Putin no longer talks about the “unification” of Ukrainian and Russian peoples. Russian President Vladimir Putin is no longer calling for Russians to sacrifice for the ancient Kievan Rus heritage, the Kremlin is now casting the Ukrainian War as a mighty battle against NATO.
The Levada Center, an independent Russian nongovernmental polling research organization, states their poles are a “representative sample of all Russian urban and rural residents.” In their most recent poll, the number of Russians who believe the country “should definitely continue military actions in Ukraine” has dropped to 23%, with 56% saying that negotiations should begin. With Russian support for the war faltering, the Kremlin is finding recruiting an increasingly difficult challenge. Some recent reports are stating Russia is sending not only prisoners, but also drug addicts to war to meet mobilization quotas.
Even with support dropping, intelligence reports there is significant buildup on three sides of the Ukraine. The buildup locations are in the Kharkiv region in the east and Zaporizhzhia in the south, with movement in Belarus to the north.
The U.S. Push
In a meeting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last week, NATO members discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Ukrainian defense capabilities. The intent was to gain / coordinate additional military support to Ukraine and civil support after the war. Designed to give Kyiv additional capability during this crucial moment in time, NATO wants to enable Ukraine’s ability to counter a potential Russian spring offensive.
With one of the greatest concerns being the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin desired to push Germany to allow their Leopard 2 tanks to be transferred to Ukraine. In a trade agreement from NATO countries, other members are currently not able to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv without German permission. The Ramstein meeting on Friday failed to gain desired support from Berlin.
The UK and several other European countries have pledged to send tanks to Ukraine. Germany on the other hand, wants the U.S. to join by sending its own M1 Abrams tanks, first. News outlets sent mixed signals on Friday as government officials in Berlin were stating everything was still under consideration, while others said they would not send their Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine or allow other countries with the German-made tanks to do so, unless the U.S. also agreed to send its M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv.
“They have us over a barrel,” a senior Biden administration official stated over the weekend, adding that the Germans are demanding tanks for tanks, and not budging on considering any other offers the U.S. has made to spur Berlin to send the Leopards. On Sunday, the blockage began to clear Poland for deliveries of the Leopard 2.
With regard to the Leopard 2, Defense minister, Boris Pistorious, said Friday, “We have to balance all the pros and contras before we decide things like that, just like that.” Germany believes they are fully supporting Ukraine, but their lack of a decision to deliver the Leopard 2 is giving a different impression.
Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the German parliament’s defense committee, stated that Germany has failed to show decisive support for Ukraine by putting off the decision to send state-of-the-art battle tanks to war-torn Ukraine.
With Kyiv stating new hardware will allow the Ukrainian military to boost firepower for a possible spring offensive, some German politicians now fear that they have failed. “History is looking at us and Germany has, unfortunately, just failed,” Strack-Zimmermann told German news agency ZDF on Friday, adding “At the very least, it would have been the right thing to give our partners the green light.” She was also critical of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s communication on the tank delivery issue, stating it was a “disaster.”
Baltic Countries Also Plead with Germany
Latvia has told Germany to send Leopard 2 tanks “now” to Ukraine after the perceived heel-dragging by the government in Berlin. Bordering Russia, the Baltic states fear Russian successes in Ukraine, as Russia may turn their attention towards the three countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
Latvian foreign minister, Edgars Rinkēvičs, stated, “We, [Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania] foreign ministers, call on Germany to provide Leopard tanks to Ukraine now. This is needed to stop Russian aggression, help Ukraine, and restore peace in Europe quickly. Germany, as the leading European power, has special responsibility in this regard.” Similar statements were made by his counterparts in Estonia and Lithuania.