Ukraine to lose its ability to deter Russia in case Western aid stops flowing – ISW

December 23, 2023 | by b1og.net


Ukraine’s ability to effectively deter Russian aggression hangs precariously in the balance, dependent on the steady flow of Western aid. According to a recent report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the halt of this crucial financial assistance could leave Ukraine vulnerable and ill-equipped to defend itself against Russian incursions. With its defenses weakened, Ukraine would face significant challenges in maintaining territorial integrity and asserting its sovereignty in the face of persistent Russian threats. The implications of this potential loss of deterrence power are far-reaching and demand urgent attention from Ukraine’s international allies.

Ukraine to lose its ability to deter Russia in case Western aid stops flowing – ISW

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Ukraine’s ability to deter Russia

Ukraine’s current deterrence capabilities have been greatly influenced by Western aid. The support from Western nations, particularly the United States and European countries, has played a crucial role in enhancing Ukraine’s military strength and deterring potential Russian aggression. The military aid provided by the West has helped Ukraine modernize its armed forces, improve its defense capabilities, and enhance its overall readiness.


Ukraine’s current deterrence capabilities

Thanks to Western aid, Ukraine has been able to strengthen its military capabilities. The country has received advanced weaponry, such as anti-tank missiles, drones, and armored vehicles, which have significantly bolstered its defensive capabilities. Moreover, the assistance has facilitated the modernization of Ukraine’s outdated infrastructure and enabled the training of its soldiers in Western military techniques and tactics. As a result, Ukraine has become better equipped to protect its sovereignty and defend itself against potential Russian aggression.

The importance of Western aid

The significance of Western aid for Ukraine’s ability to deter Russia cannot be overstated. The support provided by Western nations has not only contributed to the modernization of Ukraine’s armed forces but also ensured the country’s overall security. Western aid has acted as a deterrent to further Russian military aggression, signaling to Moscow that Ukraine is backed by a strong international community. This support has helped Ukraine maintain its independence and sovereignty in the face of Russian encroachment.

Impact of Western aid cessation

The potential cessation of Western aid to Ukraine would have severe consequences for the country’s deterrence capabilities and its ability to resist Russian aggression. Here, we explore some of the key areas that would be affected by the loss of Western assistance.

Decreased military capabilities

Without Western aid, Ukraine’s military capabilities would suffer a significant blow. The country heavily relies on the support of Western nations to maintain and enhance its military strength. The cessation of aid would undermine Ukraine’s ability to develop and acquire modern weaponry, jeopardizing its defensive capabilities. This decline in military capabilities would create an imbalance of power between Ukraine and Russia, exposing Ukraine to greater vulnerabilities.

Loss of equipment and ammunition

The halt in Western aid would result in the loss of vital equipment and ammunition that Ukraine currently receives. This loss would severely impact Ukraine’s ability to sustain its military operations, particularly in the context of a potential conflict with Russia. The lack of necessary equipment and ammunition would hinder Ukraine’s ability to effectively defend its territory and its people, leaving it susceptible to Russian aggression.

Reduced training and support

Western aid has enabled Ukraine to receive crucial training and support, which are instrumental in enhancing its military effectiveness. The cessation of such aid would deprive Ukrainian soldiers of valuable training programs, joint exercises, and knowledge-sharing initiatives. This would impede the development of Ukraine’s armed forces and diminish their readiness to respond to any potential Russian aggression.


Limited intelligence sharing

One of the vital aspects of Western aid to Ukraine is the intelligence-sharing cooperation between the two. Western nations have provided Ukraine with critical intelligence on Russian military activities, thereby assisting Ukraine in assessing and countering potential threats. However, without this intelligence support, Ukraine’s situational awareness would be severely hampered. The limited access to intelligence would hinder Ukraine’s ability to effectively anticipate and respond to Russian military maneuvers, leaving it at a significant disadvantage.

Less effective cyber defense

Western aid has also been instrumental in strengthening Ukraine’s cyber defense capabilities. Cyberattacks have been a preferred tool for Russian aggression, as demonstrated in the past. The support from Western nations has enabled Ukraine to enhance its cyber defense infrastructure, develop robust countermeasures, and improve its ability to address cyber threats effectively. However, the cessation of Western aid would undermine Ukraine’s progress in this area, leaving it vulnerable to cyberattacks and information warfare tactics employed by Russia.

Russian aggression in the absence of Western aid

The absence of Western aid would create an environment conducive to increased levels of Russian aggression towards Ukraine. With its diminished deterrence capabilities, Ukraine would be at a significant disadvantage, emboldening Russia to act more assertively and expand its influence in the region.

Russian military advantage

Russia maintains a military advantage over Ukraine in terms of size, resources, and technological advancement. In the absence of Western aid, this advantage would become even more pronounced. Russia would be able to exert greater pressure on Ukraine and potentially escalate its military activities without facing substantial resistance. The lack of Western support would further tip the balance in favor of Russian forces, making it increasingly challenging for Ukraine to defend itself.

Increased likelihood of territorial expansion

The loss of Western aid would create an opportunity for Russia to expand its territorial influence in Ukraine. As history has shown, Russia has demonstrated a willingness to use military force to annex Ukrainian territory, as seen in the cases of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine. Without the deterrent effect of Western assistance, Ukraine’s ability to resist potential Russian encroachment would be severely compromised, thereby increasing the chances of territorial expansion by Russia.

Threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty

The absence of Western aid would pose a significant threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty as Russian aggression intensifies. Russia has repeatedly challenged Ukraine’s territorial integrity, seeking to diminish its independence and influence. The loss of Western support would further embolden Russia in its quest to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, potentially leading to a further erosion of Ukraine’s independence and increasing Russian influence in the region.

Economic consequences

The cessation of Western aid to Ukraine would have far-reaching economic consequences, further complicating Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and maintain its independence.

Vulnerability to economic pressure

Western aid has played a crucial role in supporting Ukraine’s economy, particularly during its ongoing conflict with Russia. The aid has provided vital financial support, helping Ukraine to mitigate the economic challenges posed by the conflict. The cessation of Western aid would leave Ukraine vulnerable to economic pressure from Russia, which has previously demonstrated its willingness to use economic leverage as a tool of coercion. Ukraine’s weakened economic position could undermine its ability to sustain its defense capabilities and resist Russian aggression.

Dependence on Russia for energy

Ukraine remains heavily dependent on Russia for its energy needs, particularly natural gas. The loss of Western aid would limit Ukraine’s ability to diversify its energy resources and reduce its reliance on Russia. This dependence exposes Ukraine to vulnerabilities, as Russia has previously exploited its energy leverage in its relationship with Ukraine. In the absence of Western aid, Ukraine would struggle to secure alternative energy sources and strengthen its energy independence, leaving it at the mercy of Russia’s energy policies.

Financial instability

The loss of Western aid would exacerbate Ukraine’s existing financial instability. The aid has provided much-needed financial support, enabling Ukraine to address its fiscal challenges and stabilize its economy. However, the cessation of aid would create significant financial strains, making it difficult for Ukraine to allocate resources towards defense and security. This financial instability would ultimately weaken Ukraine’s ability to deter Russian aggression and defend its sovereignty.

Political implications

The cessation of Western aid to Ukraine would inevitably have profound political implications, both domestically and internationally.

Decreased international support for Ukraine

Western aid has not only empowered Ukraine militarily but has also signaled strong international support for its sovereignty and independence. The absence of Western aid would send a message of waning international support, potentially undermining Ukraine’s position on the global stage. This decreased support could embolden Russia and other nations with anti-Ukrainian sentiments, eroding Ukraine’s standing in the international community.

Strengthening of pro-Russian factions

The cessation of Western aid would provide an opportunity for pro-Russian factions within Ukraine to strengthen their influence. These factions seek to align Ukraine more closely with Russia and undermine its European integration aspirations. The loss of Western support would create an environment conducive to the growth of such factions, posing a significant challenge to the Ukrainian government’s efforts to maintain stability and pursue its Euro-Atlantic integration goals.

Weakening of Ukrainian government

Western aid has played a crucial role in supporting the stability of the Ukrainian government. The cessation of aid would create additional challenges for the government leadership, making it more difficult for them to effectively govern the country. The loss of financial support and military assistance would weaken the government’s ability to address domestic issues, maintain social cohesion, and confront security threats. This weakening of the government could potentially lead to political instability and further compound Ukraine’s security challenges.

Potential for regional destabilization

The cessation of Western aid to Ukraine could have broader regional implications beyond Ukraine’s borders, potentially leading to regional destabilization and an escalation of conflict in Eastern Europe.

Spillover effects on neighboring countries

The absence of Western aid to Ukraine could have spillover effects on neighboring countries. The reduction in Ukraine’s deterrence capabilities and the potential for increased Russian aggression may create uncertainties and insecurities among Ukraine’s neighboring nations. This could lead to a cascading effect, where neighboring countries feel compelled to enhance their defense capabilities or reconsider their alliances, potentially raising tensions and destabilizing the region.

Escalation of conflict in Eastern Europe

The cessation of Western aid could trigger an escalation of the conflict in Eastern Europe. The loss of Ukraine’s ability to deter Russian aggression effectively would embolden Russia to pursue its expansionist agenda more aggressively. Existing disputes and tensions in the region, such as those in Moldova and Georgia, could be further exacerbated, potentially leading to a wider conflict. This escalation could have significant consequences for regional stability and security, as well as for international relations between Russia and Western nations.

Deterrence strategies beyond Western aid

While Western aid plays a critical role in Ukraine’s ability to deter Russian aggression, there are alternative strategies that Ukraine can pursue to strengthen its deterrence capabilities.

Increasing domestic defense capabilities

Ukraine can invest in developing and expanding its domestic defense capabilities. By leveraging its own resources and expertise, Ukraine can enhance its defense industry, improve its technological capabilities, and increase its self-defense capabilities. This would help reduce Ukraine’s reliance on external aid and provide a foundation for long-term defense sustainability.

Seeking alternative alliances

Ukraine can explore alliances and partnerships with countries outside of the traditional Western sphere of influence. Strengthening relationships with non-Western nations, such as Turkey, Japan, or India, could provide Ukraine with additional support and diversify its sources of military aid and assistance. By broadening its alliances, Ukraine can increase its geopolitical relevance and enhance its deterrence capabilities.

Development of asymmetric warfare tactics

Ukraine can focus on developing asymmetric warfare tactics to counterbalance Russia’s military advantage. Asymmetric warfare involves utilizing unconventional tactics, such as guerrilla warfare, cyber warfare, and hybrid warfare, to disrupt and deter a stronger adversary. By leveraging its geographical advantage and investing in asymmetric warfare capabilities, Ukraine can create challenges for Russian forces and enhance its deterrence capabilities.

Risk of escalating conflict

The potential cessation of Western aid to Ukraine also introduces the risk of escalating conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Potential for increased military confrontation

Without the deterrence provided by Western aid, the risk of military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia would significantly increase. Russia’s military advantage and Ukraine’s diminished defense capabilities could lead to a situation where military hostilities escalate, potentially resulting in a full-scale conflict. This would have severe consequences for both Ukraine and the wider region, leading to significant humanitarian, political, and economic repercussions.

Heightened tensions between Ukraine and Russia

The absence of Western aid would likely lead to increased tensions between Ukraine and Russia. The loss of support from Western nations would signal a weakening of Ukraine’s international position, potentially emboldening Russia to adopt a more aggressive stance. This would exacerbate existing tensions and create an environment of mistrust and hostility, making it even more challenging to find a diplomatic or peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.

Importance of continued Western aid

In light of the potential consequences outlined above, the importance of continued Western aid to Ukraine cannot be overstated.

Maintaining Ukraine’s ability to deter Russian aggression

Continued Western aid is critical in ensuring Ukraine’s ability to deter Russian aggression and defend its sovereignty. The support provided by Western nations enhances Ukraine’s military capabilities, enables effective deterrence, and signals strong international backing for Ukraine’s independence. Without this aid, Ukraine would be at a severe disadvantage, exposing it to increased vulnerability and the potential for further Russian encroachment.

Supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence

Western aid represents more than just material support; it is a tangible expression of solidarity with Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. By continuing to provide aid, Western nations demonstrate their commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and their rejection of Russia’s aggressive actions. This support strengthens Ukraine’s position on the global stage, while also fostering stability and security in the region.


The critical role of Western aid in deterring Russia and supporting Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russian aggression cannot be understated. The cessation of Western aid would have severe consequences for Ukraine’s deterrence capabilities, leaving it vulnerable to Russian encroachment and potential territorial expansion. The economic, political, and regional implications would be far-reaching, further complicating Ukraine’s ability to maintain its sovereignty and independence. Therefore, it is crucial for Western nations to continue providing aid to Ukraine, both in terms of military support and economic assistance. By doing so, they can help ensure Ukraine’s ability to deter Russian aggression, support its sovereignty, and contribute to regional stability and security.

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