Ukraine’s foreign minister said the upcoming counteroffensive against Russian forces would not be the last. The diplomat urged NATO members to transfer more advanced weapons to Kiev for the coming operations, including F-16 fighter jets.
In an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper published on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said “Do not consider this counteroffensive as the last one, because we do not know what will come of it,” adding that should it fail, “It means we have to prepare for the next counteroffensive.”
For months, the Pentagon has been assisting Kiev in planning its operations, including combat training for Ukrainian troops. President Volodymyr Zelensky has used the forthcoming counteroffensive to lobby for more weapons from his Western backers, telling a Japanese newspaper in March that ”We can’t start yet. Without tanks, artillery and HIMARS, we can’t send our brave soldiers to the front… We are waiting for the receipt of ammunition from our partner countries.”
Last week, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK Vadim Pristayko indicated the long-anticipated operations would begin once the weather improves. Recently, American and Ukrainian officials have suggested the counteroffensive to retake territory could fail, raising concerns both in public and behind closed doors.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the results of the counteroffensive would have significant sway over whether Ukraine continues to receive US support. “If Ukraine is successful in the eyes of the American people and the world, I think it will be a game-changer for continued support,” he told Bloomberg last week. “If they are not, that will also have an impact – in a negative way, though.”
However, at a joint press conference on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his UK counterpart James Cleverly appeared to contradict McCaul, explaining that future Western backing would not be based on Ukraine’s battlefield success. “We need to continue to support them, irrespective of whether this forthcoming offensive generates huge gains on the battlefield, because until this conflict is resolved and resolved properly, it is not over,” Cleverly said.
The Ukrainian FM went on to urge for additional foreign arms shipments for Kiev, telling the German paper “it’s all about weapons, because to win the war you need weapons, weapons, and more weapons,“ adding that “Germany has a lot, and a lot depends on Germany.”
Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced a $1.2 billion weapons package for Kiev, including air defenses and artillery ammunition. The Defense Department said the arms will help to ensure Ukraine’s ”long-term security.”
Still, Kuleba wants Berlin to pressure Washington to send F-16s to Ukraine. “The power of German diplomacy should also not be underestimated,” the Ukrainian diplomat stated, arguing that Germany must play an ”active role” in building a ”coalition of states” to supply aircraft and other advanced systems.
While the White House has resisted Kiev’s frequent calls to send American fighter jets to Ukraine, there is some indication that Washington and London are preparing to take that step, as Ukrainian pilots are currently training on Western-made planes in the US and UK. Moreover, the United States has previously backtracked after refusing to provide certain weapons, agreeing to supply Patriot missiles and M1 Abrams battle tanks despite declining earlier requests.