Discover how Western weapons played a pivotal role in shaping Ukraine’s war, altering its course in unprecedented ways. Explore the strategic impact and significance of these game-changing tools.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, it seemed like an easy task for the powerful Russian military. Even though Russia isn’t considered a superpower anymore since the Soviet Union fell in 1992, it’s still seen as one of the strongest military nations. Russia held onto the massive military strength inherited from the Soviet Union, which was globally recognized. Because of its support for the Soviet Union, Russia had significant influence not just worldwide but especially in the region. While it lost a lot of its European territory, its vast land area still made it a major player.
It was clear that Russians wanted to regain their past greatness, and this ambition grew after they tapped into their abundant oil and gas resources. Their autocratic leadership was determined to restore their former glory.
The first step in this direction was when Russia forcefully took control of Crimea. Crimea was seen as a crucial part of Russia’s historical greatness, a place where legendary Czars celebrated for centuries.
For many years, there were discussions about Russia’s interest in Ukraine. Russia saw Ukraine as a vital part of its sphere of influence and had stirred up disagreement in many areas where people wanted to join Russia. Despite the complicated international situation, it was believed that Russia wouldn’t resort to military action against Ukraine. However, all those predictions turned out to be wrong. The Russian president, Putin, who had ruled autocratically for two decades, decided to start an armed conflict to boost his declining popularity in the country.
Russian invasion of Ukraine
Just hours after Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian invasion of Ukraine, experts in the media were saying that Kyiv would fall within three days. However, that prediction didn’t come true.
Ukraine managed to survive, thanks largely to Western weapons. Putin didn’t fully understand how upset and frustrated NATO countries were about Russia’s aggression. They quickly began supplying Ukraine with weapons and imposing sanctions on Russia, causing obstacles in its path.
The situation changed significantly, and it only took a few days for observers to see that Ukraine’s supply of Western-made weapons was making a real difference in slowing down Russia. One particular type of technology played a major role early in the war.
Right from the beginning of the conflict, it was evident that shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-air weapons, like the American-made FGM148 Javelin and the FIM-192 Stinger systems, were crucial in stopping Russia’s initial advances across Ukraine.
In less than a week from the start of the war, the United States and its allies had sent over 17,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, aiming to equip the country’s soldiers against the onslaught of armored vehicles pouring across the border.
Western anti-tank weapons played a crucial role in the initial stages of the war when Ukraine depended on a small group of skilled soldiers and local defense forces to push back a more experienced and better-equipped enemy. Military experts highlighted the importance of the Javelin system, specifically its advanced capabilities, in ensuring the survival of the Ukrainian military and their ability to hold their ground. The lethality of this system became evident within just a few weeks of the war’s outset.
The range of weaponry provided to Ukraine by the NATO alliance was truly impressive and quickly began making a significant difference. This support transformed Ukraine, the underdog, into a formidable opponent. In this context, Javelin missiles were used during the early stages of the war as part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ hit-and-run ambush tactics. These tactics played a pivotal role in preventing Russian forces from capturing Kyiv, giving the Ukrainian forces a fighting chance.
Man-portable air-defense systems, often called MANPADS, played a vital role early in the war. They took down Russian aircraft that bypassed Ukraine’s air defense network, which had been seriously damaged by Moscow’s early missile attacks. These shoulder-fired missiles, like the American Stinger, are effective against low-flying aircraft within a few kilometers range. Despite their limitations, they managed to score several kills and significantly hindered Russian air operations. Throughout the first six months of the conflict, this type of weaponry prevented Russia from achieving air superiority, preventing the Kremlin from achieving several battlefield objectives.
As Ukraine demonstrated its ability to fight, its Western allies became more comfortable sending advanced weaponry, including air defense and rocket artillery systems. Missile systems like the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System and the American M142 High Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS) were soon shipped to Ukraine, with the latter having a game-changing impact on the war.
The Ukrainian army used HIMARS to launch long-range missiles at critical enemy positions. This helped reduce Russia’s numerical advantage in artillery fire and gave Ukraine the time it needed to plan a powerful counter-offensive in the northeast.
HIMARS was used to destroy the Antonovka Bridge in Kherson, ultimately allowing Ukraine to gain a positional advantage against the under-resourced Russian troops defending the territory they had taken north of the Dnieper River.
Reports indicated that HIMARS strikes were effective because they enabled the Ukrainian military to target Russian supply and ammunition depots. Some experts pointed out that this was crucial to Ukraine’s successful counterattack.
This bold initiative proved highly frustrating for the Russian forces, as they had to take extra measures to secure their logistical and weapon supplies. It was widely acknowledged that Ukraine’s success hinged on HIMARS, making it possible to liberate Kherson, a feat that greatly boosted the morale of the Ukrainian forces.
Vehicles role in distinguishing the capabilities of Ukrainian and Russian forces
As Ukraine prepared for its next major counter-offensive, military experts closely observed how the new advanced military equipment would be utilized in upcoming battles. Challenger 2 and Leopard tanks were deployed to Ukraine, and images revealed the presence of American-made Stryker and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. These vehicles were anticipated to play a crucial role in distinguishing the capabilities of Ukrainian and Russian forces.
Only time could reveal whether these new weapons would have a similar impact on the war as previous Western weaponry sent to Ukraine. However, it’s becoming evident that Western tanks are having a significant impact on Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive.
After more than 13 weeks into the counter-offensive, Leopard 2 tanks have proven surprisingly durable on the battlefield. Ukraine has lost only 5 out of their 71 Leopard 2 models during their push to reclaim occupied territories.
NATO strategies, combined with Western-supplied weapons, have assisted Ukraine in navigating through the dense Russian minefields on the frontlines and breaching the initial line of defense on the road to Melitopol. This road is crucial for removing Russian control from the southern part of the nation.
Once again, only time will reveal whether Western vehicles and training will make a difference at this stage of the war. However, it’s clear that Ukraine wouldn’t have been able to launch such a intense counterattack without the support of tanks, minesweepers, and infantry fighting vehicles provided by Western nations.