Ukraine Needs Weapons for Spring Counteroffensive

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he United States on Wednesday promised to “fully and quickly” give Ukraine the weapons required for a spring counteroffensive against Russia, addressing one of the most critical needs amid a global shortage of ammunition caused in part by the yearlong conflict.

The intensity of the battles in Ukraine has strained the production capacities of the West and Moscow. Both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have complained that they do not have enough ammunition to keep up with the pace of fighting.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, speaking during a virtual meeting with defense officials from more than 50 countries supporting Kyiv, said the allies “must provide Ukraine with the full capabilities for the fight ahead.”

“I’m confident that we will continue to step up to meet Ukraine’s needs into the spring and well beyond,” he said.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research body, said this step “may suggest that the Kremlin is prioritizing using skilled workers in the production of Russian weapons over having skilled soldiers fight in Russia’s military.”

It added that Mr. Putin had announced “a series of reforms to attract more specialists to work at military production plants, including the reallocation of federal assets to housing and increasing pay.”

Ukraine Spring Counteroffensive

The continuing carnage in the battle for Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, is the most vivid illustration of the toll the war has taken on resources and fighters. Both sides have suffered heavy casualties in the month-long fight for control of the city, and Ukrainian medics say they are struggling to treat the dozens of soldiers wounded there every day.

There were early reports on Wednesday that Russian shelling had hit several residential buildings and killed two people in Marhanets, across the Dnipro River from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant in southern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s most pressing needs are ammunition for artillery and air defenses. It has also said it needs fighter jets and faster delivery of the arms promised by the United States and other allies. Mr. Austin, speaking to reporters after the five-hour virtual meeting, said that Sweden had pledged 10 Leopard battle tanks, and that Norway and the United States were donating two NASAMS, or National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems.

The Ukrainian interior minister, Ihor Klymenko, said Kyiv had also accepted 28,000 applications for new volunteer “assault units” that would bolster the National Guard. “We have already started training almost all units,” he told reporters last week.

Moscow, which has resisted announcing a second wave of mobilization, plans to start a spring recruitment drive in April, according to Russian news reports.

The Kremlin, which counts China among its steadfast allies and has moved to bolster ties with other countries, received renewed support from President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has made his first trip to Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

In a meeting with Mr. Putin on Wednesday, Mr. al-Assad said that Moscow and Damascus were “in constant contact,” and he noted the role Russian troops had been playing in Syria since the Kremlin intervened in 2015 to prop up the Syrian government.

While Turkey has indicated it approved of Finland’s application, it has argued that its Nordic partner, Sweden, has to do more to satisfy the Ankara government’s demands for a tougher stance against terrorism and Kurdish separatists.

In a further sign that the war was taking a toll outside of Europe, Amitabh Kant, India’s chief coordinator for the Group of 20 nations that represent the world’s largest economies, called on European leaders to “find a solution” because the fighting was affecting the world’s poor in a particularly difficult post-Covid period.

“Significant results in countering international terrorism were achieved in Syria thanks to our joint efforts and the decisive contribution of the Russian Armed Forces,” Mr. Putin said at the meeting.

In a sign of how Russia’s invasion is also changing world alliances, Finland may be closer to becoming a member of NATO. Turkey appeared poised to declare its support for Finland’s bid to join the group, the Finnish president, Sauli Niinisto, said on Wednesday, ahead of a meeting on Friday with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.