Ukraine Needs More Weapons as Russia Stays Committed to Victory, Panel Says

April 3, 2024 7:29 PM
Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles. Ukraine MoD Photo

The Kremlin’s strategy of being willing “to pay any price” to eliminate Ukraine remains unchanged despite Russia’s substantial losses in manpower, equipment, energy production and naval presence in the Black Sea, a panel of European security experts said Monday.

Russian ground forces are “progressing a little bit” all along the 600-mile front despite “massive efforts and massive attrition,” Andiry Zagordnyuk, a former Ukrainian defense official, said during the Atlantic Council online event.

Now chair of the Center for Defense Studies, he added “I would not like to guess what the Ukrainian position would be if we didn’t have the drones.”

“Drones are saving the country.”

Kyiv holds the edge in drone production and capability at the moment, Zagordnyuk said.
Evelyn Farkas, executive director of the McCain Institute, added that edge in air- and sea-based unmanned systems allows Ukraine to “take the war behind the lines” into Crimea and across the border. After months of a Russian blockade, the drone strike allowed Ukraine to open the Black Sea to export grain and other agricultural products to global markets.

Because the Kremlin turned the Black Sea into a theater of war, “Russia should not have naval capabilities there” when the fighting finally ends, Zagordnyuk said.

Ukraine’s “immediate situation is hunger of weapons”, he said, agreeing with other panelists.. “It’s not a joke, we’re in a very serious situation” as funds dry up to keep the government functioning, its soldiers armed and supplied and infrastructure running or being rebuilt.

John Herbst, a former ambassador to Ukraine and now with the Atlantic Council, predicted Congress will finally pass the more than $60 billion in humanitarian and military aid Ukraine needs sometime in May.

That would be “soon enough to prevent the disaster in Ukraine,” which already is rationing ammunition and artillery shells to halt Russian advances, “but after far too much time, now six months.”

“We need to back the winning team,” Farkas said. She, Herbst and Zagordnyuk pointed the finger at “a fringe group” of Republican House members who have been blocking consideration of the aid package. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said the package must include money for Israel and the Indo-Pacific, as well as for southern border security.

“The Far Right folks [in the House] are using the same language as [President Vladimir] Putin: ‘Ukraine is losing,’” Farkas said. She repeated Ukraine is winning.

Farkas added that Putin continues to blame Kyiv, Washington and London for the late March attack on a Moscow concert hall and shopping area that killed at least 139 people and wounded hundreds more. Putin “was looking for justification for the war in Ukraine … to keep the war machine going,” she said. ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State, has claimed responsibility. The four gunmen who have been arrested and charged are from Tajikistan.

The long delay has caused not only Ukrainians but other European allies to question American leadership in the ongoing war and in the future. Panelists said Europeans are looking for forums, other than the “Ramstein group,” to funnel assistance to Kyiv.

Headed by the United States after the February 2022 attack, the Ukraine Defense Contact Group consists of all the members of NATO, the European Union and other nations who have pledged to send Kyiv necessary military aid to defeat Russian aggression.

France “is talking about putting troops in Ukraine,” as well as sending more weapons, Herbst said.

What the administration needs to do after the aid package is approved is send Ukraine longer-range Army Tactical Missile systems [ATACMS] and “F-16s and tanks in quantity,” he added.

Zagordnyuk said, “you can’t negotiate with someone who wants to kill you.”

John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense,,,, Government Executive and USNI News.

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