MART KULDKEPP New window of opportunity opens in psychological warfare

Mart Kuldkepp
, historian
The US Capitol building in Washington.
The US Capitol building in Washington. Photo: EMILY ELCONIN
  • Russia's war machine is adapting while assistance is being drawn out.
  • A motivated soldier needs justified hope.
  • The Western world must stand more firmly for its interests.

The psychological impact of the US aid package should not be overlooked, historian and columnist Mart Kuldkepp writes.

It is still too early to determine whether the extensive aid package to Ukraine, finally approved by the US Congress and Senate after significant delay, represents a pivotal moment with far-reaching implications for the war as a whole.

There are now entirely appropriate calls also for the European Union and other partners of Ukraine not to rest on their laurels but to follow the US example and double or multiply their efforts. The experience from the past couple of years has vividly shown that the cost of any delay is paid not only in Ukrainian lives but also in the Russian economy and war machine adapting, making the goal—Russia's defeat—increasingly expensive and more difficult to achieve.

Therefore, alongside the purely military significance of the US aid package, its role as a psychological factor is equally crucial. The aid package acts as a demoralizing deterrent against Russia, conveying an undeniable message that the division and uncertainty in the United States and the broader Western world are not as insurmountable as undoubtedly anticipated and hoped for by the other side. This should inspire Ukraine's other partners to move more swiftly and decisively, ensuring that the victory over isolationist sentiments currently prevailing in US politics is not merely an exception and that the maximum benefit from deterrence is utilized.

The US aid package should also inspire Ukraine's other partners to move more swiftly and decisively.

The greatest psychological support from the decision of US legislators, however, undoubtedly goes to Ukraine's defenders, who are bombarded daily not only by Russian missiles but also by bleak future scenarios—whether from Russian propagandists or Western think tanks. A motivated soldier needs justified hope that their struggle is not in vain also in a broader strategic context. Recent days have seen numerous expressions of gratitude from Ukrainian units on the front line, showing that the decisions of the US Congress and Senate have indeed fulfilled this purpose.

A historical parallel: during the Estonian War of Independence, the arrival of the British fleet and Finnish volunteers likely played the most crucial psychological role at that critical moment between 1918 and 1919. Contemporary sources confirm that mere rumors of aid arriving had a devastating impact on the Red Army. For Estonian troops, however, the knowledge that the young Estonian Republic was not entirely abandoned was just as encouraging, allowing them to seize the initiative on the battlefield despite the small size of the first Finnish contingent. Ultimately, Estonia owes its continued independence to that moment.

In this war, too, a window of opportunity has opened where pressure on Russia should be maximized by all means, enhancing the impact of the United States' steps, not only tactically but also strategically. The immense superiority of Western economic and military resources over those commanded by Russia is an undeniable fact. However, it seems that the Western world must continually relearn the determination to stand up for its interests at the right time in each similar situation.