Great news that Speaker Johnson finally found his balls and did the right thing by putting the Ukraine support bill to the House - which duly backed it with a large majority. Notable also that included in the bill on TikTok was language that suggested that Congress supports the confiscation of the $300bn plus in immobilised Russian assets in Western jurisdiction. The House noted the fact that as Russia is the aggressor that this provides enough legal basis for confiscation. I strongly concur - let’s see if the beancounters at the ECB actually manage to understand the national security imperative here.

The assumption now is the Senate votes on this this week allowing Biden to vote the Ukraine bill into law by the weekend and funds/munitions to flow by next week - long overdue - six months at least. The assumption is the U.S. has been prepositioning munitions close to theatre so that Ukrainian forces will be re-supplied in a matter of weeks now.


The $61 billion was originally meant to take Ukraine thru to US elections. With the six month delay in getting this bill over the line one might think this could give Ukraine a little more time, or runway. However, given the risks still of a Trump presidency I doubt the Biden administration will risk this - disbursements on the $61 billion will surely be front loaded. That means Ukraine is going now to see a surge in military and financial support over the next six months. Doubts though still remain about long term funding beyond the U.S. election given Trump’s less than certain position.

As others have argued, this funding hopefully comes just in the nick of time helping Ukraine shore up its defences which have been creaking of late as Ukraine was suffering a huge numerical disadvantage in munitions, as much as 1-10. The risk was that the Ukrainian frontline could have collapsed in places allowing Russia to take large additional swathes of Ukrainian territory. There is less chance of this now following the vote in the House. Less chance hopefully also of Ukraine being rocked by a much anticipated Russian counteroffensive north - perhaps another push to take Kyiv. Unless Putin brings forward his plans therein.


Ukraine should now be able to shore up its defences and it has a chance of holding territory as is.

Offensive operations likely should focus on making the continued occupation uncomfortable for Russia - rather than a large scale Ukrainian ground assault as was tried last summer. This should entail continued longer range missile strikes on Crimea, Russian naval operations in Black Sea, re-supply routes into Ukraine and attacks on infrastructure in Russia itself (oil refineries et al). The ambition here should be to make occupation so debilitating for Russia that Putin is forced to sue for peace.

Much here will depend on the munitions mix given now by the U.S. - let’s hope longer range missiles are in the mix. Hopes of F16s being available at some point this year will also give Ukraine more options. And hopefully more air defences will help Ukraine protect its troops in the field and its cities and critical infrastructure - perhaps too late for much of its power generation capacity which was lost in recent weeks.


The U.S. is sensitive about Ukrainian longer range missile attacks into Russia, particularly on energy infrastructure, given impacts on global oil prices and hence U.S. elections. These have proven highly effective in recent months and Ukraine will likely continue using arms manufactured domestically against targets in Russia. Again this has to be all about bringing the war to Russia and forcing Russia to sue for a peace acceptable to Ukraine.

Crimea & the Black Sea appear to be the weak underbelly for Russia. Remember here that Putin annexed Crimea back in April 2014 for fear that post Euromaydan the peninsula would fall into NATO control - and the loss of Crimea as a strategic military asset for Ukraine. The loss of Crimea as a naval base was also seen as critical to Russian dominance in the Black Sea. And all the talk about the strategic necessity of Russia securing a land corridor to Crimea - which it took after the full scale invasion - underscores the strategic importance of Crimea to Russian military thinking. But longer range missile attacks by Ukraine have now made Crimea insecure - a huge loss to Russia compared to its position even back to before the annexation of Crimea. Having lost numerous naval assets in Crimea (likely another ship damaged over the weekend) Russia has had to deploy much of its actual Black Sea Fleet east. This represents a huge military, psychological and strategic defeat for Moscow. Further attacks on Crimea will reinforce the fact that the peninsula is no longer an asset but a huge liability to Russia - costing billions to sustain now for limited military advantage. Making Crimea and the Black Sea insecure for Russia will give Ukraine significant leverage in any future peace talks.


How will all this change Putin’s narrative?

Long wars inevitably ebb and flow. And the current Russo-Ukraine war seems no different.

This war initially saw assumptions of a speedy Russian defeat turn on Ukraine’s valiant defence. We then saw successful Ukrainian counter strikes to retake territory on Kharkhiv and Kherson build optimism around a larger Ukrainian counteroffensive last summer. That failed which then saw Russia take back the initiative with gains in Bakhmut and Avdivka and elsewhere at the turn of the year.

And much has been written in recent months of momentum in the war shifting to Russia as U.S. support withered, talk of Ukrainian military collapse and suggesting then that Russia could just wait all this out until the Trump presidency eventually threw in the towel. The line was that Ukrainian forces might collapse this year but even if they survived it was hard to see them enduring thru a Trump presidency when all U.S. support would be cut off - with Europe unable to then shoulder the additional burden.


Moscow seems to have believed this script - and there is much to suggest it was also not expecting the latest $61 billion to get thru Congress.

Hopes in Moscow of an early victory again in Ukraine have surely been dashed now, again. But the way that the House vote got over the line - Western politicians (Cameron, Duda et al) kissing the ring in Maro Lago - and then Trump’s last minute suggestion that even he understood the importance of supporting Ukraine, will surely worry Moscow that Trump cannot actually be trusted to pull the plug on support for Ukraine. Moscow will now surely read the bipartisan support shown for the Ukraine bill as making it difficult to bet on a Trump presidency throwing in the towel on Ukraine. And the new $61 billion U.S. funding bill combined with Europe also appearing to finally get its act together on funding the war and its defence will surely worry Moscow that the forces being ranged now against it are appearing much more formidable.

For Moscow peace talks now might appear more logical - while it still has some advantage on the ground (if not sea), before U.S./NATO funding steps up, F16s appear, as its situation in Crimea further deteriorates and it suffers further losses in Russia itself.


Ukraine is still nervous over prospects of getting involved in any peace talks with Moscow as the fear is that Russia will just use any such peace to resupply for the next war. Fair points but if the West can provide enough reassurance that Ukraine’s defence will remain a priority and sufficiently funded then Ukraine might just consider peace talks - the end game could be a Korean Peninsula style scenario. Many though still view the only long term solution or sustainable peace is for Russia to suffer a defeat in this war (see Timothy Synder here) - question is whether Moscow is forced to accept peace terms now whether this is a sufficient enough defeat.

A question here is whether the $61 billion is a game changer in terms of Ukraine’s financing outlook. It certainly helps short term - to year end 24’. But again questions remain as to whether Trump will sustain US support for Ukraine. He seems to have given the nod to Johnson for the $61 billion package but given Trump’s character it is hard to extrapolate that to suggest US financing is assured beyond January 2025. Given that it remains critical that the G7 signs off on the freezing and then allocation to Ukraine of the $330 billion in immobilised Russian assets in Western jurisdictions there to Ukraine. Therein the House statement was positive but still wishy washy - kind of falling back on the line that the G7 have to be in agreement for this to go ahead and deference there to the fact that most of the assets are in EU jurisdictions. Needs must though and as is, the West is still unclear how it is going to provide Ukraine’s $100 billion annual financing need in war, and $50 billion plus in peace and reconstruction and recovery.

Reprinted from the author’s @tashecon blog! See the original here.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter