A year of war in Ukraine has left hundreds of thousands of military personnel injured or killed in fighting not seen on the European continent for generations, along with tens of thousands of pieces of military equipment destroyed and a Ukrainian national recapitalisation effort leveraging virtually every capability that its NATO supporters have to offer.  

While hopes will be for the two sides to somehow find a peaceful solution to the grinding conflict, any realists in the room are buckling in for the likelihood of another 12 months of war. The respective spring offensives by Ukraine and Russia will be aimed at having a strategic effect on the battlefield, but their ability (through western-inspired combined arms operations in the case of Ukraine, or massed infantry sweeps backed by artillery by Russia) to reach their desired outcome is undetermined.  

Another question worth asking, is what can NATO feasibly do now, beyond the provision of all aspects of land domain capabilities (armour, artillery, and training)? The Montreux Convention will keep most NATO warships out of the Black Sea, as Turkey (despite being a NATO member) plays a balancing act between its partners in Europe and the US, and close ties with Russia. 

Almost the final capability outstanding would be the provision of combat aircraft to Ukraine, a move that Russia would interpret as potentially the last straw in what it considers NATO expansionism, bringing the two power blocs another step closer to a wider conflict. As it happens, this editorial is being written on the day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the UK and make his ‘wings for freedom’ speech before gathered politicians and dignitaries, thanking the country in advance for “powerful English planes”.  

Zelensky knows the audience, and the UK is keen to maintain its position as a leading ally to Kyiv, having done more than most, nearly all, since the outbreak of major hostilities on 24 February last year. This UK support has grown from small arms and NLAW provision, the expanding infantry training, the donation of AS90, M270, and Bulldog APCs, through to being the first NATO country to commit to sending modern main battle tanks (Challenger 2) to Kyiv. 

Where does the UK, and NATO, go from here, and can it deny Zelensky’s call for wings for freedom?  

All this, and more, is ready for you to read in this February and first 2023 issue of Global Defence Technology.  

Richard Thomas, editor-in-chief