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Jüri Luik: Ukraine on the defensive no excuse for West to skimp on arms supply

Jüri Luik appearing on an earlier edition of 'Ukraina stuudio.'
Jüri Luik appearing on an earlier edition of 'Ukraina stuudio.' Source: ERR

Ukraine needs much more in the way of arms, ammunition and equipment, to maintain the current, static front-line against Russia as things are, leave alone for launching counter-offensives, Estonia's Ambassador to NATO Jüri Luik says.

Appearing on ETV foreign affairs show "Välisilm" Monday, Luik, a former defense minister, said: "It needs to be taken into account here that the front-line – as it is currently delineated – is not a static thing.

Luik said: "Russian troops are constantly on the offensive, at several points, and Ukraine is constantly on the defensive. What is clear is that this defense must remain active; Ukraine must engage in counter-offensives, in order not to allow Russia any successes. So, even holding the current line actually requires practically the same amount of weaponry."

"Anyone who thinks that [maintaining the current front-line] somehow precludes Ukraine from being provided with [more] arms, well this is absolutely not the case," the diplomat continued.

"At the same time, if we want Ukraine to have the capability of launching an effective, large-scale breakthrough, then there must be far more of these weapons [provided], and they go to the air force, which is currently under development, and to brigades which are capable of becoming more active brigades," Luik said.

"Thus it is quite a realistic summation that, in 2024, there has to be active defense. But active in essence also refers to major human sacrifices for Ukraine as well. Then, it is really realistic that a major breakthrough is viable, though only in 2025," he added.

"Välislim" stated that U.K. (actually U.S. – ed.) publication Foreign Affairs reports that Ukraine should focus on active defense this year, at the same time neutralizing Russian logistics and command posts, with the aim of properly preparing for a counteroffensive in 2025.

This of course requires plenty of arms and the training to go with it.

Jüri Luik told "Välisilm" he concurred with the Foreign Affairs line, reiterating that even a static defense requires Ukraine continue to be armed.

That is not to say this is not happening; Western defense companies have started to boost their production. But all this, too, takes time, Luik noted.

While nearly two years have elapsed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the realization of the implications of this from a defense production perspective dawned only much later on, Luik said.

Considerations of machine tools, robots and other investments, workforces, supply chains etc., in such large enterprises are major, he noted, though all the major international defense industry players have activated their respective programs, he said.

"But has this been on the scale that we would like, absolutely not," Luik went on.

Of brighter signs, Luik dispelled any imminent attack on Estonia, the Baltic states, or NATO more broadly, even were Russia to prevail in Ukraine.

In fact, being under the spotlight in this way is not ideal, Luik said; the emphasis needs to be made on the fact that any attack from Russia would be on NATO as a whole, rather than singling out Estonia (or Latvia or Lithuania).

In any case, the focal point remains the war in Ukraine; losing sight of this runs the risk of the dangerous outcome of Russia emerging on top there.

And the focal point in turn for conversations on this remains Washington, including Congress, Luik said.

Many Western defense firms would like to locate production in Ukraine, and in at least one case (German firm Rheinmetall – ed.) have actually carried this out, Luik said.

The professional engineers and "more relaxed working conditions" there were among the attractions, he said.

"So this process is also ongoing, though it all takes time; it's not such a sudden thing, where tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, everything is in place," he added.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Välisilm,' interviewer Peeter Kaldre.

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