The United States is at a “key decision point” in its involvement in Russia’s Ukraine war, experts warn, as Kiev’s long-awaited summer offensive has ground to a halt and foreign aid is dwindling.
About 96% of the roughly $110 billion the United States has allocated to Ukraine since the start of the war in 2022 has been spent, the White House National Security Council announced last week, leaving the ability to the nation to continue its fight against Russia without additional support.
“We have two options,” George Barros, an analyst at the independent Institute for the Study of War, told The Post. “Number one, [the US] “We can have an introspective and honest after-action review of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and use it to study and realize what worked and what didn’t work… and improve our approach as we give the Ukrainians what they need.”
“The other option is to say that the Ukrainian counteroffensive this summer failed… And they are not capable of doing this, regardless of how much help we send, and therefore we must reduce our losses while we are still ahead as much as possible. and try to promote some type of negotiation,” said Barros.
Ukrainian soldiers have encountered deeply entrenched Russian forces throughout their ongoing counteroffensiveSERGEY DOLZHENKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
“I hope we opt for the former, because the latter will not bring any form of lasting peace in the long term,” he added.
After repelling Russia from Kiev and its northern region in a stunning offensive in the summer of 2022, Ukraine and its allies focused their hopes on repeating the performance this year in a major attack against Russian forces occupying territories to the east and south. .
But after negligible gains since the second offensive was launched in June, Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny this month compared the increasingly fortified fronts to the “positional war” of World War I.
“The war at the present stage is gradually taking on a positional form, the exit from which, in historical retrospect, has always been difficult for both the Armed Forces and the State as a whole,” Zaluzhny wrote in a lengthy essay published in the Economist magazine.
Among the obstacles Ukrainian forces faced in this summer’s offensive were swaths of Russian minefields, artillery consolidated behind thick forests and modern surveillance that virtually eliminates tactical surprise and concealment.
“The simple fact is that we see everything the enemy is doing and they see everything we are doing,” Zaluzhny said, describing the state of fighting as a “technological stalemate.”
Without foreign aid from countries like the United States, Zaluzhny argued, Ukraine has no chance of repelling Russia, which has a population more than three times larger than Ukraine’s and a more robust economy.
Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny compared the current battlefield with the clashes of the First World War.X / @CinC_AFU
“It is a feudal state where the cheapest resource is human life. And for us… the most expensive thing we have is our people,” Zaluzhny said in an accompanying article, explaining that Russia would inevitably wear down Ukraine without outside help.
Matthew Wallin, chief operating officer of the nonpartisan think tank American Security Project, said such pronouncements about the need for foreign aid were to be expected from wartime leaders, but in the case of Ukraine “they are probably true.”
“They’re stuck in that position where they’re facing a well-resourced Russian army, with what seems like an almost inexhaustible number of forces to throw into the fire,” Wallin told The Post. “That’s kind of a traditional Soviet Russian strategy: keep throwing men and women until you finally overwhelm your adversary.”
Ukrainian forces have fought for territory within meters as they fight to regain their territory in the east and southREUTERS
“Even if they exchange forces at a one-to-one rate, the Ukrainians will be the first to run out of people. Therefore, the Ukrainians have to surpass the Russians,” he stated.
Russia’s strategy has been effective. As of October, only about 500 square miles had changed hands since early 2023, according to the New York Times, and while the fighting was considerably bloody on both sides, the toll was much higher for Ukraine.
The disappointing results were not entirely the fault of Ukrainian forces: many analysts have blamed American politicians for “stuttering” over whether and when to send substantial supplies, such as tanks, mine clearance machines and fighter jets.
“It seems like a lot of money when you look at it in total,” Wallin said of the American aid. “But the way we have slowed down these supplies has not allowed the Ukrainians to have much combined power at the same time to make a significant push.”
American Abrams tanks finally arrived in Ukraine in mid-September, but many said it was too late to make a differenceAFP via Getty Images
American-made Abrams tanks arrived in Ukraine only in mid-September – long after the counteroffensive began – and Ukrainian pilots have only just begun training on American F-16 fighter jets.
“If the political decisions to send these things a little earlier had been made earlier, then the systems could have been employed at the beginning of the operation, not at the end or somewhere in between where there wouldn’t have been as much cash,” Barros said.
In October, President Biden asked Congress for an additional $61.4 billion in aid for Ukraine. Opponents, mostly Republicans, have held out as the House debates the 2024 budgets, arguing those billions are needed at home.
A short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown was passed Wednesday night, according to the Associated Press, but it did not include more funding for Ukraine.
As Congress continues to argue, Ukraine’s counteroffensive moves into deeper and deeper cold.
President Volodymyr Zelensky reported in a Telegram post on Tuesday that Russia had been increasing attacks in the Donetsk region, at the center of the counteroffensive’s targets.
George Barros (left), analyst at the Institute for War, and Matthew Wallin (right), director of operations at the American Security Project.
On the same day, Ukraine said its troops had crossed the Dnipro River in the Kherson region, bordering Crimea, but Russia-installed governor Vladimir Salo swore they were walking into a “burning hell” and hope The lifespan of a Ukrainian soldier in the war zone was approximately two days, Reuters reported.
The war between Israel and Hamas that broke out on October 7 has complicated the situation by dividing the attention of both American lawmakers and the public.
In addition to funding for Ukraine, Biden’s aid package included $14.3 billion in defense spending for Israel, along with $7 billion to mitigate Chinese influence in Taiwan. Although the Israel portion of the bill passed the Republican-controlled House in early November, it faces a deadlock in the Democratic-led Senate and was also not included in the near-term budget deal.
Although people tend to “overlay this false dichotomy” that the United States must choose which allies it supports, Barros argued that now is one of the most vital times since the end of the Cold War for the United States to support its allies. .
Barros cited China becoming increasingly aggressive toward Taiwan, Iran backing Hamas’ war against Israel, North Korea’s continued missile tests and Russian attempts to undermine NATO influence with its invasion of Ukraine.
“There is a kind of axis of dictators, and they are all aligned to overthrow the United States and all democratic allies,” Barros said.
“I think this is really the time to choose the West. For those who want to see the United States and our allies continue to be the ones who maintain this global order.”