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Ukraine: a war of attrition and financing | The Gateway expert




Ukraine: a war of attrition and financing |  The Gateway expert
Photo attribution: “Biden pledges US ‘will not walk away from Ukraine’” by DOD News, December 12, 2023

Many Americans are tired of financing the war in Ukraine. After seven decades of Europe depending on US defense and passing the costs on to US taxpayers, they are reluctant to provide more $61 billion for Ukraine. Regardless of validity, these sentiments align with Putin’s strategy and encourage him as he waits for Ukraine’s funding to decline.

Congress recently $95 billion approved in military aid, which is distributed among Ukraine, Israel and other US allies. With the majority of the funds going to Ukraine, this injection is intended to support the country until the end of the year. Ongoing discussions over financing underscore the reality that the conflict in Ukraine has transformed into a war of attrition, where the outcome will be determined by which side exhausts its resources – whether cash, ammunition, soldiers or determination – first.

Russia, which is considerably larger and richer, has a substantial industrial base and abundant access to raw materials and gold reserves. However, Western sanctions, along with two years of battlefield losses, have taken their toll on Russia’s ammunition stockpile and its ability to scale up production.

In contrast, Ukraine’s ability to sustain the conflict is highly dependent on the commitment of the United States and its allies to maintain financial support. However, American fatigue is increasing as they question the financing of a foreign war that many believe does not concern them.

A panel discussion took place on May 10 in the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) to explore the topic of Inbound Military support for Ukraine and the consequences of delayed financing. Underlying this discussion is the assumption that Ukraine would be lost if funding were to stop.

Sam Green, director of Democratic Resilience at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), pointed out that delayed financing has given Russia a significant advantage in its offensive. This has negatively affected Ukraine’s recruitment of new soldiers and complicated its future planning, as Kiev remains uncertain about the timing, amount and possible cessation of funding.

Another panelist, Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, former commander of the United States Second Fleet and NATO’s Joint Force Command for the Atlantic, pointedly noted that financing Ukraine’s defense is not just a U.S. responsibility, but must also rely on NATO’s support.

The Admiral’s point is echoed by many conservatives. Some are pushing to reallocate resources from the war effort to address domestic problems, especially securing the southern border. They argue that while Ukraine is important, it is primarily a European concern and should be Europe’s responsibility. They point to Europe’s dependence on American protection since World War II, failing to fund its own military and shifting the burden to American taxpayers. Contrary to some media portrayals, Trump’s claim is that the US is providing cover 70% of NATO financing is correct.

The recent aid package provides the Ukrainian military with everything it needs for a potential counter-offensive against the Russians, although its success remains uncertain. The admiral emphasized the need for support that goes beyond financing and, where necessary, direct involvement in the fight. He emphasized: “From a military point of view, it is not just about money; “It’s about fighting together with the Ukrainians.”

This sentiment confirms the concerns of many conservatives, who are already tired of financing a war they oppose. Now there is the added concern that they may be called upon to send their children into battle.

Nico Lange, a CEPA fellow who previously served in the German Ministry of Defense, addressed both of the admiral’s points. First, regarding the prospect of anyone other than the US financing the war, he expressed uncertainty about the level of support for Europe due to a lack of unified leadership and urgency. Moreover, Lange noted that Europe simply cannot match the $61 billion provided by the US.

Regarding the admiral’s second point about conscription, Lange noted: “For the Europeans, I think there is a looming discussion about whether troops will be sent to Ukraine; some countries are open to this in terms of training, perhaps also to help in air defense, some are very adamantly opposed to it, including my country, Germany.”

It seems that Mr Lange is suggesting that Europe is dependent on the US to finance the rest of the war. In addition, some Europeans are considering sending troops to participate in the conflict. While some are opposed to deploying their troops in combat, they are open to their armies serving in a supporting role closer to the front lines.

Americans will remember that this is exactly how the US became entangled in the Vietnam War. It started with 900 observers and advisors in 1960 and concluded with 2.7 million Americans serving and 58,000 dead. If the White House were to ask Americans to fight in Ukraine, the war would become deeply unpopular, and those opposed to it would push hard for the US to withdraw and stop funding altogether.

Russia started the war with a stockpile of old Soviet ammunition, which it has almost completely depleted. With heavy troop deployments, Putin is facing a labor shortage for his munitions factories. Sanctions have also hampered Moscow’s ability to buy high-quality machine parts from the US and Germany, forcing them to rely on inferior Chinese-made components. Additionally, Iran delivers Russia with drones, North Korea sells them missiles, and China reportedly does the same provide money and non-lethal aid.

Pavel Luzin, a non-resident senior fellow at the Democratic Resilience Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), suggests that Russian political and military leaders are playing a waiting game. In addition to efforts to produce or acquire weapons, they expect a reduction in Western aid.

Moscow closely monitors US news and social media and observes debates over continued support for Ukraine. This reinforces Putin’s belief that time is on his side; he just needs to wait until Ukraine exhausts US funding and make up his mind.