Republicans argue that securing funding approval this year is unlikely, while there are indications that Europe might be contemplating extending an invitation.
During the 94th week of Russia’s war, Ukraine’s president worked to garner support on both sides of the Atlantic while Ukrainian troops defended against ongoing Russian assaults in the east and south. Despite minimal shifts in battle lines, Russia sought to regain initiative following a Ukrainian summer counteroffensive. Zelenskyy’s primary objective was securing financial and military aid for Ukraine’s continued fight in the coming year.
In Washington, DC, a Tuesday meeting with congressional Republicans did not yield the desired outcome, as they remained unconvinced about releasing $61.4 billion in aid. The US Senate rejected a $110.5 billion measure proposed by Democrats in a narrow 51-49 vote. Even if passed, the measure faced challenges in the Republican-held House, where Ukraine funds were tied to domestic issues, including abortion restrictions.
House Speaker Mike Johnson expressed concerns about the lack of oversight and strategy in the funding request, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted the practical challenges of passing an agreement before Christmas. President Biden emphasized the importance of supporting Ukraine, highlighting the consequences of abandoning the cause of freedom.
In his plea for assistance, Zelenskyy requested new weapons, including F-18 Hornet fighter jets, Apache and Black Hawk attack helicopters, and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems. As part of the persuasion effort, the US intelligence community released a report detailing Ukraine’s achievements with the $111 billion in previous aid, noting significant losses suffered by Russian forces.
The report highlighted Ukraine’s success in destroying a substantial portion of the invading forces, resulting in significant casualties and damage to Russian military assets. Despite these setbacks, Russia continued to face high losses in the attempt to capture Avdiivka. Ukrainian estimates, supported by the commander of Ukrainian ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, indicated significant destruction of Russian troops and equipment in the eastern front, with Russian forces attempting to regain the initiative through increased troop deployments.
Zelenskyy did not return home empty-handed after his overseas visit. The US Pentagon announced $200 million in new weapons, including air-to-air missiles, on December 6. Following a summit with Nordic leaders, Norway committed additional aid worth $275 million, and Denmark signaled its intention to seek parliamentary approval for $1.1 billion in new funds.
A substantial contribution came from the United Kingdom, which, in collaboration with Norway, unveiled a new maritime capability coalition to bolster the Ukrainian navy. The UK pledged two Sandown-class minehunters from its fleet to safeguard Ukraine’s Black Sea grain corridor. In tandem with Norway, the coalition will supply 20 Viking amphibious vehicles and 23 landing craft. The British government emphasized the impact of Putin’s blockade on Ukraine’s economy, reducing its capacity to transport crucial exports by sea.
In another development, the European Court of Human Rights conducted a Grand Chamber hearing on Wednesday for the case of Ukraine v Russia, focusing on human rights abuses in Crimea. Notably, Russia chose not to participate. Ukraine has four cases against Russia at the court, including one filed jointly with the Netherlands.
There is growing anticipation that Ukraine might receive a political reward in Europe. Government leaders are actively working to extend an official invitation for membership talks during a summit on Thursday and Friday, potentially paving the way for Ukraine’s path to EU membership.
“The EU aims to convey its ongoing interest in Ukraine,” stated Greek conservative parliamentarian Angelos Syrigos, referring to information from sources within the European Commission and European Parliament. Syrigos expressed confidence that there is a strong likelihood of receiving approval to commence membership talks at the upcoming European Council summit. He emphasized that this decision is intended to send a clear political message to Russia.
“There’s a sense that it’s inevitable, with no possibility of reversal,” concurred Socialist European parliamentarian Nikos Papandreou. He noted broad bipartisan support within the European community for Ukraine, except for a few individuals on the extreme left and right who initially doubted Ukraine’s resilience. According to Papandreou, fellow Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) believe that this may be a unique opportunity, as the political landscape could change in the coming year. He emphasized the urgency by stating, “It’s now or never,” as MEPs are uncertain about the political dynamics that may emerge in the future.