Ukraine continues to plead for thousands of artillery rounds and missiles to even the odds on the battlefield.

Furthermore, Ukraine needs airpower to augment its residual air force that, although it continues to fly, is nonetheless no match for the air power Russia has deployed. There are not enough remaining MiG-29 spare parts in NATO stocks to keep the Ukrainian air force in the game for much longer. This means that the country needs to transition as soon as possible to Western aircraft, and Western weapons in general, as not only the supply of post-Soviet equipment, is shrinking, but most importantly so are post-Soviet ammunition stocks.

Not all is bleak, however, even if some of the data about Russian losses in Ukraine provided by Kyiv may be exaggerated. Russian battlefield losses have been heavy, and there are no indicators that they will be less severe as the war grinds on.  Furthermore, the war has exposed the lie about the allegedly formidable Russian armed forces, including their newest equipment.  None seem to have the technological sophistication claimed by the Russians, and reportedly even their vaunted T-90M tank could not withstand a Javelin hit.

In short, it turns out that Russia’s claims about the supposed excellence of its new weapon systems have been at the very least exaggerated, and in some cases sheer propaganda. It is also increasingly apparent that the Russian side is struggling to sustain the current level of artillery and missile bombardment. Moscow has been forced to reach into the older Soviet-era weapons stocks, and it is scrounging for personnel from units deep in the Russian Federation, clearly desperate not to have to declare a general mobilization that could result in political instability at home.

The military doctrine of the Soviet Union stipulated that quantity had a quality of its own.  Today Moscow seems to subscribe to this approach yet again as it tries to overwhelm the Ukrainian military with the sheer numbers of long-range guns and missiles that it has deployed against it.  Ukraine can offset the Russian numerical advantage through better training and motivation of its soldiers and, most importantly, the superior performance of Western weapons. But unless Kyiv gets its hands on a lot of modern weaponry, this war is going to remain a war of numbers, i.e., how many soldiers and pieces of equipment each side can bring to bear.

Ukraine needs a large volume of Western weapons, especially more of our advanced long-range artillery and missile systems to outgun the Russians and offset their numerical superiority. And it needs to receive those systems now.

A 1945 Contributing Editor, Andrew A. Michta is Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany.  He is also former a Professor of National Security Affairs at USNWC and a former Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis in DC. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government

Written By

Andrew A. Michta is the dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and a new Contributing Editor for 1945. He is the former Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College and former Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMichta. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.



  1. Error403

    June 19, 2022 at 8:09 pm

    NATO countries love the smell of blood and sounds of war, especially if the blood belongs to somebody else.

    Nobody’s interested in peace or even a temporary ceasefire.

    Sending more weapons will result in a more thoroughly crushed wasteland in ukraine with news of a recent deadly strike killing around 50 UA officers plus a store of western equipment. More blood, NATO’s secret desire.

    • Goran

      June 19, 2022 at 9:37 pm

      Peace has to be built on justice, and what Russia wants in Ukraine is far from justice. It is bullying and Ukrainians are obviously not willing to put up with it, nobody should.

    • Him

      June 20, 2022 at 1:20 am

      This is how a person can use something factually-true to persuade people towards a false conclusion (deception).

      Yes, it is NATO’s benefit to see Russia involved in a fight using Ukraine as a proxy, because it means NATO’s opponent is made weaker, without the disadvantage of losing NATO lives. All that is true.

      But you miss the point that it is also a win-win for Ukraine too.

      By receiving NATO aid, Ukraine pushes back against the threat of enslavement by Russia.

      You just have to see the historical evidence and photographs of the Russian death and torture camps that the Russians inflicted during their occupation of the Baltic countries to realise that the people of these neighbouring countries have no desire of becoming Russian serfs again, acting as a buffer state. These Russian-border countries want to remain free.

      So it is a false argument to insinuate that NATO’s proxy war is therefore responsible for damaging Ukraine.

      It’s actually a win-win for NATO and for Ukraine – NATO sees Russia getting weakened by the war, and Ukraine is helped in its fight to maintain its democratic freedom.

      I get it that there’s corruption in Ukraine, and that there’s a minuscule and non-influential element of Nazis in Ukraine. But those aren’t justification for Russia to attack a free neighbouring country. There’s probably more corruption in totalitarian non-democratic Russia. And remember, at the start of WW2, Russia was allies with Nazi Germany, and the Russians haven’t changed their culture since the WW2 days due to its entrenched slavery to Communism and KGB dictators.

    • None of your business

      June 20, 2022 at 3:51 am

      What do you expect from a website run by neocons? Damn, Americans so brave they will fight to the last Ukrainian

    • Sasha

      June 20, 2022 at 5:33 am

      You are kidding Russia attacked Ukraine for nothing in fact their are more neo natzi skinheads in Russia than you think that the evil piece of SCUM PUTIN should end up with a deal of Ukraine lands for his troops atrocities raping girls,women boys,torturing POWs with barbed wire in and around their pens and genitals aswell as fingers, you think that Russian Barbarian Scum who have murdered babies, kiddies, shot people in the head from behind like the SCUM COWARDS THEY ARE TARGETTED HOSPITALS ,MATERNATIES CIVILIAN BUILDING ON PURPOSE, TARGETTING THEM ON PURPOSE AND DESCIMATING UKRAINE deserve Ukraine lands for these atrocities sorry buddy you are as bad as Putin you are a barbarian imbecile yourself

    • Doyle

      June 21, 2022 at 5:32 am

      Let the Russian bully give up its insatiable territorial lust. They are the aggressors and lessons need to be taught. Has nothing to do with NATO but has everything to do with Russian slaughter.

    • TRM

      June 22, 2022 at 1:41 pm

      Putin thanks you for your endorsement.

  2. GhostTomahawk

    June 20, 2022 at 1:09 am

    No. The west needs to walk away and stop getting involved in proxy wars that incur their citizens massive financial burdens. Ukraine is not an ally. The only people that benefit from Ukraine winning are those financially tied to it. Stop funding this war to prolong its inevitable conclusion.

    • Doyle

      June 21, 2022 at 5:35 am

      Wouldn’t that be so nice for Vladimir. Free loot. Human beings do not deserve to be treated by their fellow human beings like the Russians are treating the Ukraine and many of their smaller neighbors. Russia signs treaty after treaty and only breaks them when they feel they can get away with it. Look up the Budapest memorandum….yes allies.

  3. aldol11

    June 20, 2022 at 6:46 am

    Russia is finished
    those that do not see it are either idiots or Russians

  4. Jacksonian Libertarian

    June 20, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Ukraine needs more smart weapons not obsolete cannons and armored vehicles.

    • Doyle

      June 21, 2022 at 5:36 am

      Those obsolete “cannons” still rule the battlefield and despite Russian ineptness at their use armor is still a valid battlefield tool.

  5. Francis Maikisch

    June 20, 2022 at 11:29 am

    The author is a shill for the MILIND Complex. This war needs to end soonest. Ukraine cannot win, no matter how weapons we give them. The fundamentals of war are the fundamentals of war. NATO expansion needs to stop. Most Americans are beyond tired of war & the neglect of pressing needs at home.

    • Doyle

      June 21, 2022 at 5:38 am

      Those two are mutually exclusive. Get real, no peace for Russia for now.

    • Eric

      June 22, 2022 at 12:08 am

      “support for American assistance remains broad and bi-partisan. Overall, 54% of U.S. citizens polled agree strongly or somewhat that assistance to Ukraine should be open-ended—a remarkable majority for a population that is generally considered to be war-weary and focused on domestic fiscal issues. Only 22% disagree (strongly or somewhat strongly) that support should be unlimited, and even that group did not appear to believe that there should be no support at all.”


  6. Stefan Stackhouse

    June 20, 2022 at 11:49 am

    Yes, of course they need more, more, more, and they need it now, now, now. I don’t blame the Ukrainians at all for asking for such. I would, too, if I were in their shoes.

    Unfortunately, with globalization came deindustrialization. The manufacturing capacity of the US and its allies is limited, and we are probably bumping up already against those capacity limits. This is why modern wars (real ones, as in Ukraine, in contrast to low-level insurgencies) tend to be “come as you are” affairs. It just takes too long to ramp up production and to get increasing amounts of new weaponry to the front.

    We should provide the Ukrainians what we can, but we also owe them an honest accounting of what our maximum production capacity is. They need to know for sure what they can count upon from us – and what they can’t. It won’t be enough to roll back the Russians, I’m sure. It probably can be enough to stop them, and that is of prime importance. It is also going to have to be good enough, because we can only do what we can do.

    • I. Martin

      June 21, 2022 at 1:01 pm

      You’re right about globalization and de-industrialization. Nevertheless, the U.S. and the E.U. are finding that they need to secure their resources and goods, so farming things out to China and others will have to decrease. War also doesn’t care what you want to do–it compels action!

      • Stefan Stackhouse

        June 21, 2022 at 7:04 pm

        Yes, this should be a wake-up call: We are living in a dangerous world, and we need to get serious. Actually, we needed to get serious long ago, so we are already deep in catch-up mode. We need to get our house in order. This includes securing our critical supply lines and bringing critical production back to our shores, among many other items in a long agenda.

  7. David Chang

    June 21, 2022 at 8:56 am

    God bless people in the world.

    We should stop the war with negotiation as soon as possible.

    How much money and weapons should you prepare before provoking socialism enemy and causing wars from few years ago, and think about the consumer price index after war.

    So the war democratic party instigate is like the Vietnam War. It makes South America and Africa to be socialism countries, and to cooperate with Russia, as Soviet Union again.

    If people in Ukraine and Russia prayed to God together after fall of the Berlin wall, socialism war does not be happened again.

    • William Craddock

      June 21, 2022 at 11:38 am

      At the outset of the Russian invasion, our U.S. leadership from Pres. Biden down to
      JCS Chairman Gen. Milley and below, essentially portrayed cowardice over prowess by both unneccessarily publicizing and denying what could easily should’ve been the clandestine transfer to Ukraine the desperately needed Polish Mig-29’s. With Biden on down publicly claiming fear of angering/provoking dictator Putin, as their reasonings to deprive Ukraine of both the vital MIG-29’s and the longer range, more effective missiles for the HIMARS/MRLS weapon systems already delivered, is why Pres. Biden is seeing a nearly a 60% Disapproval Rating in his timid handling of the conflict. As a Retired Veteran myself, we see this as a form of Misbehavior before the Enemy, emboldening both Putin and his war machine.

      • David Chang

        June 22, 2022 at 5:01 am

        What should we pay tax for?

        Why do people think they can change the world by socialism?

        God bless people in the world.

        We have the failed War in Korea and the wrong war in Vietnam, Iraq , and Afghanistan.

        But people still believe socialism, don’t obey Ten Commandments, and continue to murder and rob.

        However, Asia socialism country, is like Ukraine, take advantage of U.S. military by promoting the invincibility of USN 7th Fleet deliberately to push the 7th Fleet fighting in brown water.

        But asymmetric warfare, or unrestricted warfare, is a thought to mislead America, and the sub-task of PLA’s aircraft carrier is a lure to the 7th Fleet.

        And who will sacrifice self to help other people?

        So Zelensky, Putin, and Biden should confess sin and repent to God and obey Ten Commandments.

        People in Ukraine and Russia should pray to God together and repeal socialism policy.

        God bless America.

  8. OIF Combat Vet

    June 21, 2022 at 10:29 am

    Ukraine is a money pit that enriches the Ukrainian oligarchs and our military industrial complex.

  9. I. Martin

    June 21, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    The only reason we are having this discussion is because of the heroism of the Ukrainian people–not because of Russia, or NATO, or the U.S. Everyone wrote off Ukraine until they showed the world that they were real, not merely playthings. They clearly don’t want to be part of Russia, regardless of what Putin wants. They clearly have no intention of laying down, regardless of what the U.S. or NATO wants. It may be inconvenient to help them, but the West would be crazy not to!

    • Sam

      June 21, 2022 at 6:40 pm

      Ukraine has amazed the entire world when they succeeded to draw the Russians away from Kiev.

      If the West will be as determined to win this war as the Ukrainians are the war will surely be won, as Russia cannot compete with the West economically or technologically.

      People in the west might lose some money, but the people in Ukraine are losing their lives (after being tortured). And at the end the West will gain a very valuable ally (large country with lots of resources and lots of people armed to their teeth with western weapons bordering Russia and willing to house American bases).

  10. Sam

    June 21, 2022 at 6:41 pm

    Ukraine has amazed the entire world when they succeeded to draw the Russians away from Kiev.

    If the West will be as determined to win this war as the Ukrainians are the war will surely be won, as Russia cannot compete with the West economically or technologically.

    People in the west might lose some money, but the people in Ukraine are losing their lives (after being tortured). And at the end the West will gain a very valuable ally (large country with lots of resources and lots of people armed to their teeth with western weapons bordering Russia and willing to house American bases).

  11. TRM

    June 22, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    I’m skeptical of the claim that Russia has vast stores of post-Cold-War ammunition. The Russian military was starved for money for a lot of years, and one of the first things you cut is procurement.

  12. Ti

    June 23, 2022 at 3:25 am

    Lavrov says Ukraine humiliate Russia banning Russia language in Ukraine.yet Russia ban Russian people for mentioning the word war to do with Ukraine invasion and 15 year prison sentence for mentioning Russian grotesque liar and hypocrite is Lavrov skirts the truth twists the truth makes himself look like a man off his rocker a buffoon with all these pathetic lies the man is a demented Russian imbecile at best and looks embarrassed when spewing out all the lies never once mentioned Russia killing 15,000 Ukraines since 2014 the disgusting bare faced liar and a pathetic excuse for a man he is a coward like putin.

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