Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has seen a lot in the year since Russian forces have crossed his country’s border, and very little of it has gone as experts predicted.
Russia has thrown massive armies, tank armor and all the weapons short of its nuclear arsenal at its smaller neighbor, only to be denied a quick victory and even forced to concede some, Russia said in a video conference hosted by the Hudson Institute on Tuesday. the land to the east and south which he had long controlled.
Ukrainian forces, which pushed back the first offensive columns with Western-supplied artillery weapons that underground guerrillas could use against the occupation army, are now deploying sophisticated anti-missile defense systems and high-tech long-range artillery in preparation for even more lethal aid. pipeline as they take the fight to entrenched Russian forces.
“Now our defenders are training with Patriot systems,” he said. “We expect the arrival of the first tanks from Europe next week. We got hundreds of artillery units and dozens [multiple launch rocket systems]anti-aircraft defense systems and a huge number of other weapons.
Like many in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration, as the war’s one-year anniversary approaches on February 24, Mr. Reznikov noted grave skepticism even among Ukraine’s Western supporters that it could hold out for long against its larger, better-armed neighbor.
“Many respected figures in the West believed that Kiev would fall within three days, followed by the defeat of Ukraine within weeks,” Mr Reznikov said. “But the Ukrainian army, the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people have proven stronger than many expected.”
The dramatic course of fighting over the past 12 months has changed both the image and character of Ukraine’s armed forces, Mr Reznikov argues. Ukraine’s military has become a de facto NATO force, he said, achieving near-total interoperability with the Western military alliance it hopes to one day join.
And the US and its NATO allies are learning that the fight for Ukraine will have repercussions far beyond the region, he argues.
“Kremlin regularly hits the peaceful cities of Ukraine with missiles,” he said. “Poland, Moldova and Romania are also under direct missile threat.” Russian mines in the Black Sea, he said, pose a direct threat to all ships navigating that important waterway.
Ukraine’s defense minister also feared that popular US and European support for economic and military aid to Kiev is waning as costs mount and Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be facing an all-out war that could last for years. After sending billions of dollars in security packages to Ukraine, Mr. Reznikov said he was not surprised that some Americans were wary of continuing a foreign war.
“The Americans have experienced some fatigue. They ask why they should support Ukraine. It’s natural,” he said. “However, despite what the Kremlin is trying to tell everyone, this is not a conflict between two Slavic countries. It’s an existential conflict between a free world and a world without freedom.”
He argued that Mr. Putin’s territorial ambitions would not be satisfied if Russia won the war against Ukraine.
“Until the enemy is defeated in Ukraine, the conflict will spread. The whole world is watching closely to see the consequences of this war,” he said. “If there is any sign that tactics of armed aggression against a sovereign state are working, military threats around the world will increase.”
“We will fight as long as it takes to win,” Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova said at the Hudson Institute event. “We can win this war. I think it’s clear to everyone.”