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Give My Country the Weapons It Needs

Give My Country the Weapons It Needs

Maria Berlinska, a thirty-three-year-old Ukrainian war vet who has fought against the Russians as an aerial reconnaissance drone operator in eastern Ukraine, pleads with the West for weapons.

Maria Berlinska

Dear Friends,

Here is a summary of Ukraine’s conversations with Western leaders since the war began. They go like this:

Ukraine: Vladimir Putin has attacked. His army is exponentially stronger than ours. Please, give us the weapons we need to fight: tanks, fighter jets, powerful missile defense systems.

Western politicians: We stand with you. We will impose the harshest sanctions. Here are some Javelins and Stingers.
Ukraine: Javelins and Stingers can’t win this war. Putin continues to escalate. He has encircled Mariupol. We need the right weapons.
Western politicians: Well done! We didn’t expect you to hold on this long. We’ll keep the sanctions coming. How about some more Javelins and Stingers?
Ukraine: The city of Mariupol is being wiped out. Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy are next. Kherson is under occupation. Please just sell us jets, tanks, and surface-to-air missiles.
Western politicians: What do you expect from us? We can’t become direct participants in this conflict.

They go around in circles. Meanwhile, Mariupol is almost completely destroyed. Some experts estimate the war’s death toll at one hundred thousand to date. Street by street, the corpses pile up.

Warehouses and oil depots, airports and bridges are being hit. Homes, hospitals, and schools are on fire. Nuclear power plants have been targeted. Cities with millions of people are burning.

Our women are being gang-raped in front of their children. Our elderly parents are being tortured in basements. Maternity hospitals and churches are filled with innocents seeking shelter. By now, you’ve seen the men executed in Bucha, north of Kyiv, their bodies tossed into the street like garbage.

Bucha isn’t the only town where such atrocities are taking place. Russia is already using phosphorus bombs; widespread use of chemical weapons is almost certain to come next. Putin even threatens to use nuclear weapons. We are the target.

We’ve given up on begging for NATO to close the sky. We are not asking anyone else to send us soldiers. We only need weapons—just 1 percent of NATO’s tanks and planes. We are ready to buy. No one is selling.

The Russians remain ready to throw new tanks, armored vehicles, planes, air defense systems, and artillery into the fight. The equipment that we have runs out, destroyed in battle; the situation becomes dire. Day after day, we beg for tanks, planes, and air defense systems. Day after day, the politicians demur: We’re afraid of provoking Putin. Every week, our people die because our allies refuse to step up.

For over a month now, Ukraine has been fielding one of the strongest armies in the world; but we cannot last forever without serious additional help. We know the war will not end soon. Think of the humanitarian catastrophe. Consider the strategic implications. If Russia, in time, captures this large country in the heart of Europe, a country with nuclear power plants, hundreds of major factories, metallurgy, gas, minerals, airports, and seaports, do you really think Putin will stop there? Ukraine will simply become a springboard for the next offensive. And if Putin next heads to the Baltics, what will NATO do then? Yes, there is Article 5. But will NATO be ready to take the nuclear risk? By now, all of Eastern Europe is wondering.

We are already fighting in French armor. We have American walkie-talkies, British anti-tank NLAWs, and Turkish drones. What, then, are the arbitrary criteria by which it is decreed that drones are fine but planes are taboo? Why are Stingers allowed but Patriots forbidden?  It is no consolation that Russian forces have often performed poorly so far. It will be no victory for us—or for the region—if in the end Russia gets bruised but Ukraine lies in ruins. After only six weeks of war, more than a quarter of our population is homeless and on the run.

We know the people of the United States and Europe sincerely support us. We are convinced that they want us to win. But this means arming Ukraine to make victory over Russia possible. It is no solace to know that Russian forces are stymied; they must be defeated. We must be able to drive them out of our country.

We hear the politicians’ chorus:

We are deeply concerned about what is happening in Mariupol.
We will send you more anti-tank systems, bandages, and dry food.
We believe that Putin’s behavior is intolerable.

Before Ukrainians die in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and, yes, Kyiv (where the Russians will be back), I want the world to know how we feel. We feel disgust and revulsion toward the politicians who have doomed us to die in this war. Even today, they continue to deprive us of the means to defend ourselves. They are complicit.

We feel deep gratitude to the free and honest people of the world, to those who support us in our fight for freedom, independence, and democracy. We hope truth will prevail. We hope the people will hold the politicians accountable. Only in this way can they stop Ukraine from bleeding to death.

Give my country the weapons it needs to survive.

Maria Berlinska is a Ukrainian military volunteer and women's rights advocate. She was a participant of the Revolution of Dignity in February 2014 and subsequently volunteered for the war in Donbas as an aerial reconnaissance drone operator.

EuropeRussiaU.S. Foreign PolicyUkraine