Defence officials from more than 40 nations gathered at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on April 26 for a US-hosted meeting to discuss bolstering military aid to Ukraine. The event brought together representatives of NATO allies and partners, including such countries as Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
As he opened the conference, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his colleagues that the meeting sought "to help Ukraine win the fight against Russia". At a news conference after the meeting, Austin said that the forum would continue as a monthly "contact group" to discuss Ukraine's defence needs. "The group will be a vehicle for nations of good will to intensify our efforts, coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today's fight", he said. Some analysts believe that the US is effectively trying to get Europe directly involved in a military conflict with Russia.
It is no coincidence that the so-called "civilized world" chose Ramstein Air Base for its military council. Sprawling over 12 square kilometres, Ramstein is the largest military base in Europe and a major distribution centre. In addition, Ramstein Air Base is the only logistics hub suitable for organizing large-scale shipments of all types of weapons to Ukraine. Former Soviet military bases in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia cannot play this strategically important role because of their proximity to the combat zone. Logistics hubs in Eastern Europe are more likely to be used for forwarding weapons to Ukraine and third countries.
The primary objective of "the military council at Ramstein" is to pressure Western European countries and get them to supply military equipment and munitions to the Ukrainian border. However, these countries are not particularly keen on sliding further into the Ukraine conflict. Decisions to provide Ukraine with military aid do not come easy; moreover, officials from Western Europe make it clear that their countries are not involved in the conflict. "In terms of international law, our supplies do not mean we are going to war because we are only supporting Ukraine's right to self-defence enshrined in Article 51 of the UN Charter", said German Foreign Minister Annalena Boerbock shortly after the meeting at Ramstein.
It is worth remembering, however, that the US has a number of loyal allies in Eastern Europe. These countries are not among the world's largest consumers of Russian raw materials. Given the modest size of their economies, they suffer much less from the impact of anti-Russian sanctions than their Western European partners. Consequently, Eastern Europe has joined the UK and the US in pushing Western Europe to tighten sanctions on Moscow and ramp up military assistance to Ukraine. As economic and battlefield conditions worsen, Germany and France are expected to become amenable to military action and direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
The West has already made considerable military commitments to Ukraine, including the supply of hundreds of armoured vehicles, UAVs (commonly referred to as drones) and howitzers, as well as dozens of missile and radar systems. Some of this military hardware is unlikely to make it to Ukraine. For example, Hezbollah and Hamas threaten Israel with Javelin anti-tank missiles, initially intended for Ukraine but seem to have ended up elsewhere. In addition, many weapons systems are likely to be destroyed before delivery to Ukraine's military as Russia continues to employ its newest tactics to target Ukrainian railway stations and bridges.
However, this does not seem to bother US military planners. Their goal is to enable Ukraine to fight and strike targets on Russian soil and set up vast stockpiles of offensive weapons in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania along their shared borders with Russia (Kaliningrad region), Ukraine and Belarus.
The availability of multiple modern weapons systems, coupled with the relatively slow advance of Russian forces in Ukraine, is expected to give the governments of Eastern Europe confidence that they can "return ancestral lands and restore historical justice" and seek revenge and achieve a military victory over Russia.
In line with this scenario, Poland may start fighting in the Kaliningrad region and Western Ukraine. Hungary may enter Transcarpathia while Romania may enter Bukovina and Moldova-Transnistria. The recent attempts to destabilize the situation in Transnistria in late April and Warsaw's hardening rhetoric illustrate that this scenario is quite likely.
Any deployment of troops to former Soviet republics will automatically amount to war with Russia, a war that Germany, France, Italy and other EU countries will not be able to watch from a distance. Considering the large stockpiles of weapons deployed along the shared borders, a surprise attack may be easy to launch. The military council at Ramstein, America's major logistics hub, is, therefore, yet another practical step designed to equip the EU and "the entire civilized world" for a full-scale war with Russia in Europe, which is a new world war.