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As the U.S. and NATO ramp up billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, there are risks to consider -- including Russia's military reaction. Chief Correspondent Amna Nawaz talks with former Marine and NATO official John Manza about the next phase of the war, whether Ukraine will get the assistance it needs and concerns about weapons supplied by other countries ending up in the wrong hands.
As the United States and NATO ramp up billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, there are risks to consider, mainly Russia's military reaction.
To examine that, we turn to John Manza. He had a 20-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps and then served in senior civilian positions at NATO headquarters, most recently in charge of operations, a post he held until January. He's currently a professor at the National Defense University. He joins us now.
Colonel Manza, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for making the time.
As you well know, that Russian invasion began back in February on the 24th. They failed to capture Kyiv quickly. They moved to a string of strikes across the country. We're now moving into almost two months and this new phase of war. What does that new phase look like? What should we expect to see?
John Manza, Former NATO Official:
Well, it shows that the Russians, who often perform poorly at the beginning of military campaigns, are able to learn lessons.
So what they have done is, instead of having five axes of advance and a difficult command-and-control arrangement, they have consolidated their forces under the command of General Dvornikov, who is a ruthless commander and veteran of the Syrian intervention by Russia.
But they have stabilized their lines. They have brought their forces really online in territory that is fit for tank and mechanized warfare. So, they are not going to take the risks that they did early in the campaign, with small units moving independently across the country, who are subject to being attacked by Ukrainian light forces.
So, in this new terrain, some folks we have talked to say this will look more like World War II, force on force, mass on mass, higher casualties. You agree with that assessment?
Well, I think, actually, the Russians maybe will suffer fewer casualties during this phase.
I'm sure that there's direction from high in the Russian command all the way up to Putin to use firepower to their advantage. And so I think what the Russians will do, like they did in World War II, is, they will move methodically. And when they meet resistance from the Ukrainians, they will use artillery and mortars and close air support to really overwhelm the Ukrainians who are in front of them.
Let me ask you about the U.S. military support that's been going, because the recent shipments now include heavier weaponry, right. There's — including howitzers and tens of thousands of artillery rounds and armored personnel vehicles.
Is the U.S. and are NATO countries providing everything that Ukraine needs to be able to match Russia in this new phase?
Well, that's tough, because what they need and what they want are different than what I think the United States and other allies are willing to provide.
The White House, I think, is playing this very well. They are carefully walking a line where they are providing weapons to the Ukrainians, so that they can defend themselves and inflict maximum pain upon the Russian forces, but they don't want to cross that line with Putin.
And you heard — and you mentioned his — his statements today telling — telling the United States to think twice about the use of — providing the Ukrainians with weapons. And then that ICBM, that intercontinental ballistic missile, that Putin launched signals a danger. And so the White House, I believe, is walking, and other allies, right up to that line carefully.
But Putin is not a rational actor. So it's difficult to determine where that line ends.
What about the movement of those weapons? I mean, they have to make their way in.
If you take a look at the map, you know they're going in via the western part of the country, right, from allied nation territory. But they have to make their way all the way across Ukraine to the east, where it's now needed in the Donbass. What are the challenges with that? What worries you about that movement?
Well, it's obviously a long logistics line. And the Russians will seek to interdict that line.
What I'm most concerned about is that the Russians will strike that logistics line, and that some of those strikes will move close to the border, especially with Poland. And it wouldn't take much or much imagination to imagine a missile or a bomb from an aircraft that goes errant and lands in Polish territory.
So, this is a dangerous part of the war with that equipment pouring across. It's also going to be difficult, just the — as the Russians suffered with long lines of logistics, the Ukrainians will suffer with long lines of logistics. And moving tens of thousands of artillery rounds, for example, or the fuel required for those trucks to pull the artillery, that, in itself, is a massive challenge.
Colonel, very briefly, if you can, is there any concern about those weapons as they move potentially falling into the wrong hands?
Well, this is a concern of mine, that these shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and these anti-tank with weapons systems that are shoulder-fired, they're extremely effective, very lethal.
And I'm sure the United States has very strong protocols in place to track those weapons and to prevent them falling into the wrong hands. But, on the battlefield, it's unpredictable.
I worry about a Ukrainian unit being overrun and those weapons being captured by Russians, and then ending up somewhere else in the world in the hands of some warlord or terrorist. So it is a concern. And I'm sure the United States is doing everything possible.
You have to remember, we gave the mujahideen anti-aircraft weapons, similar weapons, during the 1980s. And that was carefully controlled. So I'm sure there's some lessons there that are being applied.
That is retired Lieutenant Colonel John Manza joining us tonight, now with the National Defense University.
Thank you so much for your time.
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Amna Nawaz joined PBS NewsHour in April 2018 and serves as the program's chief correspondent and primary substitute anchor.
As the deputy senior producer for foreign affairs and defense at the PBS NewsHour, Dan plays a key role in helping oversee and produce the program’s foreign affairs and defense stories. His pieces have broken new ground on an array of military issues, exposing debates simmering outside the public eye.
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