As the Russian invasion of Ukraine nears the 14-month mark, with the smaller country still resisting its mighty neighbour and even hitting back successfully at times, leaders in the West are preparing themselves for nuclear threats and cyber-attacks from Vladimir Putin, President of Russia. They believe that Putin may decide to use “whatever tools he’s got left”, as Ukraine plans a big counter-offensive, if the Western allies provide enough military equipment.
According to a report in The Guardian today, British officials at the G7 foreign ministers’ summit in Japan said that they expected a Russian retaliation against the coming Ukrainian counter-offensive and that they “must be prepared”.
Yesterday, Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said that the country’s counter-offensive would not begin until it was fully prepared. He said that NATO allies were helping Ukraine to gather the equipment required for a counter-offensive. However, he also said that the allied countries sometimes “promise one thing and do a completely different one”.
Meanwhile, Denys Shmyhal, Prime Minister of Ukraine, said in an interview with CTV on Sunday that his country wanted to get some specifics on Ukraine’s NATO membership bid before a NATO summit in July. “We also would like to have very concrete schedules and our homework and a date when we will have the possibility to be a member of NATO, so we will need this promise from NATO,” he said.
Zelenskyy reminds allies of weapons need
Since the invasion began, Ukraine has repeatedly asked to be made a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a status for which it had applied in November 2022. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also repeatedly asked NATO countries to help him with military equipment. A month after the invasion began, he said that he wanted “1 per cent of the alliance’s tanks and planes”. He said, “We did not ask for more, and we do not ask for more. And we have already been waiting for 31 days.”
Yesterday, Zelenskyy again referred to the delay in weapons deliveries, saying that each delay cost Ukrainian soldiers their lives, as the allies took their time to decide which weapons could be supplied.
‘Absolutely any weapon’ to be used
Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev had warned in March that if Ukraine tried to retake Crimea, which was captured by Russia in 2014, then Moscow would consider using “absolutely any weapon”. Vladimir Putin visited Crimea and the city of Mariupol in Ukraine in March.
Also in March, Russia upped the ante by stating that it would station shorter-range, tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, a Russian ally nation that shares a border with Ukraine. Moscow called this a defensive move to counter Western military activities near its border.
Yesterday, in Japan, G7 ministers issued a statement after a two-hour meeting, condemning the nuclear threats as “unacceptable”. They criticised Putin for his plan to position the nukes in Belarus.
Russia claims that its “special military operation” in Ukraine is meant to protect itself from a hostile West, while Ukraine and its Western allies claim that Russia is trying to capture more territory through an unprovoked war.