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Will U.S. aid make a difference for Ukraine’s fight to hold off Russia’s army?

Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine needed it.

After months of political wrangling and battlefield setbacks, kyiv has reason to celebrate. The race is now on to ensure that U.S. military aid arrives at the front lines in time to make a difference for troops trying to repel the advancing Russian army.

For many in Ukraine, news of Congress’ passage of the aid package offered relief and new hope of victory, as the war now enters its third year.

But in the streets and trenches of Ukraine, those who spoke to NBC News espoused a view shared by many Western military analysts: that much damage had already been done and that, while significant and welcome, the $60 billion in supplies would only go so far. to solve Ukraine’s problems.

A Ukrainian soldier fires his artillery in the east of the country, where Russian forces have advanced in recent weeks. Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu via Getty Images

The aid comes at a “vital time” for the US ally, facing severe ammunition and personnel shortages that have left it in dire straits on the front line in recent months, Neil Melvin said , director of international security studies. at the Royal United Services Institute, or RUSI, a London-based think tank.

“Russia is gradually destroying Ukrainian men and weapons,” Melvin told NBC News. “US supplies can slow this process and potentially blunt an expected Russian counteroffensive over the summer, but Ukraine will need much more if it is to defeat Russia and reclaim its occupied territories. »

“The key now is speed”

In a call with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday, President Joe Biden promised that his administration would move quickly to address Ukraine’s “urgent battlefield and air defense needs” as soon as the Senate passed the relief bill, which he did overwhelmingly Tuesday night.

In fact, Biden is expected to announce a package that could be worth more than $1 billion as soon as this week, two U.S. officials familiar with the plan told NBC News.

The package is expected to include more equipment that the United States has already provided, including munitions, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS, stingers, highly sought-after 155mm artillery shells, infantry fighting vehicles, Humvees, javelins and other military equipment.

“The key now is speed,” Zelenskyy said Wednesday. He said earlier that he had also finalized deals on the supply of long-range guided missiles called ATACMS, which kyiv has long sought as part of its bid to strike deep behind Russian lines.

The news from Washington was also met with new promises from its European allies, with the UK announcing its largest ever military aid package for Ukraine on Tuesday.

Kyiv and its allies in Europe joined the Biden administration to push the aid bill through Congress.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

This renewed support comes ahead of an expected new Russian offensive, which Zelensky himself says could take place as soon as this summer. Moscow’s forces have already pushed in several directions in recent weeks, raising the specter of a possible attack on Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops had claimed two villages in the eastern Donetsk region in as many days this week, as the Kremlin sought to exploit besieged Ukrainian defenses and make as much progress as possible before the arrival of new help.

“If I were Gerasimov, I would push forward as much as possible while there was a window of opportunity,” said Matthew Ford, associate professor of war studies at the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm, referring to the head of the Russian army Valery Gerasimov. .

Bohdanivka, the village claimed by Russia on Sunday, is just over 5 km east of the town of Chasiv Yar, a heavily fortified Ukrainian army base. Ukraine’s commander-in-chief said last week that Russian forces aimed to capture the city by May 9, the symbolic date when Russia celebrates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.

“Russia has the initiative on the battlefield. In the short term, this is unlikely to be affected by the delivery of weapons from the United States to Ukraine,” Ford said. “Systems that contribute to air defense will help protect critical infrastructure. However, it is unlikely that ground systems will be able to challenge the current pace of Russian activity as the summer fighting season begins.

“Six months of brewing”

In Ukraine, opinions were divided on the new aid and the difference it could make on the battlefield.

“As long as Ukraine continues its fight, nothing is too late,” Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command, told NBC News, adding that the show of support after months of uncertainty and disputes would help to boost the morale of the troops. and civilians behind the front lines, because they know that “the civilized world is behind us”.

A Ukrainian drone pilot serving in the Kharkiv region also told NBC News he welcomed the news, as drone units had been forced to replace artillery units facing a severe shortage of shells. “We see this very positively,” said the soldier, who goes by “Amida” and did not want his name used because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Ukrainian forces have used drones to bolster their defenses in frontline areas like the town of Chasiv Yar.Anatoly Stepanov / AFP via Getty Images

He said he hoped supplies would start reaching the front lines around the time of Russia’s planned offensive this summer, because that would determine where Ukrainian troops could stop them.

While grateful that a decision was finally made in Congress, the soldier said the political infighting over the aid left him with “an aftertaste” of disappointment. “The six months of matches behind the scenes, it was a sad spectacle,” he said.

Some Kiev civilians have expressed similar concerns about when and how much aid will arrive, as well as the lack of clarity among the Ukrainian public about how much the country will ultimately have to pay for this desperately needed help.

“It’s better than nothing,” said Georgiy Poliarush, 45. “War is a complicated thing anyway, but I think this will help. What will happen next and how much we will have to pay for it is another question.

The Kremlin has rejected the idea that the recently approved U.S. aid would make any difference on the front lines. “All these new deliveries of weapons, which are most likely ready for shipment, will not change the dynamics of the war front,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

But even if Washington’s aid package does not immediately transform the situation on the battlefield, it is an important development that weakens Russia, said Christopher Tuck, a conflict and security expert at King’s College in New York. London.

“We know this will not be transformative because Ukrainian forces were unable to achieve decisive success on the battlefield last summer, even though they received more aid than was available to them. currently provided,” Tuck said.

But Congress’s vote in favor of the aid demonstrates politically that the United States is still behind Ukraine, Tuck said, because Russian hopes of ending the war on more favorable terms are based on the belief that the The tide has turned in his favor, and not just on the battlefield. but also in the corridors of power.

“Replenishing Ukraine’s firepower will likely further increase Russian losses, which could help slow or even stop their advance,” he added. “This is important because, for a peace agreement to emerge, Russia must first believe that continuing to fight will not improve its negotiating position. »

Daryna Mayer reported from kyiv and Yuliya Talmazan from London.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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