US funding failure will have serious battlefield consequences, says Ukraine

The repeated failure of the Biden administration to get a funding package for Ukraine approved by the Senate will have real consequences in terms of lives on the battlefield and Kyiv’s ability to hold off Russian forces on the frontline, say Ukrainian officials.

The latest move by Senate Republicans to torpedo a bipartisan bill that would have combined $60bn (£48bn) in aid for Ukraine with aid to Israel and increased border security measures is a bitter blow for Kyiv. It could signal a very grim year ahead as the US political agenda settles into an election year with Donald Trump all but certain to be the Republican candidate.

As the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine approaches, Ukrainian officials say the delay in US support has already had a clear impact on the battlefield, where Kyiv’s exhausted troops have a severe hardware deficit in comparison to the Russians.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s aide Mykhailo Podolyak said Russian troops were using about 10,000 artillery shells a day along the length of the frontline while Ukrainian troops were restricted to using between 1,500 and 2,500 in response. He said the shortage of equipment made long-term planning impossible.

“If you have a clear understanding that in the next three to six months you’ll have a particular number of long-distance missiles, for example, you can plan for which infrastructure targets to hit on the occupied territories. And when you sit here today with a deficit, and with uncertainty, you can only fight a defensive war, and this is a stimulant for Russia,” he said in an interview in Kyiv.

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, expressed thinly veiled frustration with the stalling of the support package on Wednesday, noting there was a massive Russian missile attack on Ukraine overnight. “There is no time to lose. Ukraine needs our security assistance now,” she wrote on X.

EU leaders last week managed to overcome longstanding opposition from Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and approved a €50bn (£43bn) aid package for Ukraine. “They are pleased, but it won’t be enough without the Americans,” said a diplomatic source in Kyiv.

Yuriy Boyechko, the president of US-based aid organisation Hope for Ukraine, said: “Everyone was hoping that US won’t let us down, and now we find ourself at a very difficult place. People are losing hope little by little. We dont have time for this because we see what’s going on at the front. The more time we give for the Russians to build up their stockpiles, even if the aid is going to show up it might be too little too late.”

Aware of the possibility that Trump could return to the presidency, Ukrainian officials are choosing their words carefully over the current standoff, but are undoubtedly frustrated by his actions potentially leaving Ukraine out in the cold. Zelenskiy has played an unwanted role in a domestic Trump-Biden conflict once before, with Trump’s phone call to the Ukrainian president in 2019 prompting impeachment proceedings against the US president. Now, Ukraine is again in the middle of a domestic battle.

“We see very difficult elections, maybe one of the most conflictual elections ever and we see both sides staking out tough starting positions. Unfortunately, foreign policy has become a hostage of internal politics,” said Podolyak.

Ukraine has done its best to emphasise the importance of securing the aid. In December, Zelenskiy visited Washington; his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, made a separate visit earlier that month and met Republican senators. However, so far it appears the arguments have not found a receptive audience.

“It’s very frustrating; even when it comes to Republicans who were traditionally friends of Ukraine, classic Republicans. They know now that Trump has full control of the party and many of them are avoiding us,” said one source with knowledge of Ukraine’s efforts to bring around Republicans.

The foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, on Wednesday expressed bemusement at the ongoing saga in Congress. “Last night I received the latest report from Washington on possible scenarios, and some of the scenarios are reminiscent of a thriller story. Everything is very confusing,” he said during a press conference.

Podolyak said he believed the discussion was far from over and Ukraine would keep explaining the stakes to US politicians. “We have explained it, and we will explain it again and again. We just have to keep repeating the same truths: either the democratic countries continue to defend themselves, or they cede initiative to the others, and we are in a world where a war with genocidal elements is acceptable,” he said.

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