Ukraine's military is burning through Soviet-era ammunition that fits older systems as the country pleads with the West to send more heavy weaponry and Russia amasses a significant artillery advantage around two strategically important cities in eastern Ukraine.
Western intelligence and military officials believe Russia's war in Ukraine is in a critical stage that could determine the long-term outcome of the conflict, according to multiple sources familiar with US and other Western intelligence.
This pivotal moment could also force a tough decision for Western governments, which have up until now offered support to Ukraine at a steadily increasing cost to their own economies and national stockpiles of weapons.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is poised to lead a working group of nearly 50 countries to discuss the crisis on Wednesday, when the US expects more announcements of weapons and equipment packages for Ukraine, according to a senior US defense official. Ukrainian officials have expressed frustration that these vital munitions appear to be trickling into the fight piecemeal — and have raised fears that Western commitment may be softening at a decisive moment.
"I think that you're about to get to the point where one side or the other will be successful," said a senior NATO official. "Either the Russians will reach Slovyansk and Kramatorsk or the Ukrainians will stop them here. And if the Ukrainians are able to hold the line here, in the face of this number forces, that will matter."