Analysis: US faces race against time to secure massive Ukraine security aid with new attack looming

Ukraine is preparing for the expected escalation of Russian attacks in the Donbass region in the east of the country. As it tries to adapt to this difficult new terrain, the United States is reinforcing its commitment to help – sending an additional $800 million worth of arms and ammunition in a package including additional Mi-17 helicopters, Howitzer guns, several hundred Switchblade drones, counter-artillery radar systems and protective equipment to guard against possible chemical attacks.

But getting that aid to the Ukrainian armed forces now faces a race against time.

The new round of artillery and munitions brings total US military assistance to Ukraine to $3.2 billion since the Biden administration took office. The US effort was bolstered on Wednesday by the European Union’s announcement of $544 million in additional military support to Ukraine – including military and personal protective equipment, fuel and first aid kits. relief – bringing its total assistance to $1.63 billion.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby stressed that the United States had tailored its own list to meet Ukraine’s specific demands, to give the country “every possible advantage in this coming fight.” in the Donbas region. But he also acknowledged that some big-ticket items on the list — including howitzers and counter-artillery radar systems — would require additional training for Ukrainian soldiers involving US troops.

He noted during Wednesday’s briefing that Russia would likely try to use tanks, long-range fire and artillery “to achieve some of its objectives before committing ground troops” to a flatter area. , more open and “a bit like Kansas”. The new terrain means Ukraine’s weaponry needs have changed as it prepares for this next battle, he said.

“We’re going to get things done as quickly as we can,” Kirby said when pressed by CNN’s Barbara Starr whether the help would be too late. He argued that there is still a window because the Russians “are not quite ready” for their new push into the Donbass: “We are taking advantage of every day, every hour, to bring this material so quickly as possible”.

Kirby declined to provide an assessment of how long the United States will have to help get the new aid in place before it is needed, but he noted that previous security aid had been sent as little as four to six days after the packages are approved.

“We are aware of the clock and we know that time is not our friend,” he said.

The Pentagon hosted the CEOs of the top eight military prime contractors on Wednesday to discuss how to arm Ukraine faster, according to a reading of the classified meeting.

The situation in Mariupol is becoming dire

The urgency of the moment has been underscored by the precarious situation Ukraine faces with its limited resources as the strategic port city of Mariupol – a prime Russian target that has been devastated by bombardment – teeters on the brink.

The city’s mayor said on Wednesday that as many as 180,000 people were waiting to be evacuated, many of whom were stranded without adequate access to food, water and electricity, but there were no humanitarian corridors operational on Wednesday, as Russian forces blocked evacuation buses that would have provided a way out. , according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

And a day after President Joe Biden declared a “genocide” was taking place in Ukraine, the scale of the atrocities suffered by the Ukrainian people was highlighted in a 110-page report by the Organization for Security and cooperation in Europe.

The document detailed ‘clear patterns’ of violations of international humanitarian law by Russian forces in Ukraine, and included the chilling account of a woman who said she was repeatedly raped ‘in the presence of her small child’ by a soldier drunken Russian who had killed her husband. It was just one of many allegations of rape, including gang rape, by Russian soldiers across Ukraine since the conflict began.

US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter said the report documents “a catalog of inhumane acts perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine” by exposing the direct targeting of civilians, executions, attacks on hospitals and medical facilities and the forced deportation of civilians to Russia.

White House defends Biden’s ‘genocide’ comment

As international outrage grows, Biden has now overtaken some of his European allies — and even leaders in his own administration — in defining Russia’s horrific acts as genocide. But even though that stance has created a disconnect with some European allies, the White House did not back down from Biden’s assessment on Wednesday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president spoke about “how he feels as clearly as day in terms of the atrocities happening on the ground.” The legal process to determine whether genocide has taken place will run on its own timeline, US officials have said, and Biden’s statement will not change US policy.

But, Psaki added, “He is the President of the United States and the leader of the free world, and he is allowed to make his views known at any time.” Late Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his support for Biden in expressing his views, saying it was “absolutely right that more and more people” use the word “genocide” to describe the actions of the Russia. But Trudeau chose not to use the term itself to describe the situation.

While Biden’s stance may reflect the sense of horror many Americans feel seeing the events unfold in Ukraine, it contrasts sharply with the approach of French President Emmanuel Macron, who suggested the remark was not useful on Wednesday as he looked to stay on more neutral ground.

“I want to keep trying, as much as I can, to stop this war and rebuild peace,” Macron said. “I’m not sure escalating rhetoric serves this cause.”

Putin forges ahead unfazed by mounting criticism

But hopes of rebuilding peace or persuading Putin to change course are dwindling by the day as the Russian leader continues to spin his campaign of lies and propaganda, seemingly immune to the criticism sent his way. .
Earlier this week, Putin said peace talks with Ukraine were at an “impasse” and continued to dismiss reports of atrocities in Bucha as false, even as CNN testified to a mass grave there. suburbs of kyiv as well as scenes of bodies littering the streets. The Kremlin also brushed aside Biden’s accusation that genocide is happening in Ukraine, calling it an “unacceptable” attempt to “distort the situation.”

Putin displayed his distorted view of reality during a virtual meeting on Arctic development on Wednesday, where he downplayed the economic pain inflicted on his country by sanctions and insisted that the “denial of a number of Western countries to engage in normal cooperation, including with Russian energy resources,” was creating a “genuine energy crisis” that could benefit Russia.

“Of course, even we have problems,” Putin said, noting inflation-related problems in the United States and Europe, “but for us, alternative opportunities, options, new windows of opportunity open”.

One area where Putin appears to have made a serious miscalculation is his attempt to weaken NATO, the US-led military alliance. At the start of the war, he made it clear that one of his goals was to return NATO’s borders to where they were in the 1990s.
Instead, there were new signs this week that Finland and Sweden, which are currently not aligned, could soon join NATO – highlighting how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could ultimately crush some of Putin’s broader ambitions.

In a new Finnish government report presented to the country’s parliament, officials concluded that if Finland and Sweden become full members of NATO, “the threshold for the use of military force in the maritime region Baltic Sea would rise,” bolstering “the region’s long-term stability.” If Finland, which shares a more than 800-mile border with Russia, joined the alliance, the report notes, the country “would be part of the collective defense of NATO and would be covered by the security guarantees enshrined in Article 5”.

At the same time, the report acknowledged how the move would anger Russia, creating “risks that are difficult to anticipate”.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the country would make its decisions in “weeks, not months.” Sweden is preparing its own security policy analysis, which should be completed by the end of May.

In this grim and daunting conflict, the prospect of a strengthened NATO alliance that could curb Putin’s thirst for power would be one of the few glimmers of hope for the West to emerge so far.

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