Ukraine: US Doubles Down, Russia Is Cool – OpEd


Russia’s free running in the Ukraine war in the most recent months is about to end this week as the Biden Administration has met with success in the US Congress on the long-stalled Ukraine aid bill. The aid approved by the House on Saturday would send $60.8 billion to Ukraine.

Senate approval is expected as soon a Tuesday this week. President Biden has promised, “I will immediately sign this law to send a signal to the whole world: we support our friends and will not allow Iran or Russia to succeed,” 

To be sure, the US is doubling down to forestall an outright Russian military victory in Ukraine through this year. Unsurprisingly, Washington’s transatlantic allies are also rallying, which is the message coming out of the virtual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council at the level of Allied Defence Ministers chaired by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at Brussels on Saturday. 

The sense of relief in Kiev is palpable with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy telling NBC, “I think this support will really strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine, and we will have a chance for victory.” He said the US lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track.” 

On the other hand, the Russian reaction has been rather polemical — The foreign ministry spokesperson said in Moscow, “White House is no longer banking on an ephemeral victory by the Kiev regime under its control. All it wants is for the Ukrainian armed forces to hold out at least until the November voting without damaging Biden’s image… we confirm that Washington’s actions as an active party to the conflict will be rebuffed unconditionally and decisively, and its increasingly deeper plunge into the hybrid war against Russia will end up in a fiasco for the United States as scandalous and humiliating as in Vietnam and Afghanistan.” 

What seems to perturb Moscow most in the US aid bill is its provision for confiscating frozen Russian assets to fund Ukraine, which, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov singled out “because this is essentially the destruction of all the foundations of the economic system. This is an encroachment on state property, on state assets and on private property. By no means should this be perceived as legal action — it is illegal. And accordingly, it will be subject to retaliatory actions and legal proceedings,”

Of course, the Russian military moves going forward will be keenly watched. In such fluid circumstances, actions speak better than words. At any rate, an inflection point has come since, evidently with an eye on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forthcoming visit to Beijing, the Biden Administration is also shifting gear to explicitly threaten China for allegedly supporting the Russian defence industry. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is paying a 3-day visit to China on Wednesday.  

Taken together, what emerges is that the Biden Administration is doubling down on the Ukraine war, contrary to earlier prognosis that war fatigue is setting in. Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder has disclosed to Politico in a statement that the Biden Administration is considering sending additional military advisers to Ukraine, since “security conditions have evolved.” 

The additional personnel “would not be in a combat role, but rather would advise and support the Ukrainian government and military.” The specific numbers of personnel remain confidential “for operational security and force protection reasons.” They will support logistics and oversight efforts for the weapons the US is sending Ukraine and “new contingent will also help the Ukrainian military with weapons maintenance.” 

Indeed, the fact remains that even in a non-combat role, what is in the cards is an expansion of the US military presence in Ukraine, notwithstanding Biden’s repeated assertions that US troops wouldn’t participate in the war on Ukraine’s behalf, as doing so would increase the risk of a direct Russian-American military confrontation. 

Citing sources, Politico further reported that “One of the tasks the advisers will tackle is helping the Ukrainians plan sustainment of complex equipment donated by the US as the summer fighting is expected to ramp up.” 

Interestingly, it has been reported on Saturday that French troops are already on the ground in Odessa numbering 1000 and another contingent is expected shortly. This was  forecast a few weeks ago by the Russian foreign intelligence but Paris flatly denied it.

How does the new US $60.75 billion aid package add up? It includes $23.2 billion intended to replenish US weapons stocks; $13.8 billion for the purchase of advanced weapons systems for Ukraine; and another $11.3 billion for “ongoing US military operations in the region.” 

That is to say, in effect, the direct military assistance to Ukraine will actually amount to about $13.8 billion till end-2024. The Russian experts estimate that this allocation rules out another Ukrainian “counteroffensive.” Besides, while the increased flow of US weaponry will beef up the Ukrainian military capability to withstand the Russian offensive, it cannot fundamentally change the balance of forces at the front. 

From a military angle, the cutting edge of the bill lies in the fact that it opens the gateway for the transfer to Ukraine of tactical missile systems [ATACMS] capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 300 km, which brings Crimea within its range. President Putin is on recordthat the ATACMS “are not at all able to change the situation on the line of contact… [but are] “certainly damaging and pose an additional threat.”  

Put differently, the aid package aims on the one hand to avoid a catastrophic military situation arising at the front in the coming months, which could be politically damaging for Biden’s re-election bid, while on the other hand, the bulk of funds actually goes to the US arms manufacturers in some key “swing states” and will surely gratify the influential military-industrial complex and the Deep State. 

Biden told Wall Street Journal, “We will send military equipment from our own stocks, and then use the money authorised by Congress to replenish these stocks by buying them from American suppliers. This includes Patriot missiles made in Arizona, Javelin missiles made in Alabama, and artillery shells made in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.” 

To be sure, the triumphalist narrative of the Ukraine war by the US state department is on a comeback trail. Equally, itt appears that Donald Trump has shed his ambivalence and decided to be supportive of the bill. The meeting between Trump and the Republican House speaker Mike Johnson in the run-up to the vote in the House on Saturday would suggest that the latter will not be ousted by his far-right House Republican colleagues.

This article was published by Indian Punchline

M.K. Bhadrakumar

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat.

One thought on “Ukraine: US Doubles Down, Russia Is Cool – OpEd

  • April 23, 2024 at 5:01 am

    Along with President the Pentagon is all set to Double Up whereas Biden is prepared to send military equipment from US stocks, and then replenish by using the money authorised to replenish from American suppliers. A Win Win situation! And Pentagon says it can quickly get more weaponry into Ukraine once Biden signs the Go ahead. The Defense Department said it has a network of storage sites in the US and Europe that would allow supplies to be sent to Ukraine within days. “We would like very much to be able to rush the security assistance in the volumes we think they need to be able to be successful.” With this development Zelensky says; “A Chance at Victory over Russia”


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