The European Union is preparing for a new influx of refugees from Ukraine caused by the destruction of the power infrastructure, the Americans are ready to pay higher energy costs to help Kyiv, and the U.S. intelligence advises Ukraine not to stop its counteroffensive and capitalize on the window of opportunity in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile in the U.S., there are growing concerns that Republicans may block or substantially pare down aid to Ukraine if they win the November 2022 midterm elections.
The EU braces for a new wave of Ukrainian refugees and will help Kyiv to restore power facilities
The EU is developing plans for a possible increase in the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine this winter as a result of Russia’s destruction of power infrastructure, FT reports.
On October 20, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned EU leaders that Russia is trying to provoke a "wave of resettlement" to the EU by cutting off electricity and heat this winter.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing the European Council [video]
Russian aerial bombardment since October 10 has destroyed 30% of Ukraine’s power generation capacity, Zelenskyy also said.
As a result, Kyiv and other large cities are subject to rolling power blackouts, and parts of the capital have experienced interruptions to water supplies.
European Commission officials are relatively confident that they are prepared for a potential surge in refugees. The Commission is also taking steps to increase Ukraine’s ability to cater for people left homeless or cut off from the power grid and planning on increasing humanitarian aid.
The EU has already received from Kyiv a list of urgent infrastructure needs drawn up in conjunction with Warsaw, which would help restore the infrastructure.
Zelenskyy also asked the EU to funnel extra funding to efforts to rebuild infrastructure quickly. Kyiv’s "fast recovery plan" requires more than €17 billion.
The Americans are prepared to pay higher prices to help Ukraine — a survey
The American public is prepared to pay high energy costs to help Ukraine. These were the results of the poll conducted by SSRS on October 7–10, The Washington Post writes.
The number of those willing to pay the price for helping Ukraine has remained almost unchanged since June 2022. Of all respondents, 60% said they were prepared to do so, including 80% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans.
In June, 62% overall indicated they were prepared to pay high energy costs, with 78% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans.
Furthermore, 57% of respondents said they were prepared to accept rising prices as the United States helps Ukraine, including 74% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans (compared with 58% overall in the June survey and 72% of Democrats, 39% of Republicans).
Nevertheless, most Americans remain averse to paying a cost in terms of the lives of U.S. troops. But the October survey showed a slight uptick in the preparedness to risk the lives of American soldiers: 38%, compared with 32% in June (from 37% to 40% among Democrats, and from 22% to 35% among Republicans).
The biggest change has been the U.S. public’s assessment of which side is winning. Of all Americans surveyed in October, 48% said Russia is failing (including 57% of Democrats and 42% of Republicans).
In June, the number of those who thought Russia was failing accounted for 29% of all respondents (including 33% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans).
When asked about Ukraine, 43% in October 2022 said Ukraine is succeeding (58% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans), compared with June’s 27% finding (32% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans).
Ukraine is advised to stay on the offensive during the next six weeks
According to American intelligence assessments, the Ukrainian military has a window of opportunity to make gains against Russia’s army over the next six weeks, The New York Times writes.
To achieve this, Ukraine should continue its counteroffensive in the south and the northeast before muddy ground and cloud cover force the opposing armies to pause and regroup.
American officials say there is little chance of a widespread collapse in Russian forces that would allow Ukraine to take another huge swath of territory, similar to what happened in the Kharkiv Region in September.
Meanwhile, the intelligence noted that individual Russian units could break in the face of sustained Ukrainian pressure, allowing Kyiv’s army to continue retaking towns in the Donbas and potentially seize the city of Kherson.
Though wary of making precise predictions, American and Ukrainian officials say the fighting is likely to continue for months.
The window of opportunity depends on a number of factors:
- more difficult fighting conditions in December;
- the extent to which Vladimir Putin is willing to escalate the fight;
- whether Europe’s unity can be maintained this winter as energy prices soar;
- Republicans potentially winning the November midterm elections in the United States that could result in a decrease of military support to Ukraine.
Ukraine was also warned not to overextend its military supply lines.
U.S. officials do not think there will be a long pause in combat, although the mud of late fall may slow the fighting.
Will Republicans block military aid to Ukraine?
Meanwhile, analysts believe they are more likely to slow or pare back the flow of defense and economic assistance than stop it.
Republicans might also use support for Ukraine as leverage to force Democrats to back their opponents’ priorities such as clamping down on immigration across the southern border with Mexico.
President Joe Biden said on October 20 that he was worried about the Republican stance on aid to Ukraine.
In the House, where the Republican caucus is more closely allied than in the Senate with former President Donald Trump and his "America First" policies, all 57 votes against a bill providing more than $40 billion for Ukraine in May came from Republicans.
"You've got big pockets of the Republican party that have very kind of isolationist views," said Scott Anderson, a governance expert at the Brookings Institution.
Republicans promise more control over aid to Ukraine
Anderson and other analysts said there remains widespread bipartisan support for Ukraine eight months after Russia's invasion and that is unlikely to change soon, especially if Ukrainian forces continue a recent series of battlefield advances.
The expert also said some Republicans have viewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's administration as corrupt since Trump's first impeachment trial.
This week Representative Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican and likely next Speaker, said there would be no "blank check" for Ukraine if Republicans take over.
Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said some in his party are concerned about the cost of the Ukraine effort but not the goal, and he pledged "more oversight and accountability."
Mark Cancian, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, notes that the total U.S. price tag for the Ukraine war is relatively small, given the Pentagon's $800 billion annual budget.