Ukraine gets big boost of US aid

Ukraine, Apr. 25: A big, new package of U.S. military aid will help Ukraine avoid defeat in its war with Russia. Winning will still be a long slog.

The arms and ammunition in the $61 billion military aid package should enable Ukraine to slow the Russian army’s bloody advances and block its strikes on troops and civilians. And it will buy Ukraine time — for long-term planning about how to take back the fifth of the country now under Russian control.

“Ultimately it offers Ukraine the prospect of staying in the war this year,” said Michael Clarke, visiting professor in war studies at King’s College London. “Sometimes in warfare you’ve just got to stay in it. You’ve just got to avoid being rolled over.”

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the package on Saturday after months of delays by some Republicans wary of U.S. involvement overseas. It was passed by the Senate on Tuesday, and President Joe Biden said he would sign it Wednesday.

The difference could be felt within days on the front line in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Russia’s much larger army has been slowly taking territory against massively outgunned Ukrainian forces.

The aid approval means Ukraine may be able to release artillery ammunition from dwindling stocks that it has been rationing. More equipment will come soon from American stocks in Poland and Germany, and later from the U.S.

The first shipments are expected to arrive by the beginning of next week, said Davyd Arakhamia, a lawmaker with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party.

But opposition lawmaker Vadym Ivchenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament’s National Security, Defense and Intelligence Committee, said logistical challenges and bureaucracy could delay shipments to Ukraine by two to three months, and it would be even longer before they reach the front line.

While details of the shipments are classified, Ukraine’s most urgent needs are artillery shells to stop Russian troops from advancing, and anti-aircraft missiles to protect people and infrastructure from missiles, drones and bombs.

What’s coming first is not always what front-line commanders need most, said Arakhamia, the Ukrainian lawmaker. He said that even a military giant like the U.S. does not have stockpiles of everything.

“The logic behind this first package was, you (the U.S.) finds our top priorities and then you see what you have in the warehouses,” Arakhamia said. “And sometimes they do not match.”

Hope for future breakthroughs for Ukraine still hangs on more timely deliveries of Western aid, lawmakers acknowledge.

Many experts believe that both Ukraine and Russia are exhausted by two years of war and won’t be able to mount a major offensive — one capable of making big strategic gains — until next year.

Still, Russia is pushing forward at several points along the 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) front, using tanks, wave after wave of infantry troops and satellite-guided gliding bombs to pummel Ukrainian forces. Russia is also hitting power plants and pounding Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which is only about 30 kilometres (some 20 miles) from the Russian border.

Ivchenko said the goal for Ukraine’s forces now is to “hold the line” until the bulk of new supplies arrive by mid-summer. Then, they can focus on trying to recapture territory recently lost in the Donetsk region.

“And probably … at the end of summer we’ll see some movement, offensive movement of the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said.

Some military experts doubt Ukraine has the resources to mount even small offensives very soon.

The U.S. funding “can probably only help stabilize the Ukrainian position for this year and begin preparations for operations in 2025,” said Matthew Savill, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank. (AP)

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