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WP: New US weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s military defenses amid shortage in manpower, say officials

US officials said Ukraine is unlikely to launch a major offensive against Russian troops due to the delay in the US military assistance.
Soldiers of the 73rd Special Maritime Center. Credit: the brigade’s Facebook
WP: New US weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s military defenses amid shortage in manpower, say officials

Ukraine will not likely regain a major offensive against Russian troops this year, Biden administration officials said after Congress passed a major aid package for Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.

Last week, the US approved a $60 million bill that allowed weapons and equipment in Ukraine to counter Russia’s intensified offensives.

US officials expect the new weapons to replenish Ukraine’s military ranks and strengthen battlefield defenses. However, “time is precious” and “it shouldn’t be wasted,” said one of US officials.

He added that the aid would give Ukraine a chance to better cope with continued Russian attacks “whether on the front lines or in the skies” and more effectively protect its military and civilians.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose office has acknowledged Ukraine’s military challenges, including lack of personnel, the need to establish fortifications across the border, and keep the nation united,  characterized the long-delayed American aid as a lifeline.

“We will have a chance for victory if Ukraine really gets the weapon system which we need so much,” he said in an interview with NBC last week.

Despite the recent aid from the US, Russia still retains advantages in manpower and hardware, buying weapons from Iran and North Korea, and most US officials who spoke with The Washington Post said they believe Zelenskyy faces no clear military course to regain the 20 percent Ukraine occupied by Russian troops.

Currently, Ukraine needs time to “dig out of the hole” because of Congress’s six-month delay in approval of the aid, suggested Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser.

Biden administration officials also note the successes achieved by Ukraine last year, such as defending vulnerable areas in Ukraine’s north and east, keeping crucial commercial shipping lanes open in the Black Sea, putting Russia’s naval fleet on the defensive, and threatening the Kremlin’s stronghold in Crimea.

In 2024, Ukraine will focus mainly on defensive operations, said US officials. However, it anticipates new weapons from Western allies, like long-range ATACMS, to strike targets in occupied Crimea more effectively. Additionally, some Western countries plan to provide a few F-16 fighter jets later in the year.

Ukraine’s strongest European backers added that Ukraine needs to find opportunities to address its manpower crisis. Maj. Gen. Krzysztof Nolbert, Poland’s defense attaché in Washington, said renewing Ukrainian forces and acquiring promised arms would likely lead to success “given the exhausted and poorly trained state” of Russian soldiers.

“It’s definitely the time to reconstitute the troops. It is perhaps the most critical factor that will determine whether they will be successful or not,” he claimed.

The Biden administration aims to guide Ukraine towards a more stable relationship with Russia, coinciding with its hosting of a NATO summit in July to mark the 75th anniversary of the Alliance.

Although Ukraine won’t receive a NATO membership invitation during the summit, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis are urging President Biden to consider offering Ukraine a clear path to membership in the Alliance once it meets its criteria and requirements.

In a letter to Biden, Shaheen and Tillis emphasized the importance of sending a clear message to Putin that Ukraine’s future lies firmly with Europe.

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