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The US must prepare for a long-time war with Russia as Russia makes mild concessions in Ukraine while attempting to control the country’s east. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have both said that upon either side of the US-Ukraine altercation.

In separate comments published Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Western governments must continue their support of Ukraine to deter future aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Stoltenberg told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that nobody knew how long the conflict would last but “we need to prepare for the fact that it could take years.” “We must not cease to support Ukraine. Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices.” Boris Johnson, writing in the Sunday Times after his second visit to Kyiv on Friday, said Western allies must “steel ourselves for a long war, as Putin resorts to a campaign of attrition, trying to grind down Ukraine by sheer brutality.” Johnson said that seizing all of Ukraine’s Donbas had been Putin’s objective for the last eight years “when he ignited a separatist rebellion and launched his first invasion.”

While Russia continued to fall short of this goal, “Putin may not realize this fact but his grand imperial plan for the total reconquest of Ukraine has been derailed. In his loneliness, however, he may still consider total conquest possible.”

Both Johnson and Stoltenberg agreed that Russian aggression needed to be curtailed in order to avoid future conflict. Stoltenberg said, “If Putin learns the lesson from this war that he can just carry on as he did after the Georgia war in 2008 and the occupation of Crimea in 2014, then we will pay a much higher price.” Johnson asked what would happen if President Putin was free to keep all the areas of Ukraine now controlled by Russian forces. “What if no one was willing to lift a finger as he annexed this conquered territory and its fearful people into a greater Russia? Would this bring peace?”

Johnson said that through firm long-term assistance to Ukraine, we’re protecting our own security and Ukraine’s as well as safeguarding the world from the lethal imaginations of Putin and those who may attempt to copy them.

Johnson said that time was of the essence. Everything would depend on whether Ukraine could strengthen its ability to defend its soil faster than Russia could renew its capacity to attack. Johnson’s task was to enlist time on Ukraine’s side.

 

Strategic advantage

On Sunday, Ukrainian officials said heavy fighting continues in the city of Severodonetsk and surrounding communities as Russian forces try to break the resistance of Ukrainian defenders and capture parts of the eastern Luhansk region they don’t already control. Serhii Hayday, head of the regional military administration, said the “battles for Severodonetsk continue,” and that the sprawling Azot chemical plant, where some 500 civilians are sheltering, had been shelled again.

Russian operations appear to be designed to disrupt Ukrainian defenses to the south of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, thereby cutting off Ukrainian units defending the two strategically important cities.

In the Donetsk region of Ukraine, near Sloviansk and the Donbas, Ukrainian soldiers reported that they had been attacked. There was also a missile strike in this area, according to an operational update by the Ukrainian General Staff. But there appears to have been little change in frontline positions. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was cautiously optimistic that Ukraine could turn the tide of the war. “Although the battle in Donbass is being waged more and more brutally by Russia, Ukrainian soldiers are fighting valiantly. With more modern weapons, the probability increases that Ukraine will be able to drive Putin’s troops out of Donbas again.” Ukraine’s military has been burning through Soviet-era ammunition that fits older systems. While Western weapon systems are arriving, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned this week that they needed to come faster as Russia amasses a significant artillery advantage around the two cities in eastern Ukraine.

US officials say the US is delivering its heavy weaponry to the frontlines of the war. But local reports from officials on the front lines — citing weapons shortages and frustrated pleas from Ukrainian officials on the front lines for help — have raised questions about the adequacy of supply lines.

The U.S. is to provide Ukraine with additional military aid, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Wednesday. The package includes shipments of additional howitzers, ammunition and coastal defense systems. British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said his country “plans to work with our friends to prepare Ukrainian forces to defend their country.” Such preparations could train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days. Russia has been making incremental gains in eastern Ukraine, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stressed the attrition of Russian forces in the grinding battles, saying Russia would need “years, perhaps decades” to replace this hardware. And hour by hour Russian forces are expending equipment and ammunition faster than their factories can produce them.

Ukrainian officials announced that in early May, Russian personnel were being strengthened by mothballed Soviet-era T-62 tanks that appeared to have come out of storage. The British Prime Minister said, “He added, ‘The UK and our friends must take steps to ensure that Ukraine can endure and ultimately prevail.’ ”

He outlined four steps to support Ukraine, including: 1. Preserve the Ukrainian state. 2. Ensure that it receives weapons, equipment, ammunition and training more rapidly than the invader and build up its capacity to use our help. 3. Create a long-term effort to develop alternative overland routes to overcome Russia’s stranglehold on Ukraine’s economy by blockading its principal export routes across the Black Sea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontlines near Odesa and Mykolaiv this weekend, two cities that Russian forces have threatened to occupy in their ongoing attempt to take control of the Black Sea coastline. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has resulted in an estimated $25 million worth of corn and wheat–the entire annual consumption of all least developed countries–being stored in silos across Ukraine. In addition, Stoltenberg said that at the upcoming NATO summit in Madrid, NATO leaders will adopt a new strategy concept which will declare that Russia is no longer a partner, but a threat to European security.

Vladimir Putin must be familiar with the fact that a nuclear conflict can never be won and should never be waged.

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