How Ukraine can get the EU lend-lease going

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg 

2015/03/16 • Analysis & Opinion

Article by: Luc Vancraen

On January 15, 2015, the EU parliament voted a Ukraine support resolution. In the resolution, EU member countries were given the green light to lend-lease military equipment to Ukraine. To have a strong army, Ukraine needs to be equipped before further Russian aggression takes place.

On January 15, 2015, the EU parliament voted a Ukraine support resolution. In the resolution, EU member countries were given the green light to lend-lease military equipment to Ukraine. For Ukraine, this means it no longer has to purchase costly equipment but can simply borrow it for the duration of the war. So far, unfortunately and to the best of my knowledge, no serious lend-lease deals have taken place.

Let’s start by looking at what lend-lease deals have done in the past. A similar US act helped the USSR survive the first German assault during WWII: Two out of every three trucks the Red Army used during WWII came from the US (66.7%). One out of every five planes, or 18,700+ aircraft came from the US (20%). The USSR only produced 92 locomotives during WWII but these were supplemented with 2,000 US locomotives (220%) and 11,000 railcars.

If Ukraine borrows from the EU’s vast military stocks, it can become a lot more mobile and better equipped very quickly. Its wounded will get transported in better ambulances and be treated in mobile operating units closer to the front, increasing survival rates. Ukraine’s army is technologically inferior to Russia’s, but even if only non-lethal aid is given on a serious scale, it will cause a dramatic change in the Ukrainian forces’ logistics, communications and surveillance capabilities, allowing Ukraine’s arms budget to be spent solely on lethal weapons.

So, we are looking at an exponential improvement in Ukraine’s position in this war. To be perfectly clear, however, while the EU’s Ukraine support act allows defensive arms to be supplied as well, realistically, we can assume that most EU members will lack the courage to deliver this.

The more important question is how can Ukraine get this going. Clearly, behind-the-scenes diplomacy has failed to deliver the desired results. Then perhaps a completely opposite approach makes sense. Publicly, nearly all European leaders have declared their support for Ukraine.

What if Ukraine sends a large high-profile delegation on a tour of European capitals, starting with Brussels? This delegation should include high foreign ministry and military officials, together with prominent civic activists and cultural figures. This would guarantee that the delegation generated a lot of media attention. It would then be up to the EU governments that profess support for Ukraine to openly deny aid to this Ukrainian delegation. If the delegation includes, not just individuals with a diplomatic or military background, but also high-profile activists like Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, doctor Olha Bohomolets, journalist Mustafa Nayem, singer Ruslana and others, it will draw a lot more media attention, effectively exerting a lot more pressure. Ideally, the European tour would start at the EU parliament and visit at least 10 EU capitals before returning to Brussels.

If the tour is properly planned, it will also be welcomed by the Ukrainian community and pro-Ukrainian politicians in each of the countries it visits. This will generate even more media attention.

What are the risks of such a high-profile tour in support of aid to the Ukrainian army? If it yields no results, clearly this would be most embarrassing for the EU and its national leaders. A strong deterrent to further Russian aggression can only be provided by a strong Ukrainian army.

To have a strong army, Ukraine needs to be equipped before further Russian aggression takes place. Can Ukraine afford to not at least try this and risk being ill-prepared when the next wave of Russian aggression hits?

Source: Originally published on VoxUkraine

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  • Rods

    A good plan well worth trying. IMO before the tour commences the group needs to liaise with the middle ranking armed forces officers, who have frontline experience, to create a shopping list and prioritization of the most urgent items from hard earnt battlefield experience. Intergovernmental and EU member Government-tour group negotiations could then take place, so the tour can start with one or two countries where they know they will be successful. This will then make it easier to get more reluctant countries to join in.

    Getting the bulk of the of the negotiations done behind closed doors is similar to what happens for airline orders, with the order then announced at an airshow where the aircraft manufacturer know they will have the attention of the world’s MSM.

    With the US and other countries now shipping more non-lethal equipment and vehicles to Ukraine this also needs to be taken into account when creating your shopping list.

    From what I have seen logistical support for the frontline forces has been negligent at best and this needs to be massively improved. There are important lessons to be learnt here from online shopping and parcel delivery. I can’t see why a secure order system with online tracking can’t be setup quickly using commercial software and smartphone apps to get the right goods at the right time and the right place for the frontline forces.

    Good luck with the initiative and well done for the efforts you are putting in, where individuals can make very big differences. :-)

  • Brent

    Ask some of the injured soldiers to also join this tour. The EU needs to see the faces of some of Ukraine’s actual defenders to see they do not wear swastikas as the Kremlin like to claim.

  • Calibra

    “If Ukraine borrows from the EU’s vast military stocks”

    What vast military stock’s???????
    Those stocks have been sold or scrapped a long time ago, almost no modern EU army has vast reserve’s anymore, in other words, the reserve material which was present during the cold war 1.0 does not exist anymore, what you see is what you get, so even if Ukraine could get the lend – lease going there simply isn’t any equipment availeble anymore.
    And what still is present has been used to rotate material to mission’s as afghanistan etc so that’s also not availeble.

  • Dean Venture

    Having a diplomatic dream team make a tour is a great idea. Include some Jewish leaders to provide counter-examples to the Russian ‘Ukrainian fascist’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ storylines. Make sure you visit North America too. Visiting the US would increase pressure on the White House to start providing lethal equipment. Now that the EU has officially given its blessing with this resolution, it won’t look like they’re breaking ranks with the Europeans.

    The following I suspect is pie in the sky daydreaming, but…

    There seems to be a lot of useful equipment up for retirement now that NATO military budgets are shrinking post-Afghanistan. Here in Canada we are retiring our Leopard C2 tanks (a Leopard 1 variant), why not retire them to Ukraine? They aren’t top of the line, but they were last upgraded in 2000, have thermal sights, and an upgraded fire control system.

    I think the Americans are retiring their A-10s. It’s probably a pipe dream that they’ll be seen in Ukraine, but they were specifically designed to destroy the tanks Russia is using in Eastern Ukraine, as well as survive the MANPADS they used to down so many aircraft last summer.

    The kicker would be training. It must be hard to drop a soldier trained on ex-Soviet equipment into a NATO weapons system, particularly aircraft.