Saturday, May 18, 2024

Ukraine can’t hold lines without ‘rapid resumption’ of US aid: Report

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has warned Russia is gaining the initiative on the battlefield and that Ukraine “cannot hold the present lines now without the rapid resumption” of US aid, highlighting the dire situation Kyiv is in while the US Congress debates sending more weapons.

The institute’s analysis said only the US can provide critical air defense munitions and artillery shells for Ukraine that can keep them in the fight.

“Lack of air defense has exposed Ukrainian front-line units to Russian aircraft that are now dropping thousands of bombs on Ukrainian defensive positions for the first time in this war,” ISW researcher Frederick Kagan wrote.

“Ukrainian artillery shortages are letting the Russians use armored columns without suffering prohibitive losses for the first time since 2022.”

Russia has seized an area of eastern Ukraine comparable to the size of Detroit since the beginning of 2024, Kagan noted in his report.

“Russian advances will accelerate absent urgent American action,” Kagan added.

“US policymakers must internalize the reality that further delaying or stopping American military assistance will lead to dramatic Russian gains later in 2024 and in 2025 and, ultimately, to Russian victory.”

Congress has not passed more aid for Ukraine since the end of 2022, and available aid has completely dried up. Far-right House lawmakers have opposed sending more weapons to Kyiv, raising questions about the long-term commitment of the US to the embattled country and the monitoring of equipment sent overseas.

The Senate passed a roughly $95 billion national security package to fund Ukraine and other allies in February, but the House has not moved on it.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has signaled he’s willing to move on the Ukraine aid package this week, along with assistance to Israel and Taiwan. Johnson pointed out that he wants to vote on aid for Ukraine separately from assistance to Israel and Taiwan. Johnson’s moving on Ukraine may result in his ouster, though, as at least two House Republicans have pledged to remove him from the Speakership over the issue.

On the battlefield, Ukraine faces a much larger Russian military with dwindling resources, and in February Moscow captured the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a House Appropriations hearing Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “believes that he can wait us out”.

“He believes that the resolve of the Western countries will soon fade and our coalition will fracture,” he added.

Russian forces are now advancing on Chasiv Yar in the eastern Donetsk region, and taking that town could open a path to the larger cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

The Institute for the Study of War has previously assessed that Russian forces are planning to take Chasiv Yar by early May, which may be an indication that Moscow believes it can advance faster on the battlefield now against a struggling Ukrainian army.

In his Tuesday piece, Kagan said if the US abandons Ukraine, Russia will take Kyiv and push against NATO’s border up to Poland. In the event that Washington steps in to support them, Ukraine could become one of the largest and most powerful militaries in Europe.

“An independent Ukraine with a strong military and a pro-Western government will make a Russian attack on NATO much more difficult, risky, and costly for Moscow,” Kagan wrote, adding, “A victorious Russia that succeeds in its aim of destroying Ukraine entirely, on the other hand, will pose a major conventional military threat to NATO in a relatively short period of time.”

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