Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine — For weeks, Ukrainian officials have pleaded for powerful Western weapons as a way to stave off battlefield defeats. A senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky shifted this messaging on weapons on Monday by laying out for the first time the total number of howitzers, rocket launchers and tanks Ukraine thinks it would need to win the war against Russia.

At the same time, the adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, accused Western leaders of being reluctant to seriously address Ukraine’s gigantic disadvantage in long-range weaponry, and the scale of what will be needed to even the odds. He suggested Western nations lacked a sense of urgency even as Ukraine’s army, low on ammunition and taking heavy casualties, is being battered in fighting in the East.

And he suggested that some Western European countries, including France and Germany, were “hiding from the war.’’

“If you think we should lose, just tell us directly: ‘We want you to lose.’ Then we will understand why you give us weapons at this level,” Mr. Podolyak said in an interview in the presidential office compound in Kyiv.

The United States and its allies have provided about 100 howitzers and several dozen self-propelled artillery guns. The Biden administration earlier this month promised multiple-launch rocket systems.

Mr. Podolyak said the scope of that support is far from sufficient to combat the firepower the Russian army’s heavy, mechanized units have brought to bear. Russian forces are now firing about 70,000 projectiles per day in combat in the eastern region known as Donbas, he said, about 10 times as much as Ukrainian artillery teams can fire.

For Ukraine to achieve parity with the Russian army in the east, Mr. Podolyak said, Western nations will need to provide it with 1,000 howitzers, 300 multiple-launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones.

Lacking that level of firepower, the Ukrainian military command has resorted to a risky strategy of seeking to engage the Russian military in street fighting in the city of Sievierodonetsk to at least inflict casualties on Russian units that would not be possible in the open fields.

Mr. Podolyak, who is also a negotiator in now-stalled settlement talks with Russia, offered his assessment ahead of a meeting of Western defense ministers to discuss military aid for Ukraine, scheduled for Wednesday in Brussels.

Credit…Yasin Akgul/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He speculated that Western governments were slow-walking military aid in hopes that Russia and Ukraine would negotiate a cease-fire, thus helping ease the global economic woes the war has caused.

But any settlement that cedes Ukrainian territory would leave a war in Europe in abeyance, not resolved, he said. Hostilities, he said, would be bound to restart later because President Vladimir V. Putin’s aggression will have been rewarded.

“Why do the Western elites not feel that this is a war?” Mr. Podolyak asked. He offered his own assessment: that Western leaders are reluctant to concede that previous, conciliatory policies toward Russia were mistaken.

He said “core European countries,” meaning countries like the Netherlands, France and Germany, also fear Russian aggression if they commit to higher levels of military aid.

Mr. Podolyak also asserted that many leaders harbored intentions to restore prewar business ties, and that Western elites were susceptible to a pro-Russia lobby financed by Russian oil money.

“A problem is a problem,” he said. “There is reluctance of the elite, for example, the French, to make this a top topic for themselves. They are hiding from the war.”

He said any deal allowing Mr. Putin to “save face,” as President Emmanuel Macron of France has suggested, would result in “a permanent war,” with Russia gaining territorial concessions and using them to encroach further on Ukrainian territory toward the west.

Mr. Podolyak defined victory for Ukraine as enabling its military to inflict enough battlefield defeats on Russia to force political change in Moscow away from expansionist policies, at least long enough for neighboring countries to strengthen their defenses.

“With the proper end of the war, using the right quantity of weapons we should receive, we should inflict several military defeats on them,” he said. The battlefield losses, he said, would “lead to a transformation of the political system of the Russian Federation.”

Most Russians appear to support the war, polls show, and Mr. Putin has not faced any serious backlash domestically.

But Mr. Podolyak asserted that a period of political turmoil in Russia would allow Ukraine breathing room to establish control over its borders and form defensive alliances to prevent a resumption of the war.

For now, Russia’s artillery superiority in the battle for Donbas has forced Ukrainian commanders to fight where the infantry stands a chance: in urban combat in the cities. Asked about Ukraine’s persistence in defending the city of Sievierodonetsk, the site of fierce street fighting, rather than pull back and reduce casualties, Mr. Podolyak pointed to the success Ukraine has had in cities and suburbs.

“The Russians fight poorly in the cities,” Mr. Podolyak said. “In the cities, it is possible to maneuver, and find cover, and you minimize losses; you can resist a longer time and inflict significant casualties on the Russians.”



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