Only one thing will help Ukraine now. Weapons.

The first phase of the war in Ukraine didn’t go according to Vladimir Putin’s plan, but it’s the next four weeks that could decide how the map of Europe will change as a result of his invasion. The gradual tightening of sanctions that we have seen over the past few days will do little to change this fight. It will also require a significant increase in arms supplies and changes in the types of weapons supplied by Ukraine’s allies in Britain, the United States and other countries.

Military analysts and officials in the US and other NATO countries are warning that a significant intensification of Russian military operations will take place over the next few weeks to 10 days, with rearmed Russian forces stationed in the Donbass region in an attempt to secure Ukrainian bases at Mariupol to defeat and liberate Russian troops there for a pincer movement from north and south.

As poorly as Russia’s armed forces have fared on the battlefield, they now have more realistic goals. Instead of an invasion from three fronts, Russia will now have a single axis to focus on and one where its supply lines are less vulnerable to Ukrainian attack. Russia also took the measure of the Ukrainian military, which it grossly underestimated.

Before the war, Ukraine’s 40,000+ strong Joint Forces Operations (JFO) in the east included the best equipped and best trained Ukrainian forces. These troops remain resolute, but the past five weeks of hard fighting have taken their toll. They are also more difficult to supply and do not have the same air defense advantage as those around Kyiv.

Putin may be eyeing May 9 – already known in Russia as Victory Day, when the country celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany – as a sort of deadline for retaking eastern Ukraine, which Putin sees as a step toward restoring the lost empire and the sphere of Russia considers the control. If Russian forces manage to gain ground, they will attempt to seal off that part of Ukraine.

But Russia lacks the forces to go beyond Ukraine’s JFO area, notes Jack Watling, a land warfare expert and senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. Putin deployed most of Russia’s available combat forces for the original operation and has limited reserves. The units that are not yet in Ukraine are either support forces, new conscripts, or units that have assignments elsewhere that the Kremlin is reluctant to postpone.

If Russian forces lose momentum and become deadened by anti-tank weapons and artillery, they will be exhausted in about four weeks, according to Watling. Then Putin will have to make a bigger decision: whether to go on a war base, stop calling the conflict a “military special operation” and instead expand it and mobilize the country.

Finally, the withdrawal of forces around Kyiv and the dropping of Russian objections to Ukraine’s EU accession suggest that some recalibration on the part of Russia is already taking place. “Zelensky is in a much stronger position now than anyone in the West thought he would be,” notes Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former UK defense and foreign secretary who sees grounds for optimism. “NATO has never been stronger than it is now. Germany has completely changed its defense policy from the one it has pursued over the past 40 years. Russia is on the verge of losing one of its two main energy targets and its main source of income, although it will take some time. The Nord Stream project collapsed. The Russians have lost control of their foreign exchange reserves.”

And yet, winning the opening round is not the same as winning to the end. A dismembered Ukraine would significantly change Europe’s security landscape. And while some may urge Ukraine to reach a deal as soon as possible, any ceasefire or deal that leaves Ukraine vulnerable to renewed attack will make genuine reconstruction – which requires attracting investment – ​​impossible.

The upcoming new phase of the struggle requires a new kind of Western support, argues Chatham House’s Keir Giles, author of two books on Russian foreign policy in recent years. “The weapons that Ukraine needs to keep fighting are not purely defensive weapons to help Ukraine not lose, but also tools that help Ukraine take the fight to the enemy and they must have long-range firepower to penetrate deep into Russian-controlled areas,” he says. The US has been in crisis management mode rather than focusing on Ukraine’s needs at a critical stage of the struggle.

There is much Britain and other NATO countries can do. Anti-tank guided missiles (ATGW), man-portable anti-aircraft systems, ammunition, drones, radar, surface-to-air missile systems and so-called loitering munitions, which sit passively around the target waiting for the right moment, are on Ukraine’s shopping list. Soviet-era T-72 tanks sent by the Czech Republic are helpful as the Czech Republic can also produce spare parts and the Ukrainians know how to use and maintain them. It’s less obvious that a mix of other armored vehicles on different platforms would be useful and it will be harder to get supplies to the East.

Ukraine will need supplies for reservists and recruits to be sent to the front when besieged forces there are withdrawn. NATO countries need to facilitate the transition of some of Ukraine’s defenses, including air defenses, to platforms that can be better supported (at a time when these countries are concerned about their own supplies). There is also an urgent need for humanitarian assistance and economic aid to prevent the economy from collapsing.

The punishment of oligarchs and the confiscation of yachts has been performative compared to what is required now to affect Europe’s future security landscape.

Putin’s invasion was not an accidental black swan moment, as devastating but entirely unpredictable events are called, geostrategists Florence Gaub and Andrew Monaghan note. Rather, they say it’s a “gray rhino” — impactful but very likely and fully predicted. Formulating a response requires a thorough consideration of strategic objectives and potential pitfalls, not just crisis management.

This next phase of the war will not only test the Ukrainian armed forces, but also the unity, purpose and ability of the democratic world to think clearly about the future.

More from the Bloomberg Opinion:

• Germany must wean itself from Russian gas sooner, not later: Chris Bryant

• Remembering Russia’s poisonous court jester: Leonid Bershidsky

• Insurers must prepare for catastrophic cyber risks: Parmy Olson and Tim Culpan

This column does not necessarily represent the opinion of the editors or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Therese Raphael is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. She was a contributing editor to the Wall Street Journal Europe.

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