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Friday, February 23, 2024

West warns Ukraine not to blow ‘last ditch effort’ – NYT

The US and UK are trying to scrounge up ammunition for a spring offensive, officials say

The US and its allies are running out of ammunition for Ukraine, while Kiev is using up troops and shells needed for its planned spring offensive in the fight for a key Donbass city, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

Called Bakhmut by the Kiev authorities, Artyomovsk is now almost entirely surrounded by Russian forces. Ukrainian troops attempting to hold the town are running out of ammunition, the Times reported, with one brigade commander complaining of a “catastrophic shortage” of artillery shells.

Read more: US-Russia conflict would be ‘radically different’ from war in Ukraine: Envoy

Some US and EU officials now worry that Ukraine is using up thousands of shells a day in the battle for Artyomovsk at a pace that is “unsustainable” and “could jeopardize a planned springtime campaign,” which Kiev’s Western sponsors “hope will prove decisive,” according to the Times.

The Pentagon has reportedly even “raised concerns” with Kiev about this, warning Ukraine about “wasting ammunition.”

The US and its allies “did not stockpile weaponry in anticipation of supplying an artillery war,” the outlet said. A “secret British task force” is trying to track down and buy Soviet-caliber ammunition from around the world. The US and NATO have managed to put together some shells, but they are supposed to be used in the upcoming offensive.

Read more: World should move on from Ukraine war, focus on poverty, says Indian official

One Pentagon official described the push as a “last-ditch effort,” because the West does not have enough ammunition to keep up with Ukrainian expenditures.

NATO’s own stocks are “critically low” and it will take “many months” for efforts to boost production to have an effect, again according to the Times. Without artillery, the paper explained, the hundreds of new tanks and armored vehicles that the West is sending will have a limited effect.

The anonymous officials who spoke to the Times also claimed that Ukrainian casualties have been so severe, with “more than 100,000” troops wounded or killed so far, that Kiev must decide whether to hold on to Artyomovsk or save soldiers for the “one meaningful opportunity this year” to go on the offensive.

Though the US has tried to downplay the significance of Artyomovsk, President Vladimir Zelensky has decided to hold the town at seemingly all costs, declaring there is no part of Ukraine that can be abandoned.

The only logic of “expending so much blood and ammo” on the town would be to “drain Russia of resources and prevent its troops from heading farther west,” Camille Grand, NATO’s former assistant secretary general for defense investment and now a defense expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times. “The alternative is that they got dragged into a situation that, in the long term, plays in Russia’s favor and now it’s difficult to get out of it.”