• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Ukraine tepidly welcomes new U.S. military aid package


Dec 28, 2023


KYIV — A modest new U.S. weapons package for Ukraine — what is likely be the last one until Congress approves new funding — was met with tepid gratitude in Kyiv on Thursday.

The $250 million package, which includes artillery shells, air defense equipment, antiaircraft and antitank missiles and small arms ammunition for the fight against Russia, will address some battlefield shortfalls but still leaves Ukraine facing an uncertain future and without critical financial support entering the new year.

President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked President Biden in a post on X, formerly Twitter, for the weapons that “will cover Ukraine’s most pressing needs.”

“U.S. leadership in the coalition of over 50 countries providing Ukraine with military aid is critical to countering terror and aggression not only in Ukraine but around the world,” he added.

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Yehor Cherniev, a lawmaker in Ukraine’s parliament, said the package “is only intended to keep us going for a little while longer, but it is not able to change the situation on the battlefield in our favor or even enable us to resist effectively.” And it’s unclear if or when Ukraine will receive more aid from its biggest backer.

“If a full package of aid to Ukraine is not voted through in the near future,” Cherniev said, “it will be difficult to restrain [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

Ukrainian officials have warned that without an influx of new funds, some salaries and social payments could be affected already in January. Financial assistance from Washington alone accounts for roughly a third of Ukraine’s budget. That money can’t be used to directly pay soldiers their salary, but with so much money already going to the military, the Western aid is critical for civilian enterprises to continue running.

In addition to the uncertainty around U.S. aid, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is blocking a proposed plan of $50 billion in new assistance from the European Union.

Adding to the budget constraints, Zelensky said last week that Ukraine’s military leadership submitted a plan to mobilize up to 500,000 more troops for the fight against Russia — what Zelensky estimated would cost the country some $13 billion. “I would like to know where the money will come from,” Zelensky said during a news conference in Kyiv.

Ukraine’s top commander calls for mobilizing more soldiers

Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhii Marchenko told Forbes Wednesday that Ukraine has “exhausted our internal potential to finance military needs.”

“We do not rule out that we will have to look for additional internal funding sources,” Marchenko added.

While Ukraine waits for the passage of additional aid by Congress, this latest package will be welcome news to soldiers at the front line, who have complained that already scarce ammunition supplies have declined in recent months. Some are firing up to five times less artillery. After Ukraine’s counteroffensive stalled with the start of winter, Russia has seized the battlefield initiative, claiming some gains near Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine.

White House officials have suggested in recent weeks that this weapons package, known as a “drawdown” from Pentagon inventories, was the last one they could make with existing funds, seeking to leverage what they have described as a dire funding situation to push Congress to approve Biden’s request for an additional $60 billion related to the war in Ukraine. Since Putin’s February 2022 invasion, the United States has committed $44 billion in security aid.

“This small package of aid is evidence for us that there are problems with the support of Ukraine from the U.S.,” said Cherniev. “We still believe that these problems are temporary and will be resolved very soon … In the coming year, the Russians are most definitely counting on the fact that U.S. support for Ukraine will decrease and they will be able to achieve their goal.”

With future funds uncertain, Ukrainian officials have placed more emphasis on domestic arms production. Zelensky has vowed that Ukraine will produce 1 million drones next year, and Kyiv has already started producing artillery ammunition, though in small quantities. Cherniev warned that continued U.S. support “is the only factor on which it depends how long the war will last and how it will end.”

Despite the relative smaller size of the latest package, Mykola Davydiuk, a Kyiv-based political expert, said “I think that this is good news.”

“The fact that our partners don’t leave us to fend for ourselves, even when bureaucratic moments don’t allow them to transfer the sum of money that they want to and that we would want to, they still don’t abandon us and support us either way,” he said.


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