Negotiating supply of fighter jets and strike drones: key trends in Ukraine's wartime reality
The Ukraine-EU summit highlighted major political achievements in Ukraine-EU relations:
- The EU confirmed Ukraine's path to accession. Therefore, Ukraine's neutrality or non-bloc status and russian claims about the "exclusive sphere of influence" became history.
- The EU Commission agreed to present a preliminary evaluation of Ukraine's membership progress in spring 2023 instead of autumn 2023. It means that Ukraine can start accession negotiation in 2023 if it implements all required steps (7 criteria) approved in 2022.
- The EU condemned the occupation of all Ukrainian territories as illegal and demanded the restoration of the Ukrainian borders.
As a result, the EU endorsed Ukraine's position that any future peace agreement with Russia cannot include concessions on Ukrainian territories.
The delegation of US Treasury auditors reviewed how Ukraine has been spending defense budget money and whether Ukrainian authorities put appropriate safeguards to avert corruption. Auditors officially concluded there were no indications that US aid funds were misused in Ukraine and pledged to continue to work closely with Ukrainian authorities to ensure appropriate safeguards were in place to avert corruption. The statement came as a precursor to a major anti corruption crackdown on various Ukrainian government agencies, with the Ministry of Defense drawing noticeable attention, obviously, a sign of private messages exchanged between Kyiv and Washington in the audit results.
The US announced its decision to provide Ukraine with the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb munition for the HIMARS/M270 MLRS systems. GLSDB can effectively hit stationary and moving targets at a 150 km range. The in-flight maneuvering capabilities enable target demolition at 360 degrees around the firing point without repositioning the launcher platform. It would enable Ukrainian Armed Forces to hit russian military targets in Northern Crimea. It is also a significant step in further negotiations over receiving the 300-km ATACMS ammunition.
Negotiations with the Western allies over sending modern combat aircraft to Ukraine continue despite the White House officially denying such plans. Several political factors heavily influence the debates. First, russian president Vladimir putin personally repeated threats of nuclear reprisal in response to US, UK and German decisions to send modern main battle tanks to Ukraine. Secondly, the Western nations share the tactical vision that modern fighters are too sophisticated a system to be immediately used in the looming counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces—meanwhile, the option of sending in heavy-strike drones is also on the table. On February 14, Ukraine will use the Ramstein meeting to initiate political debate and organizational arrangements to supply modern Western military aircraft.
The US District Judge in Manhattan federal court ruled that US prosecutors may confiscate $5.4 million belonging to sanctioned russian businessman Konstantin Malofeyev. It is the first forfeiture order for a russian oligarch's assets after the Department of Justice established a special task force to squeeze the finances of russian president Vladimir putin's allies. It is expected that confiscated money will be transferred to Ukraine, making a precedent, which can be followed by other allies.
Conclusions and recommendations
- Although the US Treasury audit did not publicly disclose or acknowledge irregularities, Kyiv should pay close attention to these issues and double down efforts to eliminate corruption in the defense sector. It can mitigate the risk of a politically motivated decrease in western (American) military and economic aid.
- The Ukraine-EU summit results clearly demonstrated that the EU leadership fully supports Ukraine's path toward full membership and the Ukrainian peace plan. However, it is up to the Ukrainian government to fulfil political obligations, complete judicial reform and guarantee the independence of the Constitutional Court to open accession talks in 2023.
- Ukraine will intensify its negotiations with the key Western allies to get tentative approval for the idea of transferring the fighters or strike drones as tools to defeat the russian plan of protracted war and exhaustion of Ukraine's human resources.
- Ukraine should accelerate bilateral law enforcement cooperation with the Belgian and Swiss authorities to achieve legal orders on confiscating and transferring the frozen assets of the russian oligarchs, €50.5 billion in Belgium and 7.5 billion francs in Switzerland.
This policy brief was prepared exclusively for "Rubryka" by Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation as part of a project "russia-Ukraine Conflict: from Full-Scale War to Conflict Resolution and Post-War Reconstruction" implemented in cooperation with the Razumkov Centre with the support of the MATRA program of the Embassy of the Netherlands. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the Embassy's official position.