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Aid to Ukraine and the prospects of losing it: highlights from Western media

Leaders of EU member states managed to vote to open negotiations with Ukraine on joining the bloc, but the financial aid package remains blocked by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The U.S. Senate is also debating the U.S. aid package to Kyiv, which is blocked by the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, Western and Ukrainian officials and the military warn that the end of international support would have dire consequences for both Ukraine and NATO countries.

The Page offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the December 11–15, 2023, business week.

The EU leaders summit: Orbán yielded but didn’t capitulate

Viktor Orbán talking to the media before the start of the round table of all EU member states on December 14. At that time, he firmly reiterated his position regarding Ukraine. Photo: miniszterelnok

Viktor Orbán talking to the media before the start of the round table of all EU member states on December 14. At that time, he firmly reiterated his position regarding Ukraine. Photo: miniszterelnok

Hungary blocked the European Union from approving a financial aid package for Ukraine on December 15, The New York Times reports.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said only one of the E.U.’s 27 countries didn’t back the package of €50 billion euros in financial support for Ukraine, referring to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary. He said leaders would reconvene early next month to try to reach unanimous agreement.

The day before, Orbán abstained from vetoing the official opening of accession negotiations for Ukraine to join the bloc and, at the behest of Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, literally left the room when it was time to vote.

Although negotiations to join the bloc normally take a decade or longer and involve major reforms, the announcement on Thursday was a symbolic win for Kyiv.

Quote"This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens," Volodymyr Zelenskyi wrote on X (ex-Twitter).

Aid from the EU is crucial

If Orbán continues to block the funds, the E.U. can still create a trust with the other 26 member countries, but doing so would be cumbersome and would further illustrate the cracks in the group’s support for Ukraine. Also on Wednesday, December 13, Olaf Scholz repeated Germany’s pledge to double aid to Ukraine to nearly $9 billion next year.

As the U.S. presidential election looms, Europeans fear that American support for Ukraine might come to an end. But even so, the European Union cannot turn away from Ukraine, even if its aid is not sufficient, believes Nathalie Tocci, director of Italy’s Institute of International Affairs. Meanwhile, Ulrich Speck, a German analyst, said that Europe needs to seize the initiative instead of feeling that "they participate in a U.S. operation."

Quote"Europe needs to take responsibility. The U.S. is not going to do everything anymore."

$50 billion for Ukraine: Senate debating as Representatives go on vacation

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, saud that an agreement on aid to Ukraine is "virtually impossible" before Christmas. Therefore, aid to Ukraine is postponed until January

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, saud that an agreement on aid to Ukraine is "virtually impossible" before Christmas. Therefore, aid to Ukraine is postponed until January

The U.S. Senate keeps debating over border security and military aid for Ukraine and Israel and will vote on these issues next week, Reuters reports, citing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. To that end, the Senate will delay its holiday break, which had been due to start Friday, and convene Monday..

President Joe Biden has been urging lawmakers to pass a supplemental aid package to provide $50 billion in new security to Ukraine as it fights Russia.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, as well as Republicans in the Democratic-majority Senate, have repeatedly said they will only vote for that aid if it is paired with new controls for the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republicans and Democrats are still far from common ground on the border issue

Any deal reached in the Senate would also need to win the approval of the House before passing into law. House lawmakers left Washington as scheduled on Thursday to begin their holiday recess.

Quote"We're making progress and the White House is engaged, which is good. Everything's encouraging," said Republican Senator John Thune.

Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton, another Republican, said that negotiators had made progress but remained "very far apart". In particular, Republicans demand to curtail Biden's "parole" authority, which Biden has used to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants to enter the U.S. legally.

Putin will go further: Stoltenberg warned about the risk of Ukraine’s possible defeat

According to Politico, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin will wage war elsewhere if Russia defeats Ukraine.

Quote"If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is real risk that his aggression will not end there," Stoltenberg told reporters during a meeting with Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico on December 14. "Our support is not charity. It is an investment in our security."

Fico, who won September's election, is skeptical of aiding Ukraine and has ended military deliveries to Kyiv. On the contrary, Stoltenberg insists that the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace is for NATO to prevent Russia from winning on the battlefield.

His comments came on the same day the Russian leader made clear he has no intention of backing down in his war against Ukraine.

Divided we fall: the West has assessed Ukrane’s prospects without NATO assistance

The ISW showed where Russian military bases would be under the worst-case scenario of the war in Ukraine. A threat to NATO would become real

The ISW showed where Russian military bases would be under the worst-case scenario of the war in Ukraine. A threat to NATO would become real

As U.S. Congress keeps debating over money for Ukraine, America and its allies are assessing the impact on Ukraine’s defense without international aid, multiple U.S. and European officials told CNN.

Quote"There is no guarantee of success with us, but they are certain to fail without us," a senior U.S. military official said.

First of all, Ukraine won’t be able to liberate and hold occupied territories without continued U.S. support, said one European diplomat. Furthermore, Democratic Representative Mike Quigley, co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, believes that the loss of U.S. assistance may cause European countries to waive their commitments.

Now, Western intelligence agencies are currently calculating how long Ukraine could hold out without U.S. and NATO help. One senior US military official estimated months, with a worst-case scenario of a significant setback or even defeat by the summer.

Without additional U.S. aid, Western officials assess that Ukraine would first run out of long-range missiles, which helped push back Russia’s Black Sea fleet hundreds of miles to open up a shipping corridor. Air defense missiles would be depleted next, as would later artillery ammunition and short-range missiles such as shoulder-fired Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

The possibility of a Ukrainian defeat is causing deep fears among some of America’s closest European allies.

Quote"I don’t think people fully realize what Ukraine’s fall would actually mean," said a European diplomat. "We would see horrible things: ethnic cleansing and total destruction of Ukraine. Remember what they did in Bucha. So, it is already success if we can prevent that from happening. And that is why we must carry on."

Ukrainian gunners disappointed at ammunition shortage

Ukraine's gunners have to use ammunition rounds sparingly, as there is a shortage of artillery shells, they told the BBC.

Thus, gunners near Bakhmut are very pleased with U.S.-made M-109 Paladin howitzers. But without 155-mm munitions, this equipment would turn into scrap metal, says gunner Sashko. Ukrainian authorities recently claimed that they had received less than a third of the one million artillery shells the EU promised to provide.

A Ukrainian drone operator who directs artillery fire on the southern front line told the BBC that the number of artillery engagements from the Ukrainian side in the south had dramatically dropped over the past few months.

Quote"During the peak period of the counter-offensive and even just a few months ago, the ratio between Russian and our artillery fire was largely 1:1 or bigger in our advantage. Now, we fire one round for every four or five rounds that Russia fires."

Stocks for old Soviet artillery are falling at an even faster rate than supplies for western artillery shells.

Quote"We do have [an] ammunition shortage," admits Gorn, battery commander in the 22nd Brigade. "If we had more shells, we would have gotten far beyond Klishiivka [a village next to Bakhmut] by now. Whatever amount we get, we try to fire accurately.".

His gunners use the old Soviet 152-mm 2S1 Gvozdika system, which is not known for being accurate. They improve their efficiency with the help of drones that direct fire. But they have to wait for hours for the command to open fire.

Gunners say that delays in the provision of Western aid result in higher losses for Ukrainian forces.

Quote"Our western partners must understand that if we fail to stop Russians, then they will go further. Then [Europe and America], instead of helping us, will be defending their own lands, and their own people will be dying," says a gunner with the call sign Kent.
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