Reznikov’s optimism persists despite all the political and logistical challenges in convincing Western countries to supply Ukraine with more modern NATO-grade weapons. He noted that many items once considered prohibited – drones, rockets and artillery – finally arrived in Kyiv, in a frustrating game of red lines that are then crossed by world governments.
Shortly after being named defense minister last November, Reznikov came to Washington and asked for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, but was told “no, that’s impossible,” he said. . “I asked them why. The answer was because it’s against the law…and political issues. Then in January, a month before the invasion, we received our first parcel from Lithuania. It was the Stingers, and we got it courtesy of the United States. So to me, that’s an example that if you hear it’s impossible, that means it will be possible in the future.
The same process has been repeated with 155mm Howitzers and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, which have had a tremendous effect on the battlefield since their arrival this summer.
The most important decision of the group, in the short term at least, “should be what kind of hand [battle] we will have for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, because we understand that all our partners who have an industry capable of producing tanks – such as Great Britain, France and Germany – will wait for the political decision of the United States”, a- he declared. “After the first Abrams [arrives] I’m sure we’ll have Leopards, Marders [German infantry fighting vehicles] and other types of heavy armored vehicles like tanks.
Poland has already donated 250 older Russian tanks to Kyiv, models Ukrainian tank crews are familiar with. But as Moscow continues to send its own tanks and armored personnel carriers into battle, Ukrainian leaders say more modern tanks would be invaluable in repelling the Russians. Despite the importance of cruise missiles and drones in this last phase, the war will continue to be fought on the ground, from village to village. And given Russia’s seemingly endless supply of armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces and tanks, Kyiv will continue to press for more armor.
As for fighter jets, preliminary discussions on the possible supply of F-16s to Ukraine continue, although officials in Washington have no sense that this would happen in the thick of combat as it is. is taking place today due to Ukrainian pilot training logistics. and send the necessary spare parts for sophisticated aircraft.
More optimism about weapons
Ukraine’s use of Western weapons not only helps repel Russian troops from occupied territory, but it is also a way for countries to test their equipment against a Russian army that until recently was considered as the second after the United States.
“We have a combat testing range in Ukraine during this war,” Reznikov said. “I think everything [countries] see how we use these systems, you know we have eight different 155mm artillery systems in the field… so it’s like a competition between the systems” to see which proves to be the most effective.
The latest test of some of these systems pits air defenses against Russian cruise missiles and Iranian drones, which Russia uses to terrorize civilians and strike infrastructure.
“Every civilized world should try to figure out how to block them, or how to hit them, because it’s a real threat to the whole world because they will one day use this equipment against” western targets, he said. he declares. “They will use them because it is a very effective way [drone]and I think it’s a real challenge” for Europe and NATO.
Harm to civilians and terrorism
Reznikov also fears Moscow is using the forced displacement of civilians from the southern city of Kherson to justify further strikes on infrastructure, while blaming Ukraine for the attacks.
“The Russians will probably use this as a pretext to destroy some kind of civilians [infrastructure] in Kherson district, or Kakhovka, and they will say it was done by Ukrainians,” he said. “After that, the Russians will react again against our water supply facilities, energy facilities or other types of critical infrastructure, as they did after the Kerch bridge explosion” this month .
As the war draws to a close in its eighth month and Ukrainian forces continue to retake territory in the east and south, Russia’s nuclear threats and attacks on civilian targets are seen as a desperate attempt to catch up his failures on the battlefield.
But the threats, which led to a flurry of phone calls over the weekend between US and UK military leaders and their Russian counterparts – with calls to Reznikov in between – were vague enough to allow Moscow to to move back.
“You know when you have this kind of craziness in your neighbor you have to understand that there are risks, but for me personally it’s not such an imminent risk right now because I’m not sure – and I think the Russians are not sure – whether they are technically prepared to do that,” he said.
Reznikov also wonders what targets Russia would hit, saying any nuclear use on the battlefield would also affect Russian troops in the region. A Russian protest in the Black Sea could also have far-reaching effects on NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, which border the waterway.
Attacks on energy and power generation infrastructure aimed at terrorizing the civilian population away from the battlefield are a tried and tested Russian tactic, however, used in Chechnya and Syria to make up for what Russian forces lacked on the battlefield. , he said.
“It is truly a terrorist state and we are still awaiting the decision of the United States to recognize [Russia] as a state that sponsors terrorism with the Iranian side,” Reznikov said.
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly this month adopted a resolution declaring Russia a “terrorist” regime, following similar statements by the parliaments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The United States and the United Kingdom have not gone that far, but following a meeting of NATO states in Brussels this month, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley said: “Russia has deliberately struck civilian infrastructure with the aim of harming civilians. They targeted the elderly, women and children of Ukraine. Indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian targets are a war crime under international rules of war.
Rebuilding Ukrainian industry
The United States and a group of allies met in Copenhagen in August to develop a plan to provide long-term assistance to the Ukrainian military, which includes repairing and sustaining equipment, a key objective to keep forces on the ground and ready to fight.
Reznikov said that meeting and another this month in Brussels, where dozens of countries pledged increased air support for Ukraine, gave him a sense that Western countries are ready to help for years. coming.
During the meeting in Brussels, “I felt the emotion and the real involvement of the defense ministers of the various countries and of the United States and the United Kingdom as well,” he said.
However, in balancing immediate battlefield needs with long-range plans, “we have two challenges,” he said. “We need to organize systems to repair and maintain what we have in the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield, second in [larger repair facilities] in Ukraine not far from the battlefield, and thirdly, with a more sophisticated repair and maintenance system that could be organized in Europe, such as in Poland, Slovakia or Romania, for example.
Reznikov suggested forming joint ventures with Poland, the UK and Germany to develop weapons and equipment that could be built in Ukraine, particularly for air defense systems. “We need to develop a drone industry not only for aerial drones but also on land and at sea because that is the future” of warfare.
Ukraine has already shown it can build its own armaments, having sunk the Russian cruiser Moskva in April with a locally produced Neptune missile. But more is needed.
“We are still waiting for the Switchblade 600 drones,” which the United States has promised to help Kyiv increase its stockpile of floating munitions that can hover over a target before an operator guides it to impact. The drone’s maker, AeroVironment, said this month that the first shipment of 10 drones is expected to arrive within weeks. He notes that Iran has sold 2,400 drones to Russia in recent weeks, so “for now, I’d say Iranian drones are temporarily winning this competition,” Reznikov said.
While tanks and fighter jets remain a work in progress, air defenses will continue to be “the number one priority” in the coming months, he said. “We need to split targets in the air – for example, to hit cruise or ballistic missiles, our defense systems will use…rockets like IRIS-T from Germany and [soon] There will also be [the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System], or our Soviet systems like Buk. Against Iranian drones, we can use cheaper equipment like Gepard from Germany or Stingers and Starstreak, or other equipment from our partners,” he said.
Strengthening this protective cover over Kyiv and other cities remains a priority for Ukrainian officials as missiles and drones continue to arrive.
“That’s why we ask our partners to find the solutions with different systems not only for medium or long range, we need short range systems [from] different countries that have these systems like Sweden, Germany and the United States,” Reznikov said.
While the needs are large and ongoing, Reznikov said the steady stream of meetings and calls with allies gives his government confidence that aid will continue to flow, even as Ukraine struggles to build its own systems for its own defence.
“I get a clear signal from all sides that whatever happens, the countries will support Ukraine until the end of this war, and I am sure that the end of this war will mean victory for Ukraine.”