Is Ukraine on the edge?
    Big vulnerabilities

    ANALYTICS  17 April 2024 - 16:13

    Fuad Shahbazov

    In light of the Israel-Iran heightening tensions in the Middle East, the world community’s interest in the Russo-Ukraine war is gradually declining as the Russian troops are advancing deeper into Ukraine.

    As such, there is "a serious risk" of Ukraine losing the war this year. The Ukrainian forces are running critically low on ammunition, troops, and air defences. Its much-heralded counter-offensive last year failed to dislodge the Russians from the ground they had seized, and now Moscow is gearing up for a summer offensive. Despite earlier failures in 2022 and 2023, Russia batters away at the front line, employing a five-to-one advantage in artillery, ammunition, and a surplus of people reinforced by the use of newish weapons.

    Ukraine's long-awaited counter-offensive did not yield significant consequences in 2023, though Russia has recaptured Avdiivka, its biggest war gain since 2022. President Volodymyr Zelensky has been forced to quietly acknowledge the new military reality. Recently, the latest media reports claimed that the army's positions on the eastern front have worsened significantly in recent days. With few critical military supplies flowing into Ukraine from the United States for months, commanders are being forced to make difficult choices over where to deploy limited resources as the toll on civilians grows daily. America had provided Ukraine with the bulk of its artillery munitions, and Russia is now poised to soon be able to fire ten shells for every Ukrainian shell.

    Official Kyiv is frustrated with the stalling US military aid suspended by the Republicans as many voiced scepticism regarding Ukraine's chances to thwart Russia's advancement. Therefore, the US Congress has long delayed the critical military aid of $60 billion to Ukraine at a crucial time. The foreign aid package, which altogether totals $95 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, was passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate in February 2024 but has been stalled in the lower house of Congress, where Republicans hold a thin majority. Although President Joe Biden pushes Congress hard to allocate aid, the Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson faces opposition from hardline Republicans who are opposed to any further funding for Ukraine.

    Given Russia’s frequent missile attacks on civilian settlements and cities, Ukraine desperately needs more air defence systems to protect the country's entire territory from Russian attacks. In this vein, the Ukrainian top command does not doubt that it would be difficult for Ukraine to survive without the aid, and the country will unlikely demonstrate big military success in the third year of the war.

    Since the last week, the Russian forces have been attempting to penetrate the defence line around strategically important Chasiv Yar. Chasiv Yar is less than 30 kilometres from Kramatorsk, a critical rail and logistics hub for the Ukrainian army.

    Consequently, it is not just that Ukraine’s forces are running out of ammunition. Western delays in sending aid mean the country is dangerously short of something more challenging to supply than shells. Despite shortages, Ukraine is seeking other options not to retreat, though secretly acknowledging that the upcoming summer will be challenging for Kyiv to maintain its positions. In addition to hard battles, Ukraine grapples with the harsh consequences of ruined cities, settlements, and economy.

    For that purpose, in March 2024, the European Commission proposed using 90% of the revenue generated by frozen Russian assets to purchase weapons for Kyiv and allocate the remaining 10% to the EU budget to support Ukraine's defence industry. The proposed measure would allocate around 3 billion euros to Ukraine per year. More financial aid sounds rational, as on April 11, Russian missiles destroyed the Trypilska thermal power plant (TTPP), one of the biggest electricity suppliers to the Kyiv region.

    Ukraine has struggled to convince Western allies to send more air defence systems throughout the war. Kyiv has said it needs 25 Patriot missile systems to adequately protect its energy systems across Ukrainian territory. However, not all Western countries share similar threats as Kyiv, so the next military aid will likely not make it on time. As such, Ukraine is heading to defeat, while Russia is steadily approaching its main goal to invade Ukraine.


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