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Bulgaria is helping Ukraine with munitions while China is playing games with peace plans

Many countries are helping Ukraine get weapons and munitions indirectly through selling them to the EU or brokers funded by the U.S. Meanwhile, London says it’s not willing to give Kyiv fighter jets.

The West has met China’s peace plan published one year after Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine with suspicion and tries to figure out what Beijing wants and whether there’s a risk of China supplying Russia with lethal weapons. Meanwhile, the U.S. decided to help Ukraine bolster its energy infrastructure and support Moldova in weaning itself from energy dependence on Russia.

The Page offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the February 20–24 business week.

Arms for Ukraine: how Bulgaria is helping Kyiv with ammunition

Bulgaria has made a valuable contribution to provide Ukraine with munitions. Photo: armyinform.com.ua

Bulgaria has made a valuable contribution to provide Ukraine with munitions. Photo: armyinform.com.ua

After the 2022 full-scale invasion, Ukraine and its allies started buying up Soviet-style arms wherever they could find them, The New York Times writes.

According to documents obtained by The Times, state-owned Ukrainian companies asked brokers in America and elsewhere for tanks, helicopters, planes and mortars.

Both Britain and the United States have financed deals using third-party countries and brokers in cases where manufacturing countries don’t want to be publicly identified as providing weapons to Ukraine.

The British defense ministry has created a secret task force focused on getting Soviet-style ammunition. Thus, last June, Britain made a deal with Pakistan to buy 40,000 artillery shells and rockets made by the government-owned Pakistan Ordnance Factories.

The deal was brokered by the Romanian broker, Romtehnica, which has repeatedly served as a connecting link for countries buying weapons for Ukraine. However, the Pakistani supplier was unable to deliver the ammunition.

Other countries are also contributing to Ukraine’s war effort. Luxembourg is supplying Ukraine with arms that originate in the Czech Republic. Brokers with cash from the United States are scouring factories in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Romania for shells.

Bulgaria is one of the major munitions supplier to Ukraine. Since the times of the Soviet Union, it has operated powerful ammunition factories such as Terem in the town of Kostenets or VMZ in Sopot. After the Cold War had ended, the factories stopped production, and the nearby towns were decaying.

However, in 2022, then-Prime Minister Kiril Petkov initiated the exports of munitions to European Union countries, which then sent them to Ukraine. According to Petkov, Bulgarian ammunition soon accounted for one-third of Ukraine’s supplies.

Bulgaria’s projected arms exports soared in 2022, exceeding $3 billion, around five times the sales abroad in 2019, according to government estimates. The expanding military industry also provides jobs for residents of small towns.

Quote"Probably there isn’t a single family in town whose members haven’t worked or are not working at the VMZ plant," the mayor of Sopot, Deyan Doinov, said. "Virtually we have no unemployment — only those who do not want to work are jobless."

The United Kingdom won’t give Ukraine fighter jets: it’s too complicated

Ben Wallace: by far, Ukraine isn’t getting British fighter jets. Photo: Getty Images

Ben Wallace: by far, Ukraine isn’t getting British fighter jets. Photo: Getty Images

Britain is not planning to send RAF Typhoons to Ukraine, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said, rejecting a high profile campaign led by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, with the support of the former prime minister Boris Johnson, The Guardian reports.

Speaking on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ben Wallace said the Typhoons would be too complex for Ukrainian pilots to fly and would involve putting hundreds of British troops on the ground to support them:

Quote"Gifting a fighter jet comes with hundreds of people: engineers, pilots, training, electronic warfare. The West is not going to be putting troops into Ukraine on those scales."

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defense has begun training Ukrainian pilots on their fighter jets. According to British officials, it could take years, but Zelenskiy said it could be much shorter.

The other quick way to help Ukraine get fighter jets, according to Wallace, is for European countries to give it Soviet-made MiG 29s or Su-24s, with London donating them modern fighter jets to backfill, The Guardian reports.

Ben Wallace referred to the countries that, unlike Ukraine, have the capability to use modern NATO military equipment.

"Peace talks" for Ukraine from China: how the EU and NATO reacted

Jens Stoltenberg: China’s peace plan has no credibility. Photo: Getty Images

Jens Stoltenberg: China’s peace plan has no credibility. Photo: Getty Images

China’s call for peace talks between Ukraine and Russia "doesn’t have much credibility", NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, as cited by The Guardian.

During a visit to Estonia, the Secretary General was asked about China’s 12-point position paper on Ukraine, which calls for the international community to "create conditions and platforms" for negotiations to resume.

Quote"China doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine and they also signed just days before the invasion an agreement between President Xi and President Putin on a limitless partnership with Russia," Stoltenberg explained.

He added that supporting Kyiv militarily today was the way to achieve a peaceful agreement tomorrow in a rebuke to China’s implied criticism of western weapons for Ukraine.

Stoltenberg warned China against supplying Russia with weapons, saying it would be tantamount to supporting Russia’s illegal war of aggression.

Quote"We are monitoring closely what China is doing and we have seen signs that they may be considering sending lethal aid to Russia … this would be a very big mistake."

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also gave a cool response to the Chinese paper:

Quote"You have to see [the Chinese statement of principles] against a specific backdrop and that is the backdrop that China has taken a side, by signing, for example, an unlimited friendship right before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started."

Who China wants to charm

Wang Yi made a tour seeking reproach with several European countries. Photo: Getty Images

Wang Yi made a tour seeking reproach with several European countries. Photo: Getty Images

In recent days, China has launched an assertive charm offensive, the BBC reports.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi had made a tour around Europe, and then Beijing released two position papers:

  • the first, offering the Chinese solution to the war in Ukraine;
  • the second, outlining a plan for world peace.

These largely retread China's talking points from the past year:

  • respect for sovereignty for Ukraine;
  • the protection of national security interests for Russia;
  • condemnation of unilateral sanctions by the U.S.

The West may come away unimpressed, but convincing them was never likely the main goal for Beijing, the BBC points out.

Firstly, China clearly seeks to position itself as a global "peacemaker". An obvious clue about who it's really trying to charm lies in one of its papers, where it mentions engaging South East Asia, Africa and South America — the so-called Global South.

Another goal is to send a clear message to the US.

Quote"It is signaling: 'If things get ugly between us, I have someone to go to. Russia is not alone, which means that I will not be alone when there is a confrontation," said Alexander Korolev, an expert in Sino-Russian ties at the University of New South Wales.

China’s third goal can be seen in Wang Yi's itinerary. By visiting France, Germany, Italy, and Hungary, whose leaders China perceives as taking less of a hardline stance on Russia, he may have been testing the waters to see if China could lure some of Europe into China's orbit.

Beijing sees a "logical convergence of interests" with these countries, said Zhang Xin, an international political economy expert with the East China Normal University:

Quote"It believes the US has hegemonic power, and that a large part of the Transatlantic world could benefit from detaching from that system."

However, Wang Yi's speech at the Munich Security Conference, where he criticized the U.S., did not play well and, according to diplomats, only spawned greater distrust of China's true motives.

Will China sell weapons to Russia?

China may start selling weapons to Russia, but not now.

China may start selling weapons to Russia, but not now.

The U.S. has warned this week that China was considering supplying lethal weapons to Russia, and that Chinese firms had already been supplying non-lethal dual-use technology, such as drones and semiconductors.

Publicly China has reacted with angry rhetoric. But behind closed doors, Wang Yi made it clear to High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell that it will not provide weapons to Russia, while at the same time blaming the West for fuelling the war by providing weapons to Ukraine.

Experts doubt that Beijing would supply weapons to Moscow, given that it would lead to sanctions and disruption of trade with the West. Beijing is more likely to continue or even step up economic support to Russia and supply more dual-use technology through third party states such as Iran or North Korea.

But as the war drags on, the issue of giving lethal weapons will resurface, warned Andrew Small, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund think tank:

Quote"There hasn't been a question yet on what kind of significant things China could be asked to do, because previously Russia didn't need to resupply. But they are hitting that juncture. How long is China willing to say to Russia it will not do it?"

The United States will help Ukraine and Moldova bolster energy infrastructure

Ukraine will get help in bolstering energy infrastructure. Photo: Pixabay

Ukraine will get help in bolstering energy infrastructure. Photo: Pixabay

The United States will provide $250 million in financial aid for Ukraine to shore up the country's energy infrastructure and $300 million for Moldova, partly to help Chisinau wean itself from energy dependence on Russia, Reuters reported.

Quote"The United States government remains committed to helping the Ukrainian government maintain the stability and operation of its electricity system amid relentless and brutal attacks on critical infrastructure by Russian forces," said one document.

According to a second document, Moldova will be given $300 million, including $80 million to offset high electricity prices, $135 million for electric power generation projects and $85 million to improve its ability to obtain energy supplies from alternative sources.

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