Developments from Ukraine
• Ukrainian fighters have ended their weeks-long defense of a besieged steel plant in the strategic port city of Mariupol, as hundreds of combatants — dozens of them seriously wounded — were evacuated from the complex Monday. “Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address, as the delicate operation took place.
• Negotiations aimed at ending Russia’s war on Ukraine have halted, with each side blaming the other for the impasse. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said there were no talks “in any form” because Kyiv has “practically withdrawn” from the negotiations. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, a key member of Ukraine’s delegation to the talks, confirmed that they are on hold, blaming Russian intransigence.
• The regional governor of Lviv said that Russian forces shelled a military facility near the border with Poland. Lviv’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, said the assault was “one of the largest” on the Lviv region “in terms of the number of missiles.”
Even without a proposed $20 billion military aid package the Senate is considering, the United States is already the largest donor of military aid to Ukraine as it defends itself against a Russian invasion.
Last week, President Biden called on Congress to approve the proposal, saying money for shipments to Ukraine was set to run out in 10 days. The Senate Monday moved to advance the bill for final vote expected Wednesday.
The latest package, part of a nearly $40 billion aid bill, goes beyond sending weapons and represents a long-term commitment to U.S. involvement in the war. The money would also go toward ramping up production of U.S. weapon stocks to replenish the significant amount of weaponry already sent to Ukraine.
The ramp up in military spending, as well as a recent move to send more advanced equipment, indicates a recognition that the war may drag on, experts said.
“Previously we’d been providing aid packages every week or two to stave off defeat,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But then the realization came that this thing could go on for quite a while.”
Cancian noted that the budget approved by the House goes through the end of the fiscal year, suggesting the expectation the war could last for at least four more months.
Every year, the United States spends billions of dollars to fund the militaries of partner nations, including Israel and Jordan. But in less than three months, commitments to Ukraine have surpassed those figures. If the Senate passes the package, the commitment would eclipse annual U.S. military assistance to its closest partners.
Analysts see military aid from the West as vital to the success of Ukraine against a much larger adversary.
“If the United States and other countries had not sent lethal aid from the very beginning, Ukraine would have been overwhelmed early on, and Ukraine’s government would now be a Russian puppet,” Cancian said. “Because militaries in combat need a continuous supply of munitions and equipment to replace losses, the United States and other countries needed to continue the flow of supplies.”
The aid is equal to more than half of the Ukrainian military budget last year. By some estimates, the nearly $20 billion boost would bring the U.S. contribution to nearly a third of the annual Russian military budget, though some analysts estimate Moscow spends up to $200 billion on its military, far more than official figures.
As the war has changed, so have the weapons provided by the United States. In the early stages, when a convoy of Russian vehicles pressed toward Kyiv, U.S. assistance included antitank weapons, most notably Javelin missiles. Those weapons lock onto a target’s thermal profile and can strike a tank head on or from top down.
After logistical and military failures dashed Moscow’s plans to seize the Ukrainian capital, Russia shifted its focus eastward, and the United States began to send long-range artillery suited for open-terrain battles. The howitzers supplied by the United States are heavy cannons that fire artillery rounds as far as 24 miles. – Arthur Galocha and Ruby Mellen