Reports emerged in late July that the Pentagon has devised a plan to arm Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists with defensive weapons, such as Javelin missiles.
But many Ukrainian soldiers on the ground believe the plan would give them more of a psychological edge than anything, according to The Daily Signal.
“The weapons themselves will not have a decisive impact on the course of combat operations,” Andrei Mikheychenko, a lieutenant in the Ukrainian army, told The Daily Signal. “Deliveries of lethal weapons, in my opinion, will primarily have psychological significance for both the Ukrainian army and the terrorists it fights.”
The war in eastern Ukraine started shortly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 when pro-Russian Ukrainians proclaimed parts of the Donbas as independent states known as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
And since then, both sides have been engaged in a full-fledged psychological war.
In an effort to intimidate and vex their enemies, Ukrainian troops have at times pretended to be members of US Navy SEAL Team 6 and give orders over the radio in English, The Daily Signal said. Other times, they’ve even raised American flags above their lines.
In 2015, Ukrainian troops changed the name of a street in the village of Krymske, which is on the front lines near the LPR, from some old Soviet hero to “John McCain Street,” The Daily Signal said.
Russian-backed separatists, on the other hand, have reportedly been known to send Ukrainian forces intimidating text messages.
A few months ago, one journalist with Ukrainian troops received a text message, as did all the soldiers with whom she was embedded, saying “Ukrainian soldiers, they’ll find your bodies when the snow melts,” according to the Associated Press.
“Leave and you will live,” other text messages will say, or “Nobody needs your kids to become orphans.”
Russian-backed separatists have also been known to use more brutal psychological tactics.
A Ukrainian soldier is forced to eat his own army badge by Russian-backed separatists. Screenshot from YouTube user PavelDonbass
In early 2015, videos emerged of rebel commanders forcing captured Ukrainian troops to kneel on the ground and eat their own army badges.
While many Ukrainian soldiers believe that the US supplying them with defensive weapons would help them in the psychological war, they also believe it will give them a combat edge and help deter attacks, The Daily Signal said.
Russian-backed separatists currently have about 478 working tanks, The Daily Signal said, and most of these can be taken out by the Javelin.
However other European nations, such as France and Germany, are worried that supplying Kiev with such lethal weapons would only increase the fighting.
While fighting slightly increased in July, the three-year old war, for the most part, has ground to a stalemate in which the two sides lob mortars and grenades from afar and trade sniper fire.
At least 10,090 people — including 2,777 civilians — have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.
President Donald Trump has yet to approve the weapons deal, and is expected to make a decision in coming months.