Mocked in some quarters for what sometimes seemed token efforts to support Ukraine’s military in the face of the Russian threat, the West is starting to step up supplies of military equipment after the invasion.
With Ukrainian forces putting up real resistance in the face of the Russian advance, Western officials say there is a genuine interest in ensuring Russian President Vladimir Putin pays the maximum price for the invasion.
Germany in particular was criticized this month ahead of the invasion for only stumping up some 5,000 helmets to send to Ukraine, a gesture that the mayor of Kyiv, former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, said had left him “speechless.”
“What will they send us next? Pillows?” he asked the Bild daily.
France and other Western states had previously been wary of arms deliveries they feared could provoke Putin into action at a time when diplomacy was still alive.
Since Putin unleashed the attack on Ukraine on February 24 however, everything has changed.
Germany said Saturday its army would transfer 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger-class surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine, a U-turn from its longstanding policy of banning weapon exports to conflict zones.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point in history. It threatens our entire post-war order,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“In this situation, it is our duty to support Ukraine to the best of our ability in its defense against Vladimir Putin’s invading army,” said Scholz, stressing that Germany “stands closely by Ukraine’s side.”
France was also carrying out deliveries of defensive weapons to Kyiv, according to its military. Ukraine’s embassy in Paris said it had in particular requested anti-aircraft hardware.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that “partners” were sending weapons to help Kyiv fight Russian troops, adding that he had spoken by phone with French leader Emmanuel Macron.
“Weapons and equipment from our partners are on the way to Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter. “The anti-war coalition is working!”
After the German announcement, he tweeted: “Keep it up!”
On Saturday, Belgium announced it was providing 2,000 machine guns and 3,800 tons of fuel to the Ukrainian army.
The Dutch defense ministry said it had delivered sniper rifles and helmets, while 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles would be on their way as “soon as possible.”
The Czech Republic meanwhile is delivering 30,000 pistols, 7,000 assault rifles, 3,000 machine guns, several dozen sniper guns and about a million cartridges.
The United States is providing Ukraine with $350 million in additional military equipment to fight off Russia’s “brutal and unprovoked assault,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Saturday.
Britain has said it is ready to provide Ukraine with additional military support, including lethal defensive weapons.
But with military analysts saying that Moscow has not even used half of some 180,000 troops massed on the Ukrainian border in Russia and its ally Belarus, it remains unclear whether this sudden surge of help can make a difference.