Advertisement

Ending US war aid will bring a 'big crisis' worse than just a weakened Ukraine, Zelenskyy warns

Ukrainian tank crews T64 battle tank fires on the Russian troops position on January 9, 2024, in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.
Ukrainian tank crews T64 battle tank fires on the Russian troops position on January 9, 2024, in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.Roman Chop/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images
  • Zelenskyy says US aid is vital for keeping Ukraine in the fight and preventing further Russian aggression.

  • He warned of a 'big crisis' for more than just Ukraine should Putin not be stopped.

  • A major aid package is being held hostage by Republicans in Congress, and Ukraine is suffering the effects.

Essential aid to Ukraine is still being held up by messy American politics, and Ukrainian leadership is sounding the alarm on what could happen if it's forced to go it alone.

Without continued Western support for Ukraine's war efforts, the consequences could be dire, according to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, who warned of a "big crisis" not just for Ukraine but for other countries as well.

"We will be weak on the battlefield. We will have a large shortage of artillery, we will have a very large shortage of air defense missiles, which means that we will not be able to repel ballistic missile strikes, and so on," Zelenskyy said during a group interview at Davos on Tuesday with outlets including Business Insider.

"There will be a lot of killing and a lot of injured people. That's it," he continued.

"Ukraine will struggle, Ukraine will be weaker, and this will be an opportunity for Russia to invade us," Zelenskyy said, appearing to refer to a broader conquest of his country. "And as soon as they have invaded us, believe me, it will be a war between NATO and the Russian Federation."

Zelenskyy has been warning about that worst case scenario outcome for months, as have experts and top war watchers. But with US aid, the bulk of the military support to Ukraine, now more uncertain than ever and Kyiv's forces facing renewed Russian offensives, the Ukrainian president's warnings are taking on greater weight.

A serviceman of the 66th separate cannon artillery battalion of the 406th separate artillery brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is pictured by the American M777 howitzer, Zaporizhzhia direction, south-eastern Ukraine.
A serviceman of the 66th separate cannon artillery battalion of the 406th separate artillery brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is pictured by the American M777 howitzer, Zaporizhzhia direction, south-eastern Ukraine.Dmytro Smolienko / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Nearly two years into the war, both sides are locked in a brutal slog. Ukraine's 2023 summer counteroffensive failed to achieve its objectives, and now Kyiv's forces are on defense through the winter as Russia renews its offensives in areas such as Avdiivka, offensives that have struggled as well.

But as experts previously told Business Insider, the current situation is unstable, and decisions made by the West on aid could potentially tip the scales.

Russia has put its defense industry on a war footing and replenished some of its weapon stockpiles, and an arms deal with North Korea has allowed it to continue its artillery barrages. Ukraine, on the other hand, has scaled back some operations as it scrapes the bottom of the barrel for ammunition and looks for more, a concern for Western partners worried about depleted stockpiles.

Ukraine's situation is becoming alarming. Some Ukrainian troops have said they prefer to send out cheap, one-way drones to attack enemy forces in order to save on artillery shells; others have lamented that they can't keep up with Russia's astonishing rate of fire. And while Ukraine's Western-provided air defenses have defended it against recent Russian missile and drone attacks, Kyiv needs further support.

Ukrainian soldiers fire with an improvised multiple rocket launcher on Russian positions on January 15, 2024, in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers fire with an improvised multiple rocket launcher on Russian positions on January 15, 2024, in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine.Roman Chop/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

When Zelenskyy visited Congress last month, just days before recess pushed the decision into the new year, he pleaded with US lawmakers for future US aid to Ukraine. The roughly $111 billion package, which includes aid to Ukraine and Israel, has been held up by Republicans since October 2023.

The GOP hopes to force the package to include stricter border and immigration policies inconsistent with President Joe Biden's agenda, although Biden admitted he was willing to "make significant compromises on the border" in order to get the aid passed.

The uncertainly surrounding the US aid to Ukraine has raised red flags for Europeans, and some have begun to think about what it would look like to support Ukraine without the US' help. Should US aid to Ukraine dry up, it'll be a test of how Ukraine's European allies can fill in the gaps.

Ukrainian servicemen drive a T-72 tank on the frontline in eastern Ukraine on July 13, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian servicemen drive a T-72 tank on the frontline in eastern Ukraine on July 13, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

In recent days, congressional leaders have signaled progress on negotiations, noting the supplemental aid package should reach the floor next week. At that time, we'll see what comes through.

Back in December, Zelenskyy told US Senators that if Ukraine loses, the outcome won't lower Russia's threat level or satiate Russian President Vladimir Putin's hunger. If anything, it'll embolden them, he noted.

Experts, like Dara Mascot, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, harkened a similar warning.

"Every time the Russians think that they have 'won' in a conflict under Putin — Georgia 2008, Ukraine 2014, Syria 2015 — they learn something about us — and they become overconfident in their abilities and in a few years they try bigger and bolder operations," she wrote on social media.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the US Capitol
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walking through the US Capitol between meetings with Congressional leadership on December 12, 2023, in Washington, DC.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

And in line with that, Putin appears more confident that Russia can persevere while the US and NATO sputter on aid, ultimately outlasting the West in the war. In December, Putin said in his first annual news conference since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine that he was "certain" that victory would be Russia's. He also joked that Russia had "bounced back" from Western sanctions.

In a meeting this week, Putin told Russian municipal heads that "Ukrainian statehood may suffer an irreparable, very serious blow" if fighting continues as it is now, according to The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington DC-based think tank.

His recent threats against NATO nations, such as Finland in December, also reiterate a dangerous world view that could involve Russia possibly invading bordering NATO countries if it feels emboldened to do so. That would be chaos for the US and its allies, prompting a larger war aligned with Putin's maximalist aims.

Global Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Carlson contributed to this report.

Translation by Oleksandr Vynogradov

Read the original article on Business Insider