By Russell Bruce
In Part 1 we covered the potential of Sweden’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen Mach 2 fighter jet to help Ukraine attain improved air security in addition to the long awaited F16s promised by other European countries. We know Ukrainians have been training on Gripens with other team members learning how to maintain and service these sophisticated jets Sweden developed to provide jets capable of taking on Russian jets. Progress on delivery remains uncertain despite considerable support from the Swedish population who are very much behind their country doing everything it can to support Ukraine against war criminal Putin’s regime.
As indicated in Part 1 we are covering in Part 2 another of Sweden’s remarkable defence industry outputs – the tracked Combat Vehicle 90 produced by Hägglunds, the Swedish division of BAE Systems. It is well documented that Ukraine has already received 50 of these and which are in operation in the North East of Ukraine. Unlike the US, Sweden does not provide a fully detailed list of everything it has given Ukraine. Sweden promised at one point to supply 90 and may well have done so by now.
Two days ago, 12th December, the Swedish Government provided a financial summary of their military support for Ukraine. Initially Sweden provided personal protective equipment but has since provided tanks, advanced weapons systems and ammunition. As of this week Sweden’s contribution amounts to just over 22.2 billion Swedish Krona, equivalent to $2.13 billion US dollars. Sweden has also contributed to financial support and actively records war crimes committed by Russia in coordination with other agencies including the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Sweden is one of the countries that has supplied Leopard tanks but the Combat Vehicle 90 is a high specification armour protected vehicle designed to operate in Northern European snow conditions and therefore able to operate in Ukrainian winters, providing an edge over Russian defence capabilities with superior external protection. Typically the CV90 is designed to operate in forests where it will seek out and destroy Russian equipment making it particularly suitable for deployment in eastern Ukraine. The CV90’s main weapon is its 40-millimeter L/70 autocannon which has been described as a chainsaw when firing armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot, or APFSDS-T rounds at the rate of several a second.
Ukraine understands that it needs to make long term arrangements for the supply of important military hardware and the Swedish CV90 is set become so with an understanding that 500 will eventually be produced in Ukraine in an arrangement with BAE Hägglunds.
Who is winning?
Forbes noted in an article on the Ukrainian use of CV90s in the East “This defensive campaign aims to defeat a powerful Russian countercounteroffensive targeting Ukrainian settlements west of occupied Kreminna [Luhansk Oblast]. So far, it’s working. The Russians have much less ground in the northeast than the Ukrainians have gained in the south. All that Swedish hardware surely is a factor in this successful defense.”
Former UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP writing in Politics Home argued, “Ukraine is slowly winning against Putin, the UK must show it is prepared to continue leading the support effort.
“Despite losing 300,000 men (dead or injured), 10,000 armoured vehicles, 2,000 tanks and whole supply chains of equipment, Putin actually thinks he is winning. He dragoons, via secret mobilisation, more souls into the fight for his legacy and glory. He is, of course, delusional and has wrecked his army and his country.”
Ukraine does not have a navy but, through targeting Russian naval bases in Crimea and Novorossiysk and hitting Russian supply chains and fuel depots, Ukraine has forced the Russian Navy to scuttle for cover. That does not mean there is no longer a threat. Two Russian subs armed with Cruise missiles are known to be in the Black Sea. Ukraine has also established a coastal route to export its grain providing a boost to the Ukrainian economy. The Ukrainian economy has begun to grow again. The World Bank estimates growth of 3.5% this year.
It will take many years to return to prewar levels but the New York Times reported “Still, local analysts and business people say, a sense of resilience and relative stability has taken hold after nearly 20 months of war, improving confidence among consumers and investors.“
Those missing planes
Ukraine has done amazingly well with its fleet of old Soviet jets. Most commentators looking in fail to realise a country at war needs jets that are equal or superior to those of the aggressor. There is an urgent need for Swedish Gripens but Sweden is reported as wanting to wait until they are finally admitted to NATO. Heavy arm twisting needed with NATO members Turkey and Hungary. There is also no clear date for the supply of F16s despite amply availability and indications delivery could be months into 2024.
The broad indications are Ukraine is winning – slowly. Sweden, Germany and the EU are planning to increase their commitment to Ukraine. The West made a commitment when it realised Ukraine was not going to fall in 3 days. We need to back Ukraine for as long as it takes. Putin has objectives well beyond Ukraine. Letting a war criminal begin to win would lead to a much more expensive major geopolitical stramash later. A right old Russian Royal Rammy.
Final note from our northern neighbours
In an open letter (13th December) the Prime Ministers of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland and the President of Finland set out how important it was to stay the course. The letter concludes; “Ukraine needs our continued support, our partnership and our solidarity more than ever. Their fight for freedom depends on our perseverance and staying the course. Our shared security depends on it as well.”