Ukraine: Missiles, morale and credibility

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By John J. Metzler, April 28, 2024

After months of hesitation, political infighting and rancorous debate, the U.S. Congress passed a massive Ukraine funding bill with a bi-partisan majority. The deal was done and a dangerously divided Republican majority smiled nervously.

The Democrats and the Biden Administration cheered, many holding little blue and yellow Ukrainian flags on the House floor. But before singing a transatlantic rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, let’s view the realistic options both Washington and the Europeans faced in aiding Ukraine, or not supporting Kyiv.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson did the right thing in finally bringing the package to the floor; Yet the vote was on each segment of the assistance package which Biden had lumped together in a $95 billion mega-bundle; Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan/Asia.

Still the controversial American aid will not win the Ukraine war but does give Ukraine the chance to win. It equally underlines American credibility.

The Ukraine $62 billion assistance will help stabilize the situation on what is certainly the eve of a major Russian offensive by June. Getting more munitions and supplies to Ukrainian front-line units will significantly boost the sagging morale of defending units which have been pummeled by relentless Russian artillery barrages. Importantly more air defense will be provided to protect Ukrainian skies from Russian attacks on civilian centers. This is all warranted.

Even prior to the new funding the United States has already provided $100 billion in military aid to the Kyiv government. / Video Image

The big issue here is morale. More than two years into the conflict, the heady days of bloodying the Russian Goliath and having a chance to win the war have turned into a sullen despair as Moscow’s military does what it does best: Use the sledgehammer despite hideous causalities to wear down an opponent.

Ukraine is bleeding and the perception was that the Americans and Europeans were talking a good line but not delivering munitions to bloody the bear.

Now has this changed? Yes and no. Even prior to the new funding the United States has already provided $100 billion in military aid to the Kyiv government. More European aid must now follow too!

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky admonished NATO defense ministers, saying, “the choice of whether we are indeed allies,” will be determined by whether NATO countries are willing to support his beleaguered country with more military aid. He described the state of Western assistance as “very limited,” but later hailed the “lifesaving U.S. aid package.”

The U.S, Germany and United Kingdom are Ukraine’s major weapons suppliers. New American military aid includes air defense systems, long-range missiles and artillery shells.

The bill has now been approved by the U.S. Senate.

Republican Speaker Mike Johnson, facing a serious political revolt in his own party, called Marjorie Taylor Green’s bluff and went ahead with the vote. That took courage. While Johnson was supported by former President Donald Trump and obviously by Joe Biden, he lost support from half the GOP members who voted against the bill including powerhouses like Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The final vote tally was a bittersweet 311-112.

Though the GOP has been divided with a razor thin political majority, the right flank (Chaos Caucus) may try to dump Mike Johnson, as they foolishly did McCarthy.

Feuding factions inside the Republican party have hobbled the Ukraine vote but the far deeper and malevolent warring factions inside the Democrat party delayed Israel/Gaza military aid for six months. The Israel aid passed too but notably with opposition from the Squad and the hard Left Palestine caucus.

Mainstream media mendacity towards the GOP concerning Ukraine was put in simplistic terms that somehow the Republicans did not want to help embattled Ukraine in its fight for survival against Russia. Well not quite…

Johnson and the Republicans realize that if Ukraine falls apart and collapses during a presidential election year, the Mainstream media will craft the narrative as the “GOP Lost Ukraine.”

But who lost the Crimea a decade ago? Barack Obama. Getting away with Crimea, is what really emboldened Putin. He assumed he could grab more, and he tried in 2022.

Polish President Andrzej Duda stressed on FOX News that, “Support is indispensable for Ukraine.”

Yet among the political miasma of Washington policymakers, few seem to notice the recent threat make by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Days after the U.S. Ukraine funding vote, Lavrov warned that the United States and NATO “are teetering dangerously on the brink of a direct military clash between nuclear powers.”

Indeed. Now Ukraine must ramp up its own troop conscription to begin to offset Russia’s numerical superiority. Kyiv passed a controversial new military conscription bill focusing on basic military training for those aged 18-25.

The U.S. and NATO can send Kyiv the weapons, but Ukraine must field the military forces to defend themselves. The hour is critical.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]