TPresident Joe Biden’s Wednesday announcement of a $3 billion package for military aid to Ukraine shows that his administration believes the war with Russia will continue for months, if not years. This signals Washington’s willingness to fight the battle for its duration.
The latest aid package is the largest to date and includes weaponry that won’t appear on the battlefield for a year or more. Contrary to the previous tranches that were designed to assist with current battles or anticipated counter-offensives in the future, the latest aid package promises ongoing shipment of American-made, sophisticated weaponry into the future. This signal to Russia and its allies the U.S. will continue to support the war regardless of any daily losses or gains.
“The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue the fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden said in a statement, announcing the aid package. “This will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long-term.”
On the 31st year of Ukrainian independence, the package included 245,000 rounds, including surface-to air missile systems, laser-guided launch systems, and 155mm artillery ammunition. Officials from the administration say that although previous weapons were taken from U.S. stocks to speed delivery, some of these items are still in development and could be made up to two years.
New aid includes funds for U.S. soldiers to provide weapons training for the Ukrainian army elsewhere in Europe over several years. The Obama administration repeatedly insists that U.S. forces will not be fighting in Ukraine. However, Biden sent thousands to surrounding countries, mostly in Poland, in order to give on-the-ground support to Ukraine and provide assurance to its allies.
Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters at the Pentagon that Russian President Vladimir Putin is wrong to believe that Russia can win the long-game, outlasting the Ukrainians in their will to fight and the international community’s will to continue its support. “We’re not just providing assistance to Ukraine right now. It’s going to be a steady stream of assistance that will stretch out over many months and years,” Kahl said. “It’s precisely challenging Putin’s miscalculation, we believe, that he can just grind it out and wait it out. So it is supposed to impact his calculus.”
It is hoped that Ukraine will be able to turn the ongoing supply of modern arms into lasting tactical successes. The Ukrainian military is facing an ever-increasing battle against a more advanced, technologically sophisticated enemy in the East. However, the war-torn state has been able to stop the Russian advance so far. The growing supply of Western-supplied long-range artillery is partly responsible for this success.
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Ukraine now has 16 U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a wheel-mounted launcher that fires six precision-guided rockets that boost the 20-mile artillery range of Kyiv’s forces more than two-fold. The systems have enabled the Ukrainians to pummel Russian logistics hubs, command and control nodes and other positions from beyond the reach of much of Moscow’s artillery.
Russian forces hampered on the Eastern Front have made the conflict a war by attrition. Over the last half year, thousands of Russian and Ukrainian troops were killed or wounded in brutal fighting. This has resulted in more than 5,500 civilian deaths and 6.6 million refugee camps. Air strikes continue daily. The U.S. State Department urged U.S. citizens to leave Ukraine in a new advisory Monday, saying that “Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days.”
Following its last invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the Russian military maintained a continuing presence in two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, known as the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have been ruled by puppet governments installed, armed, funded and operated by the Russian security services. The Russian military expanded into surrounding territory since Putin’s military order on Feb. 24 to assault Ukraine by air, land and sea, capturing and occupying territory in Kharkiv, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya.
The Kremlin intends to hold “sham” referendums in order to create “republics” in those recently occupied territories, beginning as early as this week, according to John Kirby, White House national security spokesman. “We expect Russia to try to manipulate the results of these referenda to falsely claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia,” he said Wednesday. “Since they obviously are having trouble achieving geographic gains inside Ukraine, they’re trying to gain that through false political means by conducting the sham referenda to give the appearance of legitimacy of their occupation.”
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Putin has stated that he would like the war to be ended, but hasn’t provided any details or evidence to support this claim. He’s accused the U.S. and the West of providing weapons to Kyiv that will push them into fighting Russia “to the last Ukrainian.”
Bolstered by recent battlefield successes, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed his forces will not only repel Russia’s recent offensives but retake Russian-occupied territory, such as the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Putin annexed in 2014. “What for us is the end of the war? We used to use the word peace. Now we say: victory,” he said Wednesday in an Independence Day speech. “We will not sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun pointed at our heads. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, aircraft and tanks, but shackles.”
Although the White House has had to adjust its strategy almost at every stage of the conflict, it says that ultimately diplomacy is what will bring an end to the war. The U.S. is now preparing more aggressive strategies against Putin due to the inability to reach agreements or to win on the ground.
“It would seem that we are indeed resigning ourselves to a multi-year war, rather than hoping that any ‘fall offensive’ by Ukraine could so reshape the battlefield as to create conditions that make serious negotiations possible,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington.
According to the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USSIA), the latest round security assistance is the 20th shipment of weapons, equipment and money that the U.S. has provided for Ukraine since the start of the conflict. This totals $13.7 billion.
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