Despite the increase in calls from the media for Ukraine to surrender, security analyst Mykhailo Samus remains cautiously optimistic both about western military aid for Ukraine and Ukraine’s final victory over Russia. He explains the difficulties America’s “lend-lease” plan for Ukraine may face, reasons for the West’s odd indecisiveness, and Russia’s current military capabilities.
Q: Let’s start with the lend-lease. Does it mean that all weapons required are already flowing to Ukraine?
Samus: The Lend-Lease Act allows on special leasing terms the provision of virtually any weapons, both military and civilian equipment, as well as fuel and other resources that allow the Ukrainian Army to continue to fight against Russia. This general political decision was taken to support Ukraine.
But there are technical issues that may arise regarding the production of some equipment. After all, this is not a store where we can say that we need 150 Patriots, 350 Harpoons, 18 ships and so on. Sometimes the Patriots are not ready, they need to be produced, or there may be a certain stock that needs to be prepared for use, repaired or equipped with modern systems.
There are still questions about aviation. Because it is firstly expensive, and secondly requires some systematic work. F-16s, for example, are now being replaced in the US by F-35s, but F-16s are also needed in many Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Systematic work may require these countries to be in a position to hand over Soviet planes to Ukraine and receive the F-16 in line with lend-lease. And only after that can Ukraine directly receive NATO-style equipment.
Q: Aviation is an especially interesting case. Is it possible to transfer aviation to Ukraine in the framework of the lend-lease?
Samus: Our partners are still unsure whether F-16s can be based in Ukraine while Russia has missile capabilities, or whether the supply of planes will be an effective solution. Here I can only advise that Ukraine be quickly supplied with a sufficient number of air defense systems, to close certain regions so that a cruise or ballistic missile cannot fly there, and base aircraft there. It is possible.
Finally, nobody really needs old MiG-29 and SU-27 planes anymore, because these planes are living out their last years. The Ukrainian army has already developed plans to switch to Western aircraft. 2025 has already been called the last year in which Soviet aircraft can still be used. Of course, Eastern European countries would like to get rid of these planes in exchange for more modern planes. Let’s use all the Soviet planes that are available in partner countries, and at the same time we should train Ukrainian pilots and technicians for modern planes.
Information on how many planes and anti-aircraft systems there are in Ukraine now is strictly classified. And the enemy would give a lot to find out how many planes we still have, because our planes continue to cause it a lot of trouble.
Q: At the same time, we see contradictory information about MLRS, including some statements that the United States allegedly does not want to provide them to Ukraine.
Samus: Well, there was talk that the United States did not want Ukraine to strike at Russian territory. But the very same M777 howitzers can also strike Russian territory.
I think there was also a technical issue here in terms of finances, because each individual package of aid was usually 100-200 million dollars. Systems such as HIMARS are very expensive and in packages cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Now, after the approval of $40 billion, part of which will go to military aid, the supply of HIMARS will be possible. An example is Romania and Poland, which have long worked on the re-equipment of their armed forces and the supply of HIMARS. Only in 2021 did they begin to arrive.
Q: It is said that it will take about 50 days for all necessary long-range weapons to reach Ukraine, so that Ukraine can effectively oppose the current Russian tactic of slow advances on the land scorched by artillery. Do you have any data about when these supplies can be complete?
Samus: I don’t know where these calculations come from, because M777 howitzers reached Ukraine much faster, not in 50 days. In fact, everything is delivered quickly, the latest armored personnel carriers come to Ukraine quickly. There are questions about the type of weapon. If it’s an F-16 for which we don’t have trained technicians and pilots, it would take longer.
There are relatively autonomous systems, such as anti-ship missiles. Although they are complex systems, they can be incorporated into the armed forces relatively quickly. So I wouldn’t say 50-60 days, I would say weeks, but it all depends on the decision. The sooner decisions are taken, the more weapons come to Ukraine.
The advantage of lend-lease is that a political decision has already been taken. Previously, it was about lethal, non-lethal weapons; offensive or defensive.
I hope that now, within the framework of lend-lease, it will be possible to supply the weapons that Ukraine needs without long delays and bargaining. All Ukrainian requests have long been in the US Department of Defense and other NATO ministries of defense.
Q: Regarding articles such as recently appeared in the New York Times that claim a Ukrainian victory is unrealistic. Can this hesitancy lead to a decrease in Western aid and thus indeed raise the cost for Ukraine’s victory?
Samus: The West is beginning to understand that Ukraine’s victory will eventually mean the destruction of the model on which Western oligarchs made a big profit. And maybe these oligarchs will no longer be involved.
It will be a completely different energy industry, either green or nuclear, but it will not be Russian gas. And if there is no Russian gas, there will no longer be hundreds of billions of corrupt money that have penetrated Europe.
Now more and more such articles will appear and more and more people in Europe will say that Ukraine must stop.
We are invited to “de-escalate” by stopping fighting after the Russians destroyed Mariupol, destroyed other Ukrainian cities and occupied part of the country. And now they say, let’s de-escalate and start negotiations.
Why are negotiations necessary? To make it possible for the Putin regime to survive and keep this oligarchic system. So that European leaders can say that Putin has made concessions, so let’s not implement an embargo on energy.
The oil and gas embargo is the end of an economic system based on Russian energy. Therefore, the pressure on Ukraine will increase. The more counter-offensive actions Ukraine conducts, the more articles will appear in the NYT with proposals from Germany. Delegations will come to Zelenskyy, appealing to him to give up.
There will be a very strong anti-Ukrainian campaign and no one needs to be surprised.
Ukraine’s goal is to finally bring this issue to an end. Because if we stop now, the Putin regime will take an operational pause, restore its resources with the help of our European partners and their billions for oil and gas, and in six months or a year will launch an attack again.
Sorry, European oligarchs, but Ukraine’s only choice is to fight.
Q: Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov also said that the Ukrainian army will grow. Ukraine must prepare to be ready for the potential mobilization of one million people. Does the Ukrainian army have enough human resources now to stop Russia’s offensive and launch a counteroffensive?
Samus: The command says that those already mobilized are enough to carry out tasks. But at the same time, Reznikov said that we need to be ready and have the resources to mobilize one million. It is very important.
Why is Putin not announcing mobilization in Russia? Actually, the Russians do not mind, they are very patient and will also endure being mobilized and destroyed in Ukraine.
There is another problem. In 2010, they launched a global reform of the armed forces, trying to copy much from NATO, saying they were moving from a large mobilization army to a professional army that could fight even without the support of the mobilized.
But in fact, this contingent of contractors, 160,000 of whom were gathered around Ukraine, failed because they faced resistance in Ukraine and the lack of large-scale collaboration that Putin had hoped for.
And Russia is not ready for mobilization. Because mobilization is about issuing a uniform and weapons to each serviceman and arranging his place in the unit and the unit itself in the armed forces. We are not talking about a crowd of millions, but about organization, order, and the appropriate weapons. The Russians do not have this. The equipment in reserve, the uniform, is at best of the old Soviet varieties, and it is only partially available.
On the other hand, Ukraine also does not currently have the capacity to mobilize one million troops. That is why Defense Minister Reznikov said that the goal should be to prepare weapons, armor, and uniforms for such a potential deployment. Now we are already developing a territorial defense and gradually moving in this direction.
Although Ukrainian intelligence says that covert mobilization is taking place in Russia now, I would call it not mobilization but covert recruitment. Some have problems with the law, others with loans, and these people are therefore ready to go to war in exchange for solving these problems.
Q: Let’s talk about the strategic perspective. Opinions are divided between the de-occupation of all Ukrainian territories within months and a constant line of contact for years without any change. What do you think is more likely?
S: Putin has now decided to direct all forces on Sievierodonetsk and Popasna directions to capture the last 5% of the Luhansk Oblast and say that “we have achieved great success and captured it completely.” But I think it is also possible he will reorient to the south, trying to cut Ukraine off from the sea. Putin hopes to prolong the war to the autumn in order to blackmail Europe and the world even more by blocking food supplies and sharpening the energy crisis.
Freezing the conflict would be the best situation for Putin, because he would avoid the embargo and have money to keep the social situation in Russia at a normal level. And for Ukraine it would mean a collapse, because Ukraine would begin collapsing economically without access to the sea.
If the Ukrainian leadership agrees to this scenario, it will be a terrible blow to the domestic political struggle, which Putin hopes for so much. Therefore, the only way for Ukraine to survive is to liberate Ukrainian lands.
Of course, it will be very difficult for us and Europe to go through this winter, and Putin will take advantage of it. Now Ukraine’s strategy is to exhaust the Russian army as much as possible, and when it is exhausted enough to strike at the weakest points and cause a collapse similar to the one in the Kyiv Oblast.
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