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The Worldwide Response to Russia's War On Ukraine

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  • The Worldwide Response to Russia's War On Ukraine

    In Baltics, Poland, grassroots groups strive to help Ukraine
    TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — In a dusty workshop in northern Lithuania, a dozen men are transforming hundreds of wheel rims into potbelly stoves to warm Ukrainians huddled in trenches and bomb shelters. As the sparks subside, one welder marks the countertop: 36 made that day. Hours later, they’ve reached 60.

    People from across Lithuania send old wheel rims to the volunteers gathering weekly in Siauliai, the Baltic country’s fourth-largest city. Two cars loaded with wood stoves wait outside the workshop ahead of the long night drive south.

    Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — three states on NATO’s eastern flank scarred by decades of Soviet-era occupation — have been among the top donors to Kyiv.

    Linas Kojala, director of the Europe Studies Center in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, said Ukraine’s successful resistance “is a matter of existential importance” to the Baltic countries, which share its experience of Russian rule.

    “Not only political elites, but entire societies are involved in supporting Ukraine,” Kojala told the AP.

    In Siauliai, Edgaras Liakavicius said his team has sent about 600 stoves to Ukraine.

    “Everybody here ... understands the situation of every man, every soldier, the conditions they live in now in Ukraine,” Liakavicius, who works for a local metal processing plant, told the AP.

    Jaana Ratas, who heads an effort in Tallinn, Estonia to make camouflage nets for Ukrainian soldiers, echoed his words.

    “My family and most Estonians, they still remember (the Soviet occupation),” she said.

    Ratas chose a symbolic location for her project. Five days a week, Estonian and Ukrainian women gather at Tallinn’s Museum of Occupations and Freedom to weave the nets from donated fabrics.

    Lyudmila Likhopud, a 76-year-old refugee from Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, said the work has lifted her out of depression.

    “I started feeling that I can be useful,” she told the AP.

    In Latvia’s capital of Riga, Anzhela Kazakova — who ran a furniture store in the Black Sea port of Odesa — is one of 30 Ukrainian refugees working for Atlas Aerospace, a drone manufacturer that has supplied more than 300 kits to the Ukrainian army.

    Ivan Tolchinsky, Atlas Aerospace’s founder and CEO, grew up in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, held by Kremlin-backed separatists since 2014. He had long petitioned both the EU and Ukraine to supply drones to Kyiv’s forces fighting the separatists. Final permission arrived a day before Moscow’s full-scale invasion, he said.

    Atlas Aerospace has since increased production 20-fold, Tolchinsky said, and is planning to open a site in Ukraine despite withering Russian strikes on infrastructure.

    Tolchinsky’s drones are just some of the weapons flowing to Kyiv from its Baltic allies. Together with their southern neighbor Poland — another NATO and European Union member with a history of Soviet oppression — the three small states rank among the biggest donors per gross domestic product helping Ukraine.

    Lithuania, with a mere 2.8 million inhabitants, was the first country to send Stinger air defense missiles, according to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.

    One of the latest Lithuanian initiatives is a crowdfunding drive to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian drones and missiles. Launched in late January, it initially aimed to raise 5 million euros by the Feb. 24 first anniversary of the invasion. That goal was reached within weeks, and organizers have since doubled it as donations keep flowing.

    One fundraising group has grown into a major player that participates in international tenders purchasing military equipment for Kyiv.

    “We have expanded 10 times in less than a year. (We used to supply) five drones in one batch, but now it’s 50 or more,” said Jonas Ohman, founder of the nongovernmental organization Blue/Yellow. The group recently won a bid for military optics, edging out rivals including the Indian military, and clinched a contract with an Israeli company for multi-purpose high sensitivity radars for Kyiv.

    “It’s entirely another level now,” Ohman said.

    In Poland, millions of zlotys have been raised to fund everything from advanced weapons to treating the wounded. Backed by over 220,000 contributors, journalist Slawomir Sierakowski was able to gather almost 25 million zlotys ($5.6 million) to buy an advanced Bayraktar drone for Ukraine.

    Ohman, the head of the Lithuanian NGO, drew parallels between his compatriots’ readiness to help Kyiv and local partisan movements fighting Soviet rule after World War II.

    “It is about personal responsibility in tough times,” he said. “Just like in 1945 when (the) Soviets returned, the government was gone, but the struggle for freedom continued in the woods for years.”

    “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”

  • #2
    Estonia to order munitions in one of its largest military purchases

    VILNIUS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Estonia is set to order a "significant quantity" of so-called loitering munitions, to be delivered in 2024 to increase the distance of its attacks, defence ministry said on Saturday.

    The NATO and European Union member said on Feb. 8 it believed Russia still had the strength to exert "credible military pressure" on the Baltic region, where the security risk has risen for the medium and long-term.

    The loitering munitions, also called "kamikaze drones", cruise towards their target before plummeting at velocity and detonating on impact.

    The purchase of an unspecified number, set to be one of the largest in Estonia's history, is expected to be concluded this quarter.

    It is being made "in order to significantly increase (Estonian) indirect fire capability as a consequence of Russian aggression", the defence ministry said.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated on Thursday the United States was ready to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania if required, and will keep its military presence in the region.
    “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


    • #3
      'Don't Play With Us.' Estonia Sends Message To Russia With Ukraine Aid
      If Russia succeeds in overrunning Ukraine, could the Baltics be next?

      This fear has loomed over the nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since the invasion began nearly a year ago. The former Soviet-bloc states have been the target of Moscow’s meddling for years. Now the war in Ukraine has given these small countries an opportunity to punch back.

      Relative to its size, no nation has been more aggressive in helping Ukraine than Estonia. The small Baltic state has provided Ukraine with nearly $396 million in aid—about half of its defense budget and more than 1% of its gross domestic product. The donations place Estonia, which has just 7,000 active-duty soldiers in its military, among the world leaders. While European giants like Germany had to be coaxed into delivering modern battle tanks to Kyiv, Estonia has handed over whatever it could: anti-tank missiles, howitzers, grenade-launchers, mortars, ammunition, vehicles, communication devices, helmets, body armor, and military food rations. The nation of 1.3 million has taken in more than 60,000 refugees from Ukraine, a higher percentage than any other nation in the European Union.

      The outsized support is intended to send a clear message to the Kremlin. “Don’t play with us,” said Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pekvur during a joint-press conference in Tallinn Thursday with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

      Estonia’s approach stems from its shared border with Russia, and a painful history of Soviet occupation that began in 1944 and lasted until 1991. The arsenal and equipment it is providing to Ukraine aims “to expel the Russian forces, and its proxies from Ukraine and restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity,” Pekvur told reporters at the defense ministry located in the Estonian capital. He called on other nations to join the U.S. and Estonia to speed the delivery of weapons to Ukraine ahead of a mounting new Russian offensive in the east. “It’s never too late,” he said.

      Austin told Estonia and fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies this week in Brussels that there’s a narrowing window of time to push weapons and materiel into Ukraine ahead of the Russian push. Western intelligence officials calculate that tanks, armored vehicles, and other heavy weapons could prove decisive on the eastern battlefield of open flat plains with few places that provide protective cover. Estonia has pledged thousands of 155-millimeter artillery rounds, which are badly needed by Ukrainian forces, and more than 100 Carl-Gustaf anti-tank recoilless rifles. Much of the arsenal will be drawn down from Estonia’s modest stocks.

      “You’ve shown tremendous leadership in supporting Ukraine today,” Austin said to his Estonian counterpart. “As a share of your economic size, Estonia has provided more military aid to Ukraine than any other country in the world. You’ve made hard decisions to get Ukrainians the assistance that they need to defend themselves.”

      Kristjan Mäe, a senior Estonian Defense official, said his nation doesn’t want a repeat of the Minsk ceasefire agreement signed after Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in southern Ukraine in 2014. In subsequent years, Putin furtively supported pro-Russia separatist militias in several eastern Ukrainian cities to sow disorder in the country and attempt to gain political control in Kyiv.

      “If the war in Ukraine is not resolved on our terms that meet our objectives, then it will provide—in the long-run—a fast track to another escalation,” Mäe said. “This is our concern.”

      The language Putin used to justify his invasion of Ukraine last February spooked many Estonians. At that time, Putin has said he was acting on behalf of ethnic Russians in Ukraine who were abandoned and helpless outside the borders of the motherland. Officials in the Baltics fear that if Putin is successful in holding territory in Ukraine, he could one day use the same rationale for military action in places like Estonia or elsewhere in Eastern Europe, where roughly 10 million ethnic Russians live. “Putin does not recognize the border of the Baltic States as an internationally recognized border,” Mäe said.

      In the past, Putin has attempted to undermine the democratic governments of former communist countries like Estonia using propaganda, agents provocateurs, and overt military threats. In spring of 2007, after the Estonian government removed a Soviet military statue, Russian hackers bombarded government websites and servers with so much online traffic that those servers couldn’t respond to legitimate users and were forced offline, a cybertactic known as a denial-of-service attack. In September 2014, a group of Russian troops allegedly stormed across the Estonian border with the help of smoke grenades and radio-jammers, kidnapped an Estonian security officer, and took him back to Moscow to stand trial for espionage.

      Such provocations are part of a disturbing history. Reports that Russian forces have moved more than 6,000 Ukrainian children to camps across Russia call up painful memories in Tallinn; thousands of Estonians were deported and imprisoned during the Soviet occupation. “These were stories from our grandparents, and now they are being relived again,” Mäe said. “So in that sense, it’s just not an Estonian official. It’s me as an Estonian citizen really wanting Ukraine to win this war, knowing the cost if Ukraine will not.”
      “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


      • #4

        Thanks. These articles illustrate how the moral compass of NATO has moved east. NATO's borders moved east in the nineties and 2000s, to be sure, but only by choice. Given security choices and their cultural underpinnings offered by two sides (actually assumed by one side and not aggressively pursued by the other) the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and more chose to, effectively, move west.

        They literally embraced a new way of life and consciously, with great eagerness, shed any connection to their bitter past-voting with their feet by running as fast as they could westward. Now, despite their small sizes (and budgets) these nations give more of themselves than any others in clear recognition that Ukraine's resistance " a matter of existential importance..." not just for them but all of us.
        Last edited by S2; 19 Feb 23,, 22:26.
        "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
        "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs


        • #5
          Originally posted by S2 View Post

          Thanks. These articles illustrate how the moral compass of NATO has moved east. NATO's borders moved east in the nineties and 2000s, to be sure, but only by choice. Given security choices and their cultural underpinnings offered by two sides (actually assumed by one side and not aggressively pursued by the other) the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and more choice to, effectively, move west.

          They literally embraced a new way of life and consciously, with great eagerness, shed any connection to their bitter past-voting with their feet by running as fast as they could westward. Now, despite their small sizes (and budgets) these nations give more of themselves than any others in clear recognition that Ukraine's resistance " a matter of existential importance..." not just for them but all of us.
          Thanks, I thought it high time we devoted a thread to what the rest of the world has been doing for Ukraine.
          “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


          • #6
            Originally posted by TopHatter View Post

            Thanks, I thought it high time we devoted a thread to what the rest of the world has been doing for Ukraine.
            Yup...a lot of our allies are hitting well above their weight. In my work in Germany for the US Army's V Corps and their combat in OIF I came in contact with several Polish, Romanian & Baltic officers. They went all in to help us because they believed it would help them to prepare for the existential threat they faced to their east.

            One of the great successes in the wake of the Cold War has been the National Guard, both Army & Air, State Partnership Programs. This has been a 2 way way street of learning about combat and cooperation. You may recall early in the Russo-Ukrainian War some Ukrainian soldiers were calling Washington National Guardsmen they had worked with through the SPP with questions on how to employ JAVELINs. That some combat multiplier for you!

            More on the SPP...

            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain


            • #7
              A couple of insightful and interesting posts, thanks guys!
              If nothing else, Russia’s invasion sure removed the scales from a lot of eyes across Europe.
              Nowhere can this be better seen than in increase in defense spending, in countries that had been;
              shall we say lax, remiss in honoring their commitments.
              Including here in Denmark, but where the new majority government had come up with a novel measure;
              they’ve cancelled a annual Bank Holiday!!! Any revenue derived from this measure will be ear-marked defense.
              You can imagine the howls from special interest groups and unions! But the administration has 4 years to make nice!
              Well better late than never!
              When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow. - Anais Nin


              • #8
                Originally posted by S2 View Post

                Thanks. These articles illustrate how the moral compass of NATO has moved east. NATO's borders moved east in the nineties and 2000s, to be sure, but only by choice. Given security choices and their cultural underpinnings offered by two sides (actually assumed by one side and not aggressively pursued by the other) the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and more chose to, effectively, move west.

                They literally embraced a new way of life and consciously, with great eagerness, shed any connection to their bitter past-voting with their feet by running as fast as they could westward. Now, despite their small sizes (and budgets) these nations give more of themselves than any others in clear recognition that Ukraine's resistance " a matter of existential importance..." not just for them but all of us.
                Well put mate. NATO didn't 'move east', it opened a door and a lot of nations that had been brutalized by Russia rushed in. Even before 2014 there were ample examples of Russian behaviour post USSR to prove the wisdom of thie choice - there has barely been a year when Russia wasn't intervening in a former part of the USSR.

                I firmly believe that the committment of some of those nations to helping Ukraine has helped to shame more reluctant NATO nations into following suit. They are pointing the way.

                Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C


                • #9
                  EU mulls ways to ramp up ammunition production for Ukraine
                  BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union must find ways to quickly provide thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine or face the prospect that it might lose the war against Russia, top EU diplomats warned Monday, as ammunition stocks in national EU armories dwindle.

                  “The most important, pressing issue today for the Ukrainian army is to have a continuous flow of ammunition,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before chairing a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers. “If we fail on that, really, the result of the war is in danger.”

                  Borrell spoke as U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine.

                  Borrell said that Russian forces are firing about 50,000 rounds of artillery each day and that Ukraine’s supplies must be lifted to the same level. Other estimates suggest that Ukraine is firing up to 6,000-7,000 artillery shells daily, around a third of Russia’s total one year into the war.

                  Most sought after, Borrell underlined, are 155mm artillery cartridges.

                  Borrell said that discussion would focus on ways to make joint purchases of ammunition and use a special EU fund to provide extra financing. However, the defense industry requires solid, long-term orders to stand up and expand its production lines and cannot simply ramp up supplies overnight.

                  Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the waiting time for the supply of “large-caliber ammunition has increased from 12 to 28 months,” and that “orders placed today would only be delivered two-and-a-half years later.”

                  Estonia, which shares a border and long history with Russia, is driving the EU and its NATO allies to provide 1 million artillery shells, at an estimated cost of 4 billion euros ($4.3 billion).

                  “Russia uses daily (what) the European Union produces per month, and in the current military industry capabilities, we can reach the need of Ukraine (in) around six years, so this is fully unacceptable,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told reporters.

                  Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed to his Western allies to quicken their military support, warning that delays would play into Russia’s hand as the invasion approaches its anniversary on Feb. 24.

                  NATO believes that Russia has launched a long-anticipated offensive in recent weeks, raising the intensity of attacks in eastern Ukraine while building up forces in the south. Officials have said that Ukraine is likely to launch its own counteroffensive in the spring.
                  “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


                  • #10
                    Leopard tanks like a Mercedes, says Ukrainian soldier training in Germany

                    MUNSTER, Germany (Reuters) - A Ukrainian soldier compared Germany's Leopard 2 tanks to a Mercedes as he underwent training with them ahead of their arrival on the battlefield, saying he hoped they would bring a breakthrough in the war.

                    He is among dozens of Ukrainian troops Germany is training on Leopard 2 simulators and then the tanks themselves at its largest military training ground, in Munster, before sending them to Ukraine.

                    Germany last month agreed to supply the tanks, regarded as one of the best in the West's arsenal, overcoming misgivings about sending heavy weaponry that Kyiv sees as crucial to defeat Russia's invasion but Moscow casts as a dangerous provocation.

                    "It is crucial that we use this modern weapon wisely, it will bring the breakthrough and we will win in the end," said the 57-year-old soldier.

                    Asked about the difference between Western and Soviet systems, he said: "You can imagine it like the difference between a Mercedes and a Zhiguli" - referring to a Soviet car sold under the brand name Lada in the West.

                    The version of the tanks Germany will be sending, produced by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, weighs more than 60 tonnes, has a 120 mm smooth bore gun and can hit targets at a distance of up to 4 km (2.5 miles).

                    Ukraine's foreign minister said last month he expected to receive 120 to 140 Western tanks in a "first wave" of deliveries from a coalition of 12 countries, including the German Leopard 2, with time needed for training.

                    In all, Germany is training several hundred troops on various aspects of warcraft as part of a European effort to instruct some 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

                    Another soldier, who was being trained on the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, said the Western systems were not that far removed from those of Soviet-built vehicles the Ukrainians have been using.

                    "We have experience with similar weapons systems ... The logic is the same, sometimes we don't even need the interpreters to understand the instructors," said the 33-year-old, like his colleague wearing a scarf pulled up over his face and orange-tinted ballistic glasses to hide his identity.

                    German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said he was impressed by the Ukrainian troops.

                    "Talking about a war is different from looking into the faces of people who ... came here directly from the frontline, and who will go back there with the tanks once they have completed their training," he told reporters.

                    The soldiers are working 12-hour days, six days a week.

                    "They are highly motivated and eager for knowledge ... They know that they will be back at the frontline in five weeks' time," said a German lieutenant-colonel who is responsible for the Leopard training and only gave his name as Peter.

                    Both soldiers are set to head back to Ukraine by the end of March.

                    Asked about how they tackle their fear, the 57-year-old said troops had to adapt to it.

                    "Fear? Yes, everyone is afraid. But it is crucial how you handle your fear - and how to fight on despite of it," he said.
                    “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


                    • #11
                      Britain 'warming up' weapon output to help Ukraine, says defence minister
                      DORSET, England (Reuters) - Britain has begun to "warm up" its production lines to replace weapons sent to Ukraine and increase production of artillery shells to try to help Kyiv push back Russian forces, defence minister Ben Wallace said on Wednesday.

                      In an interview with Reuters in southwest England where officers are training Ukrainian crews on Challenger-2 tanks, Wallace said he believed Britain was in a good place to help Ukraine but needed to sustain the provision of weapons.

                      Fighting remains fierce in eastern Ukraine, where Russia wants to establish control over the whole of the industrial Donbas area after seizing swathes of territory there but Kyiv said it needs more Western weapons to be able to push them back.

                      Asked about whether Britain had the commercial capacity to continue to provide Ukraine with weapons such as artillery shells, Wallace said: "We have laid contracts ... We've started to already now receive some deliveries of that for our own restocking and also some of it to Ukraine."

                      He said in the past, governments would have looked in their stockpiles and "blow the dust off" equipment to help other nations out, but that now the game had changed with "a much more aggressive and dangerous Russia on the edges of Europe".

                      "Absolutely part of the effort this year is sustainability - how can we, the international community, stimulate supply chains, how can we stimulate our own supply chains for our own equipment and that's been one of the changes," he said.

                      Standing at a tank training ground surrounded by armoured fighting vehicles and tanks, Wallace spoke to Ukrainian soldiers who were training to use Britain's Challenger tanks which the defence minister said would arrive in Ukraine in "the spring".

                      Britain has already given more than 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers basic training in drone warfare and has been training tank crews since late January, part of what ministers say is proof of the country's leading role in supporting Ukraine.

                      Britain and other Western countries have scaled up their pledges of military aid for Ukraine this year, with promises of tanks and armoured vehicles as well as longer-range weapons. London has also offered to train Ukrainian soldiers on war planes rather than delivering fighter jets as yet.

                      Wallace has frequently said any delivery of fighter jets would be a long-term project, possibly once the Russian war on Ukraine was over, and would not be drawn on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's offer of longer-range weapons.

                      But the question opposition lawmakers have is how much can Britain offer. Wallace said Britain could offer additional Challenger tanks to the 14 already promised, but that it would depend on the threat level and also the country's defence needs.

                      "The key is to make sure we can maintain them through this year. With Russia using the meat grinder tactic of its own where the Russian army doesn't care about its own people, ... we have to make sure that is not able to be successful," he said.

                      Wallace conceded that all this takes money but would not be drawn on how talks to secure more funds in this month's budget were going, saying only that negotiations were ongoing.

                      "For now I just need to see if there's any more money I can have ... to get me through inflation and get me through some of the other pressures," he said. When asked whether he felt Sunak understood what was needed, he added: "I am reassured."
                      “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


                      • #12
                        Hundreds of foreign soldiers to help train Ukrainian troops in Germany -general

                        STRAUSBERG, Germany (Reuters) - German military instructors teaching some 1,000 Ukrainian troops how to use Western tanks and other arms will soon be reinforced by several hundred specialists from other countries, the head of the Special Training Command said on Wednesday.

                        "We are talking about some 30-50 troops from Norway and several hundred from the Netherlands,"
                        Lieutenant-General Andreas Marlow told Reuters in an interview at his headquarters in the town of Strausberg near Berlin, adding he was aiming for further contributions from other nations.

                        "I hope we will be able to convince more partners to support us," he said, noting the first additional trainers are expected to arrive by the end of March.

                        Marlow's Special Training Command (STC) is part of a European Union military mission set up in November to train up to 30,000 Ukrainian troops in various skills to help Kyiv fight off Russia's year-old invasion.

                        Courses in various European countries range from basic training to the operation of modern battle tanks such as the Leopard 2, air defence systems, rocket launchers and howitzers.

                        So far, some 1,500 mainly German soldiers have been handling the training in Germany, with the goal of completing courses for some 9,000 or more Ukrainians by the end of 2023, Marlow said.

                        Poland is another major training hub while Spain, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Italy are also running courses. Beyond the EU mission, U.S. and British troops are training Ukrainian troops in Europe as well.

                        While public discussions over the past few months have focused on whether or not the West would supply tanks to Ukraine, the instructors in Germany stress the importance of all weapons acting in concert.

                        Such warfare, described by the military as combined arms operations, is seen as a strength of NATO forces in contrast with Russia's military that experts say bets on strength from sheer numbers of troops and weapons.

                        "We see tanks and infantry fighting vehicles as inseparable twins that go into battle together, with the support of others such as artillery, engineers or air defence systems," said Marlow.

                        "Only this mix creates the synergies that give us an advantage over someone who is using their troops without this kind of orchestration," he added, noting that a tank operating alone was vulnerable to attacks by infantry with anti-tank weapons approaching the vehicle from a dead angle.

                        Marlow said he was impressed by the quick wits, skills and commitment of the Ukrainian troops.

                        "That gets to you, when you see these young people training on a tank, on an infantry fighting vehicle that will head directly into battle - not like the artillery that fires at a distance," he said.
                        “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


                        • #13
                          Czechs have sent 89 tanks, hundreds of pieces of heavy machinery to Ukraine -PM

                          WARSAW - The Czech Republic has supplied hundreds of pieces of heavy military equipment to Ukraine over the past year, including 89 tanks, and will continue supporting efforts to aid Kyiv, the country’s prime minister said on Wednesday.

                          Mr Petr Fiala was speaking after a meeting in Warsaw of countries on Nato’s eastern flank with US President Joe Biden, who pledged to “defend every inch of Nato” to reassure allies nearly a year after Russia invaded Ukraine.

                          The Czech Republic has been one of Kyiv’s earliest and strongest backers.

                          Detailing for the first time the extent of Czech supplies, coming under cooperation of the state and the private sector, Mr Fiala said the country had shipped 226 fighting and armoured infantry vehicles, 38 howitzers, 33 multiple rocket launchers, six air defence systems and four helicopters.

                          “Thanks to Czech efforts, hundreds of heavy military vehicles have been delivered to Ukraine to date, and more than a million rockets, anti-tank grenades, large-calibre munitions, with a total value of around 40 billion crowns (S$2.4 billion),” Mr Fiala told a televised briefing from Warsaw.

                          He said a quarter of the aid was direct from the state and army stores, while the other aid was the result of licences issued to manufacturers.

                          The government said supplies worth tens of billions of crowns would flow to Ukraine in the coming months.

                          “We can do that not only due to our own resolve but also thanks to allies giving financial support, financial resources for modernising the army,” Mr Fiala said.

                          The US embassy in Prague last week said the United States would provide US$200 million (S$270 million) to the Czech Republic for military upgrades and replacement of equipment sent to Ukraine.

                          The Czechs are also receiving Leopard 2A4 battle tanks from Germany as part of an international swap program to allow the flow of weapons to Ukraine.

                          The Czech Republic has also agreed to repair Ukraine’s armoured vehicles as part of it help to the country.

                          The countries on Nato’s eastern flank meeting on Wednesday - known together as the Bucharest Nine and nations that during the Cold War were either aligned with Moscow or part of the former Soviet Union - reiterated support for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia.

                          “We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to this end, as long as necessary,” the countries’ statement said. REUTERS
                          “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


                          • #14
                            Bulgarian Factories and Secret Task Forces: How the West Hunts for Soviet Arms

                            KOSTENETS, Bulgaria — The job is straightforward, dangerous and will soon be open to applicants: filling a 122 mm Soviet-style artillery shell with explosives that will turn it into a lethal projectile.

                            For the residents of Kostenets, a dying mountain town in western Bulgaria, it’s a welcome opportunity despite the risk of death. It means more jobs at the Terem ammunition plant on the outskirts of town.

                            The factory stopped making the 122 mm shells in 1988 as the Cold War came to a close. But soon the assembly lines will be running again. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned Soviet-era arms and ammunition into critically important matériel as western nations seek to supply Ukraine with the munitions it needs to foil Moscow’s assault.

                            And so in January, 35 years after the last 122 mm shells left the Terem plant, the company recommissioned production.

                            Small towns in Bulgaria, with its large pro-Russian population, might seem unlikely linchpins of Ukraine’s military effort. But one year into the war, despite an influx of sophisticated western arms, the Ukrainian military still relies primarily on weapons that fire Soviet-standard munitions. The United States and its NATO allies don’t produce those munitions, and the few countries outside Russia that do are mostly in the former Soviet orbit.

                            That has Western countries scrambling to find alternative sources, pouring millions of dollars into workarounds that keep the transactions quiet and avoid political fallout and Russian retaliation. And that brings them to some of the more remote areas of Eastern Europe, like Kostenets, and the small town of Sopot, roughly 50 miles to the northeast, which is home to another state-run arms factory.

                            Representatives from the U.S. Embassy quietly attended the ribbon-cutting last month for the new production line in Kostenets, which took place outside the plant, a rundown, low-slung building in a corner of the town. With the new jobs it’s adding, the plant could become one of Kostenets’ biggest employers.

                            “This is a big deal for the town,” said Deputy Mayor Margarita Mincheva.

                            Sopot, too, has seen its fortunes improve since the invasion. It is home to VMZ, an arms company that employs much of the local workforce. On a recent Friday the dull thud of explosions rattled windows — they were likely tests of freshly made munitions, the town’s mayor said.

                            Over the years, VMZ has been a main source of income for Sopot’s residents, Mayor Deyan Doinov said. “Probably there isn’t a single family in town whose members haven’t worked or are not working at the plant,” he said. “Virtually we have no unemployment — only those who do not want to work are jobless.”

                            Bulgaria has historically close ties to Moscow, though it has been part of the European Union and NATO since the early 2000s. Last summer, revelations that Bulgaria supplied weapons to Ukraine, despite a strong opposition toward arming Kyiv, ignited a furor in the country’s politics.

                            Bulgaria’s projected arms exports last year soared, exceeding $3 billion, around five times the sales abroad in 2019, according to government estimates from data gathered in October.

                            But it is hardly the only country quietly contributing to Ukraine’s war effort. Luxembourg is supplying Ukraine with arms that originate in the Czech Republic. Brokers with cash from the U.S. are scouring factories in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Romania for shells. And Britain has formed a secret task force to arm Ukraine, according to a document The New York Times obtained and officials familiar with the task force’s work.

                            The importance of such sources is growing as Ukraine burns through ammunition at an unsustainable rate — one that NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week was “many times higher than our current rate of production.”

                            “This puts our defense industries under strain,” he added.

                            In recent months, Ukraine has fired 2,000 to 4,000 artillery shells daily, but would like to fire more so it can retake territory captured by Russia. At one point last summer Russia was firing as many as 50,000 shells a day. But that number has dropped since then, and Russia, too, is suffering from an ammunition shortage.

                            The U.S. is boosting its own production of artillery shells sixfold to fill the gaps. But it mostly makes ammunition for the NATO-standard howitzers it has sent to Ukraine.

                            Once the invasion began last year, Ukraine and its allies started buying up Soviet-style arms wherever they could find them. State-owned Ukrainian companies asked brokers in the U.S. and elsewhere for tanks, helicopters, planes and mortars, according to documents obtained by the Times.

                            Would-be suppliers emerged from the recesses of the global weapons trade to meet demand. In June, a Czech arms seller offered Ukraine ammunition and a dozen Soviet-model ground-attack jets built between 1984 and 1990 for about $185 million, the documents show.

                            Both Britain and the U.S. have financed deals using third-party countries and brokers in cases where manufacturing countries don’t want to be publicly identified as providing weapons to Ukraine, people familiar with the effort say.

                            The secret task force created by the British Defense Ministry focused on getting Soviet-style ammunition, say people familiar with the effort, a task that became harder as the war went on and big suppliers ran out of stock.

                            In June, Britain made a deal to buy 40,000 artillery shells and rockets made by the government-owned Pakistan Ordnance Factories. Under the terms of the deal, Britain would pay a Romanian broker to buy the Pakistani weapons, documents show. The transaction’s official paperwork said the weapons would be transferred from Pakistan to Britain, with no mention of Ukraine, a document obtained by the Times shows.

                            The deal fell apart after the Pakistani supplier was unable to deliver the ammunition, said Marius Rosu, the export chief of the Romanian broker, Romtehnica.

                            Such problems are common in deals relying on brokers and far-flung manufacturers. Rosu said his company does not send weapons to Ukraine. He said customers elsewhere may buy weapons from Romtehnica and later send them to Ukraine.

                            “That is not our problem,” he said.

                            Officials from Pakistan Ordnance and the government ministry that oversees it did not respond to questions about the proposed deal.

                            Bureaucratic loopholes and pass-through arrangements give Bulgarian officials political cover while fueling Ukraine’s war effort — though the cover is thinly veiled.

                            “Given that the war in Ukraine is still raging, where do we think that the shells are going to be exported to?'‘ said Lyuba, a 41-year old grocery store salesperson in Kostenets who declined to provide her last name. “It’s not rocket science to figure out that its production is going to Ukraine.”

                            Bulgaria’s arms industry has occupied a peculiar role since the waning days of the Soviet Union. It provided arms to both sides of the Iran-Iraq war and to Libya, among other customers, and after the Soviet Union fell it supplied rebels in Angola and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

                            Even after Bulgaria joined the European Union and NATO, its arms industry continued pumping out Soviet-caliber ammunition. That created an opportunity after the U.S. sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. allies in those countries used Soviet-era weapons, and the U.S. bought ammunition from Bulgaria to supply them.

                            After Syria’s civil war began in 2011, Bulgarian munitions appeared there — likely part of the campaign to arm groups fighting the Syrian regime.

                            That put Bulgaria at odds with Russia, which supported the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russian assassins poisoned a Bulgarian arms dealer in 2015, and since then a series of unexplained explosions have rocked Bulgarian arms companies.

                            Lyuba, the salesperson, said the presence of the Terem arms factory, which was shaken by an accidental explosion in 2014, makes Kostenets a Russian target.

                            “We are ordinary people; we will probably never know what exactly they are making there,” she said.

                            A fortuitously timed election helped ease the way for Bulgaria to become a major supplier to Ukraine. In the fall of 2021, during Russia’s buildup to the invasion, a new party took power, and Kiril Petkov, the Harvard-educated prime minister, decided it was a moment that Bulgaria could turn away from Russia and toward the west.

                            “We wanted to be on the right side of history,” he said in an interview this month.

                            Petkov’s governing coalition included an historically Russia-friendly party that balked at sending arms to Ukraine, so they came up with a workaround that would let Bulgaria deny, officially, that it was arming Ukraine: The government would approve exports to other EU countries, including Poland. Once there, the weapons could travel to Ukraine without Bulgaria being involved.

                            Sales picked up and factories boosted their output. Bulgarian ammunition soon accounted for one-third of Ukraine’s supplies, Petkov said.

                            Petkov’s government fell a few months later, when another party left his coalition. But by then, there was enough momentum that exports continued, even as other politicians in Bulgaria criticized the decision to help fight Russia.

                            Across the jagged snow-covered mountains in Sopot, residents who worked there said VMZ has increased production since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the plant now runs from Monday through Saturday.

                            “VMZ has been and is an integral part of the town’s life,” said a 63-year-old employee who has been working there for more than four decades and who declined to provide his name for fear of retribution. After all that time, he said, his body still tenses up on days the company tests explosives.

                            And like VMZ, whether the people of Sopot decide to acknowledge it or not, the war in Ukraine has become a part of their day-to-day lives.

                            “It’s going to sound cynical if I tell you that I want peace,” he said solemnly. “But at the same time I work at an arms factory.”
                            “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”


                            • #15
                              Scrounging for Tanks for Ukraine, Europe's Armies Come Up Short

                              A Leopard 2 tank operated by Ukrainian soldiers during a demonstration at a military base in Swietoszow, Poland, Feb. 13, 2023. (Maciek Nabrdalik/The New York Times)

                              BERLIN — Nearly a month after Berlin gave European allies permission to send German-made tanks to Ukraine, the flow of tanks so many leaders vowed would follow seems more like a trickle.

                              Some nations have discovered that the tanks in their armory don’t actually work or lack spare parts. Political leaders have encountered unanticipated resistance within their own coalitions, and even from their defense ministries. And some armies had to pull trainers out of retirement to teach Ukrainian soldiers how to use old-model tanks.

                              The struggle to provide Leopard tanks to an embattled Ukraine is just the most glaring manifestation of a reality Europe has long ignored: Believing that large-scale land war was a thing of the past and basking in the thaw of the Cold War, nations chronically underfunded their militaries. When Russia launched the largest land war on the continent since World War II, they were woefully unprepared.

                              Hints of the problem have surfaced repeatedly since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, through shortages of weapons and ammunition. But now, as Germany and its allies struggled for weeks to scrape together enough Leopard 2s to fill two battalions of tanks — 62 vehicles in total — the extent of their quandary has become even clearer.

                              The irony of this situation is not lost on Germany.

                              For weeks, Chancellor Olaf Scholz resisted an intense public pressure campaign from Ukraine’s leaders, European politicians and security experts to supply Ukraine with tanks, and to permit other nations to send some of their own Leopards, despite German concerns that it could be perceived by Russia as a NATO escalation. Many goaded Scholz with a social media campaign: #Freetheleopards.

                              The Leopards may be free now, but they are scarce on the ground. And some countries that clamored for permission to send them to Ukraine are having difficulties doing so, or second thoughts of their own.

                              Despite Europe having an estimated 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks of different models — they are among the most commonly used main battle tanks across the continent — pledges for Ukraine are still short of the hundreds it says it needs.

                              Germany has offered 18, and Poland another 14, but the numbers drop from there. And once the currently pledged tanks go into battle and get hit or break down, it is not clear which Leopards — or which country — will replace them.

                              “Of course some nations have delivered, or at least announced that they will,” Germany’s defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said at the Munich Security Conference this month. “But others have not done that.”

                              “That is what I’m a bit shocked about,” he added. “Clearly there were some nations — and I will never name names here — but we had some nations that preferred to hide behind Germany. To say: We would love to, if we were allowed. But when we allowed it, they didn’t do anything.”

                              Privately, many German and European officials involved in the negotiations over tank deliveries say the situation is more complicated. It is not so much that nations are unwilling to make good on their promises but rather that they have faced a rude awakening as to just how difficult it is.

                              Finland, where many outspoken members of parliament led the calls for Germany to allow Leopard deliveries, announced Thursday that it would supply three Leopard mine-clearing vehicles — but none of its estimated 200 Leopard main battle tanks.

                              Some German officials expressed sympathy for Finland, which is not yet a NATO member and has Europe’s longest border with Russia, some 830 miles. It does not want to weaken its defenses now that Russia has shown a willingness to attack a sovereign neighbor.

                              But some European officials were hoping for a larger contribution from Finland, given promises from the United States and Britain to come to its defense if necessary, even before NATO accession.

                              Nordic countries such as Sweden, which had long pushed for Leopard deliveries but Friday offered only “up to” 10, are facing another unexpected problem, several German officials said: While their politicians and members of the public appear keen to offer tanks to Ukraine, their militaries are not.

                              For decades, European countries enjoying a post-Cold War “peace dividend” had seen war as almost a thing of the past, regularly cutting military support. Now, the shrunken armies tend to be protective of what they still have. At NATO, European militaries are sometimes called “bonsai armies,” after the miniature trees.

                              For years, the United States has been nagging Europe to increase military spending, and in 2014, after Russia grabbed Crimea, NATO members agreed to spend 2% of gross domestic product by 2024. Yet even today, by current NATO estimates, only nine of the alliance’s 30 members are spending that much, while a 10th is close. Thirteen countries, including Germany, were spending around 1.5% of their GDP or even less.

                              In Germany, which for years clung to a foreign policy that emphasized aid and development more than hard power, some saw the problem as uniquely German. Yearly military reports to parliament offered sometimes comical glimpses of the shortages. Commandos conducted water training at local public pools, because their own facilities were shut down. Planes could not fly. Soldiers trained with broomsticks instead of rifles. Even newer Puma infantry fighting vehicles recently broke down en masse.

                              But other European nations are now realizing their own militaries may have similar troubles.

                              “The trend across the board in European armies has been cutting, cutting, cutting,” said Christian Mölling, a defense expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “But at the end of the day, many were on the same track as Germany: War is a theoretical thing. So we have theoretical tanks.”

                              Spain, which has 108 Leopard 2A4 tanks, early on sought German permission to offer some of its vehicles to Ukraine. Now it has discovered that many of them are in poor condition and need refurbishment that could take weeks or months. On top of that, one of the prime minister’s coalition partners, the leftist Podemos party, is closer to Russia and has been resistant to offering more support for Ukraine.

                              Nevertheless, as Germany turned the pressure back on its allies for their shortcomings, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, on Friday improved on his promise to send six Leopards and said Spain would now send 10.

                              Ulrike Franke, a defense analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the struggle to find tank numbers raises questions as to where else European militaries face similar shortages and maintenance problems.

                              “Is it just bad luck that Spain has an issue with their Leopard tanks, but everything else works?” she said. “Or do they have the same issues elsewhere?”

                              “Does 10% of their equipment not work, or is it 50%?” Franke asked. “It would be a good idea for Europeans to look at this more closely.”

                              Poland, which has difficult relations with Germany, was foremost in pressing Scholz and Berlin on the Leopards, and even threatened to send some to Ukraine without the necessary German permission. Like Germany, Poland has some 200 Leopard 2 tanks — but it says it will provide just 14. It sent the first of the tanks to Ukraine on the anniversary of the invasion, Feb. 24, although Poland has yet to finish training Ukrainian soldiers how to use them.

                              Poland may be holding off on deliveries of Leopards until it receives new Hyundai-made K2 tanks from South Korea, meant to replace the German model, some analysts said. Poland has sent many upgraded Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine.

                              But some European officials think Poland should be offering more Leopards, and some policymakers are planning meetings with Polish officials this week to better understand the situation. Even when it comes to the tanks that are in large supply — namely, the older Leopard 1 models — there are complications.

                              The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have launched a joint initiative to refurbish and send 150 Leopard 1 models to Ukraine by the end of the year. But at a training session for Ukrainian soldiers in Germany earlier this week, one general said militaries had been forced to seek out retired Leopard 1 tank drivers to come back and help train Ukrainian forces. The old model is too unfamiliar to current militaries.

                              As politicized as the Leopard issue has become, Gustav Gressel, a security analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, argued that there were plenty of solutions if European nations worked together.

                              The Dutch, for instance, lease 18 Leopards from Germany. Officials are discussing whether it would be possible for Germany to take some of them to use in place of its own Leopards in Lithuania and then send those to Ukraine.

                              Switzerland, sticking to its constitutional neutrality, refuses to send any of its 134 Leopard tanks to Ukraine. But it is willing to give the tanks to European Union members, Gressel said. Countries like Finland or Poland, he said, could request the Swiss tanks and send their own to Ukraine.

                              Another option would be for countries to simply buy more Leopards, made by the German companies Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, and send their current models to Ukraine. But European governments and the defense industry are currently in a standoff over production.

                              State leaders want industry to move first, while weapons makers want longer-term government orders before they step up production. If more government orders are made, analysts say, the more capacity may increase, thus speeding up production of weapons like tanks.

                              At current rates, militaries would face a serious tank shortage for the two to three years it would take the industry to make the new vehicles, security experts say — a long waiting period politicians across Europe are learning their armies are fiercely resistant to accept.

                              That is why Gressel argued the tanks should be sent now anyway.

                              “Yes,” he said, “Russia will reconstitute itself as a military threat to NATO after this war. But it will take years for them to come back as a military threat. They have to rebuild an army which is shattered and almost destroyed in Ukraine.”
                              “You scare people badly enough, you can get 'em to do anything They'll turn to whoever promises a solution”