Ukraine’s New Hope – The New York Times

By Equipo
7 Min Read

You have probably read that the war in Ukraine is a stalemate. But conditions have changed in recent months — in Russia’s favor. It has captured more territory, and it seems likely to launch a larger offensive later this spring or summer. In the meantime, Ukraine’s ability to fight back has deteriorated since the U.S. largely stopped sending aid in December.

The $60 billion in Ukraine aid that the House passed over the weekend has the potential to change the situation yet again. The Senate is likely to pass the bill in the coming days, and President Biden has signaled that he will sign it.

In today’s newsletter, I’ll explain how the aid package could affect the war.

Ukraine’s needs

American funds will help Ukraine restock two things that have played pivotal roles in the war: artillery shells and antiaircraft munitions.

The war has often revolved around artillery, which are large guns that armies use to fire explosive shells and hit targets from a great distance. Both sides have used artillery to kill troops and destroy tanks and bunkers from miles away, weakening the enemy before an attack. Artillery has also stopped advancing armies.

In recent months, though, Ukraine has started to run out of artillery shells. Russian forces have fired five to 10 times as many shells as Ukraine. “That’s just not sustainable,” my colleague Eric Schmitt, who covers national security, told me. “Ukraine would eventually have to give up territory and pull back.”

Ukraine has also relied on antiaircraft weapons, such as U.S.-made Patriot missiles, that can shoot down planes and missiles. The threat of these weapons has kept Russia from unleashing the full might of its air force, because it fears that Ukraine would destroy its expensive planes. Russia has instead resorted to long-range missiles, and Ukraine has shot down many of them.

But Ukraine had started to run out of those munitions, too. Last week, President Volodymyr Zelensky blamed Ukraine’s short supplies for its inability to stop a Russian missile barrage that killed at least 17 people north of Kyiv. “This would not have happened if Ukraine had received enough air defense equipment,” Zelensky said.

The new artillery and anti-air munitions will start to arrive in Ukraine just days after the bill becomes law. The $60 billion will pay for several months’ worth of weapons.

Some of the aid will also go for training. That support will help address another Ukrainian shortage — in personnel — by allowing the military to prepare newer recruits for the front lines more quickly. It will also help teach Ukraine’s forces how to use some of the advanced weapons they have previously received from Western allies, including Abrams tanks and F-16 jets.

What comes next

Once the aid starts arriving, Ukraine is likely to put it to work on the eastern front, where Russia has recently taken the city of Avdiivka. It could halt Russia’s recent progress and prevent much larger advances. Some analysts have worried that an undersupplied Ukraine would struggle to defend the countryside around Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, after Kyiv, and its remaining territory along the Black Sea coastline.

“With more aid, Ukraine will probably be able to solidify its defenses and keep its most important cities,” said my colleague Julian Barnes, who covers intelligence and national security.

If all goes well, Ukraine could launch an offensive campaign in 2025, perhaps to retake territory in the country’s east and southeast. One important goal: to drive a wedge between Russia’s holdings in the eastern region of the Donbas and the southern peninsula of Crimea.

Ukraine’s official goal is to retake all of the Donbas and Crimea. Many experts are skeptical that Ukraine can do that, especially after last year’s disappointing counteroffensive. And some critics of the aid package argue that it won’t even allow Ukraine to stop Russia’s advance. Senator J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican, says that U.S. manufacturing can’t currently keep pace with Russian weapons production. The war simply matters more to Russia than the West, and Russia is dedicating more resources to it, these critics have argued.

Still, most experts believe the additional aid will make a meaningful difference. They worry that an easier Russian victory could encourage it to invade other countries, or encourage China to invade Taiwan, by undermining confidence in the U.S. and its allies.

The most realistic scenario for Ukraine is probably not a return to the prewar borders. The nation would be smaller, but it could retain most of its territory, then integrate itself economically and strategically with Europe. That’s a lot better than outright defeat.

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