Analysis: Fears of Russian escalation spark calls for even more Western arms for Ukraine

Stephen Collinson

Russia’s mass mobilization, looming offensive and missile-borne terror against civilians is triggering fresh calls for even greater Western lethal aid to Ukraine, days after leaders signed off on their latest package that included the first tanks.

A building public debate over whether to send F-16 fighter jets is resurfacing a dilemma underlying the entire NATO response: Is the aim of the United States and its allies simply to allow Ukraine to ensure its survival or is it to help it expel Russia from all its territory and to ensure the defeat of Russian President Vladimir Putin?

The likely escalation in the war, close to its first anniversary, comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warns that Moscow is mustering its forces for a “revenge” attack against the free world. The sense that another turning point is approaching was, meanwhile, underscored Thursday by CIA Director William Burns.

“The key is going to be on the battlefield in the next six months, it seems to us,” Burns said at Georgetown University. This involves “puncturing Putin’s hubris, making clear that he’s not only not going to be able to advance further in Ukraine, but as every month goes by, he runs a greater and greater risk of losing the territory he’s illegally seized so far,” the CIA chief said.

Washington is hearing Ukraine’s calls for even more multi-billion dollar assistance. It is about to announce a new $2.2 billion haul that includes longer-range missiles for the first time, according to multiple US officials. CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Oren Liebermann reported that the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb — a guided missile with a range of 90 miles — will be included in the package. It could take weeks or months for the weapon to arrive, however, since the US will contract with American arms manufacturers to provide it.

Still, the latest US offering solidifies one of the most important and ironic consequences of the war. One of Putin’s perceived invasion goals was to forever sever the hopes of Ukraine, which was once part of the Soviet Union, of joining NATO. It may not be a member of the alliance, but Ukraine is now waging a stronger-than-expected response against Moscow using some of the West’s most advanced military kit.

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