The Western Will and Ability to Continue Aiding Ukraine – by Robert Eales
Arguably significantly fuelling Ukraine’s defence against the Russian invasion are the unprecedented levels of lethal aid provided by the Western world, which ballooned last month to total $111 billion from the United States (US) and €52 billion from combined European Union (EU) member contributions.[i] This assistance has proven instrumental in Ukraine’s defence and directly correlates with Russian battlefield losses. Although the sustained provision of such assistance is presently vastly politically popular across the Western world and set to continue for the near future, many prominent vocal individuals criticise the importance of investing in Ukrainian sovereignty, particularly those in the US: The nation that has spearheaded aid contributions to Ukraine by providing more assistance than every other nation combined.[ii]
Based on present political rhetoric, should an aid-critic, such as isolationist-oriented right-wing Republican candidates Trump or DeSantis, triumph in the crucial upcoming 2024 US Presidential Election, US foreign policy could be forced to endure foundational alterations resulting in the de-prioritisation of supporting the defence of Ukraine. This would be a tangible shift that could see the first nail of defeat hammered in Ukraine’s looming proverbial coffin. The extent of this hypothetical and predictive policy change, and the resulting effects upon Ukraine’s military performance, remain to be observed. However, due to the current overwhelmingly-effective results of US aid donations, it may be compelling to establish that such an outcome would drastically harm Ukrainian defence capabilities and severely hinder the struggling nation’s ability to persevere.[iii]
Outside the US, the last month has seen numerous well-attended anti-lethal aid demonstrations throughout the Western world, most recently in Berlin and Halifax, the rising popularity of which establishes another legitimate, this time left-wing-oriented, population opposed to aiding Ukraine’s defence.[iv] Such protests are usually pacifist and peace-oriented in nature, but pander to Russian propaganda claims by blaming multiple parties equally for contributing to the Russian invasion and perpetuating the war.[v]
When coupling this threatening potential scenario with the realities of the West’s rapidly-depleting military stockpiles and presently-brewing, and long-predicted, munitions manufacturing shortages and supply chain hiccups, the Ukraine War becomes more multi-dimensional than many casual observers have been led to believe.[vi] To complement this cocktail of compounding obstacles, many experts argue that Russia has merely scraped at the tip of the vast Cold War-era Soviet stockpiles, located in innumerable warehouses and bases scattered across the former Soviet Union.[vii] Furthermore, Russia has experienced significant success re-fielding ex-Soviet military material and in transitioning to a total war-like economy, while the West remains incapable of full commitment due to global and regional escalatory security concerns and is facing severe munitions manufacturing and supply chain concerns, as well as the possibility of wavering domestic political appetites.[viii] Each of these factors hints that the Western role in the Ukraine War is far from its final form, and will need to be expanded and enhanced if the defending nation is to achieve victory in the face of Russian onslaught.
[i] “How Much Aid Has the U.S. Sent Ukraine? Here Are Six Charts.” Council on Foreign Relations, 2023. https://www.cfr.org/article/how-much-aid-has-us-sent-ukraine-here-are-six-charts.
[ii] Antezza, Arianna, André Frank, Pascal Frank, Lukas Franz, Ivan Kharitonov, Bharath Kumar, Ekaterina Rebinskaya, and Christoph Trebesch. The Ukraine Support Tracker: Which Countries Help Ukraine and How?. No. 2218. KIEL working paper, 2022.
[iii] Jaeger, Markus. “Why America Won’t Turn to Isolationism.” German Council on Foreign Relations, 2022. https://dgap.org/en/research/publications/why-america-wont-turn-isolationism.
[iv] Arif, Hafsa. “Anti-War Protesters in Halifax Urge Canadian Government to End Military Aid to Ukraine.” Atlantic. CTV News, February 26, 2023. https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/anti-war-protest-in-halifax-urge-the-canadian-government-to-end-military-aid-to-ukraine-1.6290273.
[v] “Thousands Protest in Berlin against Giving Weapons to Ukraine.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, February 25, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/25/thousands-protest-in-berlin-against-giving-weapons-to-ukraine.
[vi] Schifrin, Nick, and Dan Sagalyn. “Arms Manufacturers Struggle to Supply Ukraine with Enough Ammunition.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, March 10, 2023. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/arms-manufacturers-struggle-to-supply-ukraine-with-enough-ammunition.
[vii] “WSJ News Exclusive | Ukraine War Is Depleting U.S. Ammunition Stockpiles, Sparking Pentagon Concern.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, August 30, 2022. https://www.wsj.com/articles/ukraine-war-depleting-u-s-ammunition-stockpiles-sparking-pentagon-concern-11661792188.
[viii] PÉRIA-PEIGNÉ, Léo. “Military Stockpiles: A Life-Insurance Policy in a High-Intensity Conflict?” French Institute of International Relations No. 113 (2022). https://www.ifri.org/en/publications/etudes-de-lifri/focus-strategique/military-stockpiles-life-insurance-policy-high.
Robert Eales is a Global and International Studies (BGInS) undergraduate student, Carleton University