In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials have been more candid about their losses on the battlefield as they plead with the US and other Western nations to send more arms. Ukrainian officials told The Wall Street Journal on Monday that without a significant increase in military aid, Ukraine will face a defeat in the eastern Donbas region.
“In this war, the victory will be with the side that has more and better weapons. And, if Ukraine doesn’t obtain enough weapons in time, it will bleed out,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister.
US officials are also expecting Russia to continue making territorial gains in the Donbas. A Pentagon official told The Washington Post that Russia will likely control the entire Luhansk Oblast within a few weeks.
The latest US weapons package for Ukraine was announced by the Biden administration on June 1 and included for the first time High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). The UK said it is sending a similar US-made rocket system, known as the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).
Mykhailo Podolyak, a top aide for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, listed on Twitter the number of heavy weapons Ukraine wants to “end the war.” His list included 1,000 howitzers, 300 MLRS, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles, and 1,000 drones.
The US has said it will send four HIMARS and Britain pledged three MLRS, vastly lower than the number Podolyak wants. The US still needs to train Ukrainian forces on how to use the systems, which the Pentagon said will take about three weeks.
Providing the rocket systems to Ukraine is a significant escalation of military aid and risks provoking Moscow. The systems are equipped with munitions that give them a range of 50 miles, meaning they could be used to hit Russian territory. The Biden administration said it received assurances from Ukrainian officials that they won’t use the weapons to hit targets inside Russia, but the US reportedly has no way to track the arms it’s pouring into the country.