Ukraine faces hurdles as US and EU aid approval stalls

With aid packages delayed, there are growing worries about Ukraine's ability to continue fighting Russia.

Ukraine faces hurdles as US and EU aid approval stalls
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomes Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi during a celebration ceremony of the Independence Day of Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of the country, in central Kyiv, Ukraine August 24, 2023. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

The backstory: As the Russia-Ukraine conflict is approaching its third year, Ukraine has been facing two major problems – a decline in support from allies and internal disagreements on its military strategy. On the support front, financial and military aid to Ukraine is not coming through the way it did at the start of the war. The EU had promised to send 1 million shells over to Ukraine by March 1, but now it's looking like it will miss that target by about 400,000 shells. On the other hand, Russia is set to get about 4.5 million shells from its own production lines and help from North Korea, according to Estonian estimates.

As for Ukraine's military strategy, there have been reports of disagreements between Ukraine's President Zelenskiy and his top military commander, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, since the beginning of the war. Reportedly, Zelenskiy wants a more aggressive approach to the war this year, while Zaluzhnyi is more conservative. They also disagree about a new conscription law to bring fresh troops to the conflict.

More recently: The EU is also struggling to provide €50 billion (US$54 billion) in crucial aid to Ukraine. The aid package was supposed to be passed by the bloc in December, but Hungary vetoed it. On top of that, Washington's US$60 billion aid is facing opposition in Congress, delaying the support coming through. Plus, with the US presidential election approaching, this could be the last chance to approve an aid package for Ukraine because of how the election outcome could change the US approach to the war.

The development: With US aid stuck because of arguments in Congress and the EU's aid package also delayed, there are growing worries about Ukraine's ability to continue fighting Russia. Even though there are reports that Russia's frontline is wearing down, it will be more likely to make a recovery if Ukraine doesn't have the supplies it needs to defend itself.

So what's next? EU leaders have said they aim to approve the aid by the end of February one way or another. The bloc is having a summit on Thursday to try to get the package approved. Washington is urging Kyiv to clarify its war plan if it wants more aid, with lawmakers pushing back on the package because they want to know what the endgame is. In the meantime, Ukraine is expected to start flying some F-16 fighter aircraft later this year, according to the Pentagon, offering some hope. 

Key comments:  

"We all know what is needed on the ground," said Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur in an interview. "Now the question is what we can send and what we can give."

"Without it, simply put, everything that Ukrainians achieved and that we've helped them achieve will be in jeopardy," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the aid package being held up in Congress. 

"This is a work in progress, the whole machinery of the European defense industry is working," said EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. "The situation will continue to improve in the coming months."