12.12.23 Review

Routine Catastrophe: If the American and European aid packages are not adopted soon, Ukraine is likely to suffer a military defeat as early as next year

Ukraine could face defeat as early as next year if the West does not provide it with extensive new aid, military experts have warned. The current military impasse is not the result of long-term systemic factors but rather the outcome of specific decisions regarding resource allocation. Therefore, the outcome of the war today largely depends on the amount of Western support for Kyiv. In recent months, the allies have reduced it to the lowest levels since the beginning of the conflict. This money is enough to hold positions during the winter, when there is no active fighting. However, in the spring, the Russian army will launch an offensive with high chances of success. Meanwhile, two major aid packages, one American and one European, have been under discussion for months, but for domestic political reasons remain unconfirmed. Last year, the US was the undisputed leader in terms of aid provided to Ukraine. But, by the end of this year, the EU countries had almost caught up. Now, the next US aid package to Ukraine is falling victim to domestic political conflict, while European countries are prevented from reaching an agreement by economic problems and the rise of far-right politicians.

The amount of financial assistance to Ukraine from its allies has dramatically decreased in recent months. In the three months from August to October, they agreed on just over €2 billion in new funding, according to the Ukraine Support Tracker project from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. This is the lowest value since the start of the war. This amount of aid was almost 90% lower than during the same period in 2022. The main donors, the United States and the EU, have reduced their funding. In addition, 20 of the 42 countries that had previously provided aid have not made new commitments. 

Aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the war, billion euros

The other day, Republicans once again blocked a $61 billion US military aid package due to disagreements with Democrats over tightening immigration policies. Senators go on holiday on 15 December, so there are only a few days left to approve the package. The day before, Volodymyr Zelensky flew to Washington to try to convince them. In addition, Reuters reported that a group of more than 100 members of the parliaments of European countries, including the head of the foreign policy committee of the Bundestag, Michael Roth, and his colleague from the Italian parliament, Giulio Tremonti, addressed the US senators. In their letter, they noted that European aid to Ukraine is growing at a significant pace (indirectly responding to Trumpist accusations that Europe is not contributing enough to support Ukraine), but the American contribution to the overall effort remains 'critical and urgent'.

At the end of last year, the United States provided Ukraine with almost twice as much funding as all European Union countries and institutions combined, accounting for nearly 60% of all aid received by Ukrainians. Now the picture is quite different. The total amount of European aid since the beginning of the war has exceeded €133 billion, while American aid stands at €71 billion. Other countries have allocated almost €37 billion. According to calculations from the Ukraine Support Tracker, the US is no longer the largest donor of military aid when compared to the EU as a whole. Since the beginning of the war, the US has spent a total of €44 billion on military aid, while EU countries and institutions have spent almost €43 billion (with Germany contributing over €17 billion). The United Kingdom allocated an additional €6.6 billion, and Canada more than €2 billion. European countries have already surpassed the US in the supply of heavy weapons: of €25 billion supplied, they provided 47%, while the US provided 43%, and the rest came from other countries, primarily the UK and Canada. 

Ukraine's largest donors, billion euros

However, the EU itself has not yet agreed on new aid to Ukraine. At the end of this week, leaders of European countries are set to once again discuss the allocation of €50 billion in macroeconomic and €20 billion in military assistance, as well as the terms of Ukraine's accession to the EU. According to the Financial Times, it is not only Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who has publicly voiced his objections. The position of the Netherlands, where the far-right Freedom Party won the recent parliamentary elections, remains unclear, despite the fact that prior to this, Dutch assistance to Ukraine was substantial: the Ukraine Support Tracker estimates this support at €2.5 billion, making it the fifth highest contributor in the EU. Another issue is the budget crisis in Germany, which has caused the country's constitutional court to limit borrowing by the government, and Germany is a key European donor for Ukraine.

While the allocation of major new aid packages from the US and the EU has stalled, Ukraine continues to receive funding from individual EU countries, as well as from the UK and Canada. The majority of this funding comes from previously adopted multi-year programs. For example, under such programmes, Ukraine has received €1.2 billion from Denmark, €1 billion from Germany and €662 million from Norway over the past three months. This is enough to hold the front line in winter conditions when there is no active fighting, according to US military experts interviewed by The Foreign Policy. However, for the spring campaign, new large-scale aid will be critically important. One of the main challenges for the Ukrainian army is the shortage of ammunition. Of the $61 billion requested from Congress by Joe Biden, about $44 billion is supposed to be spent on expanding the production capabilities of the US military-industrial complex. The Ukrainian military is using 7,000 155-millimetre artillery shells every day. The current production capacity in the US is limited to 28,000 per month.

If the West does not expand its financial and military support for Ukraine, it is likely that Russian forces will go on the offensive, seizing vast areas of the country, destroying Ukrainian cities from the air and ultimately depriving Ukraine of its ability to resist, experts from the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote in a recent report. In such a scenario, the conflict could end with Ukraine's defeat as early as 2024. The current impasse in positional warfare is not the result of long-term systemic factors, rather it is the result of decisions regarding resource mobilisation for the front made in Moscow and in the West. This stalemate can therefore be easily overcome, according to the ISW experts. In other words, the outcome of the war at this moment depends almost entirely on the assistance provided to Ukraine by Western allies, primarily the United States and Germany. If this aid is sufficient and Ukraine manages to overcome the shortage of military personnel, it will be able to impose its own terms on Russia in the spring. The success of its actions will largely depend on whether it manages to suppress Russian electronic warfare systems using the weapons it expects to be supplied.