Now that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is stretching into its second month, most of the world has picked sides. The western powers are fully behind Ukraine. Supplying it with lethal weaponry ranging from high tech javelin anti-tank missiles to various anti-air MANPAD systems. In a surprise move, even Slovakia has donated its S-300 air defense system. Up to this point, the lethal aid has been defensive in nature.
The NATO countries are slowing starting to supply offensive weaponry. Although not an original partner, Australia has signed multiple partnership agreements with NATO. It is supplying Ukraine with its Bushmaster armored vehicles. The Czech Republic has also become the first NATO partner to supply actual tanks to Ukraine. The T-72 soviet era tanks are compatible with Ukraine’s current arms and ammunition capabilities. This is a seismic shift in the conflict.
The shift to offensive weaponry is an escalation by NATO which goes right up to the line of direct confrontation with Russia. Ukraine now is only short of NATO air power before it is fielding basically a NATO based force. The only thing that has stopped Russia from forcing Ukraine’s capitulation in the war is the constant supply of arms and munitions from NATO and its partners.
Couple these developments with the United States intelligence communities providing real time intelligence to Ukrainian strategic planners and you can see how Ukraine can now be viewed as a de facto member of NATO.
If Putin’s aim were to prevent Ukraine from becoming part of NATO, he may have miscalculated badly. If Ukraine can force some sort of peace agreement and maintain its sovereignty, it is highly likely that the cooperation will continue. The Russian’s have been bloodied badly by Ukraine’s modern weapons and if it does not completely subjugate the country it will not be able to prevent its membership in NATO if that is still a desired outcome by the parties involved.
That is not to say that Ukraine’s winning the war, or forcing a stalemate is a done deal. NATO is not supplying troops and Ukraine may falter because of lack of manpower. The west still seems reluctant to engage in direct military conflict with a nuclear armed Russia. Its efforts to this point may prove to be enough. If that turns out to be true, expect Ukraine to become a NATO partner.