14 May 2024

The West should ‘double’ its weapon supply to Ukraine, says former Russian prime minister

The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged America to deliver military aid as quickly as possible, as Russia pushes ahead with its offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Mr Zelenskyy told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Kharkiv urgently needed two Patriot air defence systems to protect people from constant Russian shelling.

Mr Blinken promised that assistance was on the way and would make a “real difference” on the battlefield.

We spoke to Mikhail Kasyanov, who was Russian prime minister in 2000 after Vladimir Putin became president – a job he held until 2004.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: When you look at Georgia and Ukraine, is Putin winning?

Mikhail Kasyanov: Slightly, yes. We see this unfortunately, at this moment, with his proxies in Georgia and of course in this new offensive against Ukraine. The lack of ammunition, that is the crucial problem for Ukraine. And I hope the Nato leaders would make their decision soon just to reconsider the whole support for Ukraine, not just for defence of the current positions, but for a liberation of occupied territories. I believe the upcoming Natosummit will make such a decision.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Do you think there’s been a lack of resolve by the West to give Ukraine enough to win?

Mikhail Kasyanov: Yeah, we can see $60 billion for U.S. support and approximately the same from the European Union and Great Britain. That is only $120 billion. Mr. Putin spends $170 billion, and he has an advantage on the manpower and ammunition. That’s why, just for him, it’s easier to have an offensive. And for Ukraine, it’s impossible. Ukrainians should get just double the support from the West. In this case, they can start their counteroffensive next year and start liberating their occupied territories.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But does Ukraine also have the manpower? It is holding back from widening conscription, does it need to re-think that?

Mikhail Kasyanov: Yeah, that’s a problem. Of course that’s a problem. In Russia, it’s also a problem. In Ukraine, it’s a problem because of course Ukraine is a smaller country compared with Russia. But they have reserves and they could be prepared for a new offensive. But not this summer. This summer they should rebuild everything just with the new support of Western supplies of this ammunition and new military techniques and just to re-establish their preparation for next year. But it’s important to make a principled decision that you should not be as scared of Mr Putin so much as before. I think Nato leaders should make this decision.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: So when you look at Putin, if you think back over the last two years, there have been so many theories that his own side would get him, he was ill, he was on his way out. He seems stronger than ever and strong enough to be able to reshuffle his top team, his defence minister, in the way he wants to. What do you think the thinking is behind this move of a very loyal lieutenant in Shoigu?

Mikhail Kasyanov: First we should emphasise that Mr Putin, during the last year, managed to transform the economy on the war footing, while Ukrainian leadership just didn’t manage to do this. And Putin just feels stronger on this. And in fact this new appointment, re-establishing I wouldn’t say a new team, but to establish a better coordination between civilian agencies of the government and military, so that to be sure that the military production machine works well and just produces exactly what the war requires. And that’s why he’s simply just making better quality coordination and it’s clear that the priority of all his economic policy will be military production, to ensure that supplies of ammunition and new techniques go to the war.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Do you think there’s a danger that the West thinks Putin is contained? Effectively that he has now a war economy, All his focus is on survival and slow advancing Ukraine. But he can’t win. And that actually it’s better to just let this drag on?

Mikhail Kasyanov: I’m sure the old Western leaders wouldn’t like to see Mr Putin as a dictator with a triumph victory. No one should see and be allowed to see this. That’s why just a special policy, a new policy, should be established. And just for your consideration, should be done quickly to understand how to help Ukraine, how to support Ukraine, so that Mr. Putin will not be looked as a winner, but in maybe one year of time, as a defeated dictator.