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The Washington Post: USA designs new plan to help Ukraine fend off Russian advances

Washington is changing its tactic.

The Washington Post: USA designs new plan to help Ukraine fend off Russian advances
Photo: General Staff

The Biden administration is putting together a new strategy that will de-emphasize winning back territory and focus instead on helping Ukraine fend off new Russian advances while moving toward a long-term goal of strengthening its fighting force and economy, The Washington Post has reported.

It noted that the emerging plan is a sharp change from last year, when the US and allied militaries rushed training and sophisticated equipment to Kyiv in hopes that it could quickly push back Russian forces occupying eastern and southern Ukraine. "That effort foundered, largely on Russia’s heavily fortified minefields and front-line trenches," it said.

"It's pretty clear that it will be difficult for them to try to mount the same kind of major push on all fronts that they tried to do last year," a senior administration official said.

The idea now is to position Ukraine to hold its position on the battlefield for now, but "put them on a different trajectory to be much stronger by the end of 2024 … and get them on a more sustainable path," said the senior official.

The US planning is part of a multilateral effort by nearly three dozen countries backing Ukraine to pledge long-term security and economic support — both out of necessity, given the disappointing results of last year’s counteroffensive and the conviction that a similar effort this year would likely bring the same outcome, and as a demonstration of enduring resolve to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Each is preparing a document outlining its specific commitments spanning up to a decade in the future.

But the success of the strategy depends almost entirely on the United States, by far Ukraine’s largest donor of money and equipment, and coordinator of the multilateral effort. This spring the administration hopes to release its own 10-year commitment, now being compiled by the State Department with the blessing of the White House — assuming that President Biden’s $61 billion request for supplemental Ukraine funding is approved by a recalcitrant Congress.

The shaky ground on which that assumption currently rests — with House Republicans appearing to dig in ever deeper in refusing the money — has worried both Western allies and Ukraine itself.

"Definitely the leadership and the engagement of the US in the long term, but also in this very important phase, is paramount," a senior European official said. "The supplemental is a must-have to continue ... not only on the ground, but as a show of Western resolve ... to make [Putin] understand that he will not win."

A US official said, the hope is that the long-term promise — again assuming congressional buy-in — will also "future-proof" aid for Ukraine against the possibility that former president Donald Trump wins his reelection bid.

As the White House continues to try to persuade lawmakers, a second senior administration official emphasized that the strategy doesn't mean that the Ukrainians are just going to build their own defensive trenches "and sit behind them" all year. "There is still going to be swapping of territory" in small cities and villages with minimal strategic value, "missile launches and drones" from both sides, and Russian "attacks on civilian infrastructure", this official said.

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