Sun. May 26th, 2024

Ukraine looks to stop the bleeding as US readies more aid

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May12,2024

Ukraine will soon receive much-needed relief to stabilize the front lines of their war with Russia after the United States Congress cleared billions of dollars in new weapons. But Kyiv still faces a daunting battle this year to achieve critical war aims. 

The immediate effect of the U.S. package will be to help defend Ukrainian cities and defensive positions on the front lines, as artillery and air defenses have dwindled since the last U.S. shipments in December. The Biden administration is readying 155 mm artillery shells, air defense munitions and anti-tank munitions in an initial $1 billion package, according to Reuters.

But more ambitious goals, such as retaking territory in a renewed counteroffensive against entrenched Russian forces, may not happen this year, analysts say. 

Becca Wasser, a senior fellow for the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, said the incoming aid package is significant but will not “magically solve all of Ukraine’s problems,” especially because additional timely U.S. assistance is not guaranteed.

“There’s a choice that Ukrainian leaders need to make, which is: Are they going to try and break some of the deadlock and push for an offensive, or are they going to focus on holding the lines that they currently have?” she said, noting a counteroffensive could consume resources fast. 

“Considering ways in which they can leverage the current aid package and those also provided by European partners to last longer I think is probably a sound way forward,” she added. 

Kyiv breathed a sigh of relief after the House passed the aid over the weekend following months of delays. Russian forces have been taking advantage of the delay on the battlefield, making incremental gains across the 600-mile eastern front and putting Ukrainian troops on the back foot. 

The $95 billion U.S. package, which will also fund Israel, Taiwan and other allies, cleared the Senate on Tuesday night and is expected to be swiftly signed into law by President Biden, whose administration has signaled it can move within days on getting Ukraine weapons, some of which are already in Europe. 

For Ukraine’s security needs, the package passed by the House includes more than $23 billion to replenish U.S. weapons stocks, which will allow Washington to send existing supplies. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address Sunday that advisers were working to ensure the package will deliver “exactly what our warriors at the front are waiting for.” 

“This strength must be the one capable of truly changing the situation on the front lines,” he said. “Front-line air defense is just as important as protection for our cities and villages. Our long-range capabilities, artillery, and ability to expand our area of control are all important.” 

Zelensky added in a Monday video that he had spoken with Biden and was seeking three critical priorities: air defense munitions, long-range strike capabilities and artillery. He said Ukraine would for the first time receive the best versions of the Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), which can strike targets up to 190 miles away. 

The aid will certainly give Ukraine a desperately needed boost on the battlefield. The last available U.S. funds dried up at the end of 2023. Russian forces used the opportunity to pummel Ukrainian cities — exhausting their air defense munitions — and push ahead on the battlefield. 

CIA Director Bill Burns warned last week that without more aid, Ukraine was facing a potential defeat by the end of the year. 

Russian forces took the city of Avdiivka in February and are inching toward seizing the town of Chasiv Yar, a strategic point because it could pave the way for more gains in the eastern Donetsk region. 

John Hardie, deputy director of the Russia program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), said in a Monday press call that Chasiv Yar is “militarily important as a door to other nearby cities” and could give Russian forces a high ground for artillery. 

Hardie explained Ukrainian units are struggling with a shortage of men and ammunition, and the problem has become particularly acute with a lack of 155 mm artillery shells. 

“This U.S. aid is really coming in the nick of time, at a moment when Ukraine is starting to crack on the battlefield a little bit,” he said. “And I think they really need U.S. supplies, especially to backfill artillery units.” 

Bradley Bowman, senior director of the FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power, added in the call that the delay of U.S. aid “has been costly on the battlefield.” 

“We’ve seen the unnecessary loss of Ukrainian lives,” he said. 

Russia is trying to hurt Ukraine as much as possible before more weapons arrive.  

The Institute for the Study of War said in a Monday assessment that Russian forces are likely using the “brief window” before U.S. aid arrives to strike at Kharkiv, a city Moscow appears to have set its eyes on. 

Russia is also pushing northwest of Avdiivka, but more U.S. aid is likely to blunt the impact of Russian movement there and toward Kharkiv, researchers assessed. 

Still, Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, told BBC last week that Russian forces could create a major problem for Ukraine in mid-May to early June. 

“A rather difficult situation awaits us in the near future,” he said. “But it is not catastrophic.” 

While stabilizing the front is an important goal, Ukraine’s ultimate objective is to retake eastern Ukraine from Russia, an effort that failed last year when Kyiv launched a highly anticipated summer counteroffensive that could not get past Russian lines. 

With more aid, Ukraine may be able to start preparing for another counteroffensive but is unlikely to be in a position to launch one this year, experts say.  

Analysts say Ukraine should work on holding the lines and preparing for a counteroffensive next year, including through training and mobilizing desperately needed forces. Ukraine has been unwilling to enforce a mass mobilization of some 500,000 troops, likely because of the unpopularity of such a move. 

Bowman, from FDD, said Ukraine should focus on “avoiding the loss of major cities” this year. 

“I really view this [current package] as stopping the momentum of Russian tactical offenses this year, and then building some of the momentum for offensive operations next year,“ he said. “I will be shocked if Ukraine has the ability to put together any sort of operational, strategic-level offensive this year.” 

While Congress finally moved to pass Ukraine more aid, a majority of House Republicans voted against the bill, foreshadowing the uphill battle facing future Ukraine aid packages. The lift could become even heavier depending on how U.S. presidential and congressional elections turn out this year.

Grant Reeher, professor of political science at Syracuse University, said that besides the far-right lawmakers in the House who unequivocally oppose funding Ukraine, other Republicans who voted against the last bill are more persuadable on the issue.  

“There’s a space to be persuaded that it’s in our best interest to do this,” he said. “I don’t see us abandoning Ukraine and just walking away.” 

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) changed his tune on the issue, at first demanding Ukraine aid be tied to securing the U.S.-Mexico border before moving the package for Kyiv last week despite threats from the far right to remove him. Johnson said he heeded the intelligence briefings about the threat from Russia. 

“I don’t think he wanted to be the leader of a Congress that did not provide aid when it was needed,” Reeher said of Johnson. “Both for reasons of history and what his legacy will be and also, just the politics of this [because …] it wouldn’t reflect well.” 

Brock Bierman, a visiting senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said the new package will likely get Ukraine through the remainder of the year. If the Ukrainians continue to struggle on the battlefield, he said that could further complicate the debate on Capitol Hill. 

“The Ukrainians showing that they have the ability to create victory and take back parts of Ukraine that had been recaptured or even occupied by the Russians, is going to be an important ingredient to why the Congress supports Ukraine,” he said. 

But Bierman said the majority of Americans support Kyiv and understand the importance of defending a sovereign nation and democracy. “I think at the end of the day, we will continue to support Ukraine.” 

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

Related Post

2 thoughts on “Ukraine looks to stop the bleeding as US readies more aid”
  1. Becca Wasser, a senior fellow for the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, mentions that the incoming aid package is significant but will not “magically solve all of Ukraine’s problems,” especially because additional timely U.S. assistance is not guaranteed. “There’s a choice that Ukrainian leaders need to make, which is: Are they going to try and break some of the deadlock and push for an offensive, or are they going to focus on holding the lines that they currently have?” she said, noting a counteroffensive could consume resources fast. “Considering ways in which they can leverage the current aid package and those also provided by European partners to last longer.”

    1. Becca Wasser from the Center for a New American Security emphasizes that while the incoming aid package is crucial, it will not work instant miracles in solving all of Ukraine’s challenges. The Ukrainian leaders are faced with a critical decision: Should they attempt to disrupt the current deadlock and pursue an offensive strategy, or should they concentrate on maintaining their existing positions? She pointed out that launching a counterattack could quickly deplete valuable resources. It is essential for them to explore strategies to maximize the impact of the current aid package and those supplied by European allies for long-term effectiveness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *