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US lawmakers approve new aid for Ukraine after costly delays

Ukrainian members of the 45th Artillery Brigade fire on Russian positions in the Donetsk region on January 20, 2024 – Copyright AFP SIMON MAINA

W. G. DUNLOP

US lawmakers have approved new funding to provide Ukraine with much-needed military aid, but their months-long delay was costly and undermined Kiev’s fight against invading Russian forces.

Ukraine has received only limited aid this year from the United States — which has provided tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Kiev — as money to replace goods from U.S. stocks ran out and opposition from some Republicans prevented the approval of additional financing.

The resulting aid shortage left Kiev’s forces – outnumbered and less armed than Moscow’s forces – short of key items such as artillery ammunition, leaving them vulnerable.

“We are already seeing things starting to change a little on the battlefield… in Russia’s favor. We see them making more and more gains, we see the Ukrainians being challenged to toe the line,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers earlier this week.

The delay in approving new funding also created an opening for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is “trying to exploit this period of doubt about US resolve,” Austin said.

– ‘Absolutely essential’ –

Additional funding for Ukraine was stalled for months due to opposition from some hardline Republicans in the House of Representatives.

But lawmakers in the House voted 311 to 112 on Saturday to approve $61 billion in aid to Kiev, and the Senate is expected to quickly follow suit.

The Pentagon said it would move quickly to get aid to Ukraine if approved by Congress.

“We are ready to respond quickly with a security assistance package” that would likely include “things like air defense and artillery capabilities,” spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said.

Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the approval of new military aid funding is “absolutely essential for continued Ukrainian resistance.”

As a result of the delay in its adoption, “Ukraine has lost some territory, suffered additional casualties and has been less able to repel the airstrikes,” he said, noting that it also likely encouraged Putin to believe he can. survive the West in a long war.”

Ann Dailey, a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation, said Kiev is “lagging behind,” with its forces “desperately low at 155 artillery rounds” and “also struggling with air defense.”

The shortage of 155mm rounds has left Ukraine in the position of being “unable to engage in counter-battery fires” against Russian artillery, she said.

– ‘Unsustainable decisions’ –

“If the enemy is firing artillery at you… and you don’t have enough bullets to fight counter-battery fire… it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remain in a defensive position – you will probably have to move,” Dailey said, noting that this is what happened in Avdiivka, a city Russia captured in February.

The air defense shortage, meanwhile, is forcing Ukraine “to make untenable decisions about whether to maintain and protect their front line to prevent further Russian advances or to protect their citizens and their industries,” which are also under attack by Moscow.

The approval of the additional funding will allow the United States to keep repeated pledges to support Ukraine “for as long as necessary,” and officials including President Joe Biden say it will also directly benefit the U.S. industry.

“We would invest in America’s industrial base, buy American products made by American workers, support jobs in nearly 40 states and strengthen our own national security,” Biden wrote this week in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, in which he advocated for the approval of the relief funding.

In addition to helping Kiev’s armed forces resist the Russian invasion, the U.S. assistance also undermines an American adversary at a relatively small cost, Cancian said.

Military aid to Ukraine weakens Russia — which the U.S. has identified as an “acute threat” — “without endangering U.S. troops and at a much lower cost than if U.S. troops were deployed,” he said.