One of the most important reasons for Ukrainians being able to defend themselves against the Russian military is the weapons sent by various NATO / EU countries.

However, it seems that there is quite a reluctance on sending more powerful weapons compared to what would be possible and the Russians are making progress in Eastern Ukraine.

For example, the US is sending advanced longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine, but this happens quite late.

This delay in sending powerful weapons that would have helped the Ukrainian army push back the Russians faster has arguably led to more Ukrainian cities being almost completely destroyed.

I know that various countries might have various reasons, so I would exclude from this question the countries that still significantly depend on Russian oil and/or gas (e.g. Germany, Hungary).

What reasons have the other countries given for not sending more powerful weapons or what risks are attached with sending these weapons?

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    The underlying question is probably what all involved parties want to achieve there. Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 21:14
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    I voted close this question as opinions-based, since i don't know how it could otherwise be answered. I mean, we can take their stated reasons: that they don't want to escalate, but they don't want russia to win, either... It's a Balance of Power strategy. Commented Jun 4, 2022 at 23:31
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    @RamanujanXXV: yeah, well, according to Macron Ukraine better surrender the Donbas now, because anything short of that would "humiliate" Putin. But that's seemingly par for the French. Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 10:45
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    They are extremely worried that a massive defeat and humiliation of Russia would result in a major escalation by the Russians (eg small yield nukes). It's basically the model the US used with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Get Russia tangled up in a war of attrition that decimates their military and economy.
    – eps
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 19:25
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    @EugeneRyabtsev Actually it is very easy to stop Russia, because they have only been able to meaningfully advance and hold territory with the use of massed artillery barrages. Take out those guns and their momentum stalls, but Ukraine's air force is no longer able to do that - hence why Ukraine is asking for MLRS and other long-range weapons, which can. Ukraine does not need or want tanks because they would similarly be mauled by artillery, plus Ukraine has already taken out over 1,000 Russian MBTs, proving that the tank is a weapon of the past.
    – Ian Kemp
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 15:16

5 Answers 5

  • It is in the interest of most Western countries to preserve/restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine. This is part of their interest to preserve the established international order, which benefits them.
  • It is not in the interest of most Western countries to have the war escalate to other countries, especially not other EU or NATO countries.
  • Russia has threatened to escalate the war if things don't go as Russia wants. It is probably not in Russia's interest to start another war while they are not winning the current one, but the West might be reluctant to bet too much that Russia sees the Russian interest the same way.

Net result, Ukraine is getting considerably more aid and weapons than other countries in similar positions, but less aid and weapons than Ukraine might wish.

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    Russia is in different position to many other aggressors in that they have a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, and quite possibly chemical and biological weapons as well. They also have a leader acting irrationally. While the likelihood of Russia using such weapons may be low, the hazard is so large that the overall risk can't be neglected (with respect to the third point - escalation)
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 8:05
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    The third bullet point and @ChrisH's comment represent "Madman Theory", a political theory commonly associated with Nixon during the cold war
    – Gramatik
    Commented Apr 10 at 16:58
  • Russia will only consider de-escalation if NATO somehow can prove that Ukraine will stay outside the alliance - which will never happen. A political change in US is more likely to be a de-escalating factor. Putin knows that the Biden administration will stay away from direct conflict to the very last, Trump not so much.
    – Ole Aldric
    Commented Apr 11 at 9:04

Just to highlight a few practical points:

  • Modern weapon systems are expensive. Few countries will have large surpluses that they can share without weakening their own defences at a time of heightened international tension.
  • These systems are complex and likely to require specific training. Can Ukraine spare front-line soldiers to spend weeks learning to use them effectively?
  • Modern weapon systems are frequently networked as "systems of systems". What appears to be a standalone weapon may be less effective without the sensors required for targeting. Equipment may be incompatible with that currently in use.
  • NATO and the former Warsaw Pact use different military standards. Having incompatible munitions (for example) in the supply chain would complicate logistics.

Such practical problems complicate the task of providing useful support, even for willing allies.

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    Good point. I heard recently that lots of the Stingers we sent them are idle because Ukraine doesn't have the right batteries for them.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 5, 2022 at 19:26
  • As an example of the munition-supply issue, the United States uses the M777 howitzer, which fires 155mm shells. Ukraine (and Russia) uses the Msta-B howitzer, which fires 152mm shells -- similar enough that you can get the ammunition confused, but not similar enough to successfully fire the wrong ammunition.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 2:08
  • Apparently Ukraine is running out of ammo for their Soviet type artillery, because most such ammo is made in Russia or China. Ukraine's own factories have been largely destroyed by Russian long-range strikes. Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 12:00
  • @Fizz if China is a shrewd merchant it would negotiate with the west to supply Ukraine with soviet ammo through western intermediate.
    – Faito Dayo
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 2:14

It's apparently because of the possibility Ukraine will attack Russia with those weapons. Russia has stated that they will consider that act a red line. It seems Western countries are concerned that Russia will be even more destructive if this red line is crossed (Russia is not using all its resources in the war right now; it is e.g. able to conduct joint flights with China).

  • I would take China out of this equation, as it has no political gain to be the pawn of Russia, but earn more hostilities from the West alliance.
    – r13
    Commented Jun 8, 2022 at 18:20

Because there would come a point at which Putin would unleash his nuclear arsenal.

Right now the balance of power is unbelievably delicate and thus far, the free world can support Ukraine… but supporting is very different from fighting alongside.

Beyond that, could you clarify the exposition to your Question? As it stands, that seems largely to raise queries…

  • You are spot on. Everyone treads carefully because of the Russian nuclear weapons. I'm quite sure that without them, the war would already be lost for Russia. And for clarification, the question simply asks why Western countries are not helping more militarily. Quite good question if you ask me. Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 18:04

Cynics would say that the current situation is close to ideal for the West; there is no reason to force a decisive win for the Ukrainians.

The Cynic would note that the banner of international law and human rights held up by the West are propaganda on par with the Great Russia narrative of the Putin: Both myths have a core of truth which makes them believable enough to create respective public support, but neither one holds up to scrutiny. In reality, the U.S. are happy about a very affordable proxy war that is occupying and weakening Russia without any loss of American life.

The cynic would say that, given this premise, there are two developments to avoid:

  1. The war intensifies and involves NATO directly, becoming expensive both in terms of money and non-Ukrainian and non-Russian human losses (the war is already very expensive in terms of those, but the West couldn't care less). This would be a hard sell to the Western populations. Direct NATO involvement would also increase the danger of an incidental territorial or nuclear excursion.

  2. The war ends quickly. Ideally, in a continuing war, Putin should have a hard time on the home front, weakening his interior standing. The Russian military is slowly grinding through its supplies and human resources. The economic fallout is not as severe (if at all) as the U.S. hoped; either they have made their peace with it or there are efforts underway to extend and intensify the embargo.

Therefore, the West will continue to hem and haw and provide enough weapons to keep the conflict alive but not enough to end it. Two years ago I asked for exit strategies for this war; to this date, there are none, and there is no meaningful effort to end it. That is no coincidence: The Western governments don't want to end it.

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    "Nobody wants to end it." If you include Russia or Ukraine in that I think this is a fallacy. They would surely like to end this war, only they cannot agree on how. And the West would probably also like if Russia would withdraw tomorrow. Why ascribing the current stalemate to intention when it could be simply the result of similarly strong opponents. If you think that the West could easily defeat Russia even in a proxy war, then maybe more numbers and sources would be needed to solidify that claim. Maybe it's true but Russia has lots of nukes for deterrence for example. Commented Apr 8 at 21:29
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    @NoDataDumpNoContribution The opponents are only similarly strong because NATO does not get involved directly, and Russia does not escalate either, for a variety of reasons not part of an answer to this question (resources, domestic support, risks involved in an escalation, reaching main goals without escalation). Commented Apr 10 at 5:30
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    Besides the opinion-biased content of this answer and its far-from-neutral language, it is quite annoying to bring a 2024 answer to this 2 years old question. There are many reasons leveraging decisions now (Russian propaganda, Western internal political strategies, upcoming elections...) that weren't as much at play back in 2022.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Apr 10 at 6:49
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    @Evargalo I'm not quite sure what you mean specifically (what does "leveraging decisions" mean?); but generally I do not find it bad to answer older questions. On the contrary: New developments may make old answers obsolete. That said, I had not seen that the question was from 2022. Commented Apr 10 at 7:44
  • I agree that it is not a general rule : we can often bring great answers to old questions. But I think this one is pretty specific about the Western effort to help Ukraine in 2022 (sure, no date is indicated in the body of the question, but at the time they couldn't know how long the war would last - we still can't btw), so elements about why Western aid has been reduced in 2024 should be considered off-topic. (I should have used "influencing" instead of "leveraging" in my previous comment)
    – Evargalo
    Commented Apr 10 at 8:36

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