Tag: ukraine aid
Why Are We Doing Less For Ukraine's Defense Than Tiny Denmark?

Why Are We Doing Less For Ukraine's Defense Than Tiny Denmark?

A little under two months ago, tiny Denmark – with a population less than that of New York City and a GDP of $400 billion – committed its “entire artillery” to Ukraine. “The Ukrainians are asking us for ammunition now. Artillery now. From the Danish side, we decided to donate our entire artillery,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told the Munich Security Conference on February 18.

How did we, the richest, most powerful nation in the world, become the country that is turning its back on Ukraine? I’m using the royal “we” here, but you know who I’m talking about: the Republican Party, led by Donald Trump, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, who ordered House Republicans not to bring up for a vote the Senate’s $95 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel, which has been moldering on Capitol Hill for nearly two months since the Senate passed it on a bipartisan vote of 70 to 29. Trump was said not to want a bipartisan victory for Biden in an election year, so he picked up the phone and called his poodles in the House and killed a potential deal to bring the Senate bill to the floor where it was expected to pass.

Look at this headline in Sunday’s print edition of the New York Times: “Low on Ammunition, Ukraine Is Ill Equipped to Stop Russian Push.” The story describes a 155 mm howitzer position in Eastern Ukraine where Russia has recently made gains on the ground. The crew of the howitzer had a stock of 33 rounds of ammunition when they received an order to fire on a target. Moments later, they had 16 rounds left. “Artillery decides battles,” said Capt. Vladyslav Slominsky, the commander of the battery with the howitzer that was down to only 16 rounds of ammunition. “Who has more wins.”

The artillery is a proud branch in the United States military. They call their branch “The Queen of Battle” because of the firepower that can be brought to bear on the enemy at a moment’s notice. The war that Ukraine has fought against Russia since the 600 mile front line settled into existence late in 2022 has been almost exclusively an artillery war fought with 155 mm howitzers and HIMARS ground-to-ground rockets.

The Russians have more artillery pieces, more rockets, more tanks, and more soldiers, but Ukraine has hung onto the territory they hold, including the parts they took back from Russian forces near Kharkiv and Kherson earlier in the war. Ukraine’s artillery is said to be more accurate and efficient than Russia’s, which wasted tens of thousands of shells firing wildly into the flat agricultural fields of Eastern Ukraine early in 2023 after the front lines stalemated.

Once Russia began its campaign to take individual towns in Eastern Ukraine such as Bakhmut and Avdiivka, their artillery became more accurate. Given small towns as targets, Russian artillery sat back and simply flattened the towns with tens of thousands of artillery rounds, eventually leaving Ukrainian forces no place left to defend, so they pulled back. Now Russia has claimed to have taken the tiny village of Vodayne, about five miles east of Donetsk and a few miles south of Avdiivka. Tactically, it is yet another redoubt that Ukraine had hung onto as the country continues to defend its eastern flank. Strategically, it is not large enough to be significant.

What is significant, however, is why the village was lost: dwindling ammunition stocks.

The Times quoted Swedish military analyst Johan Norberg saying, “You cannot expect people to fight without ammunition.” But you don’t have to interview an expert to know that armies without bullets cease to be armies and turn into targets.

Vladimir Putin knows this like he knows his own name. Even Donald Trump has seen enough gangster movies to know that when you run out of ammo, you get killed. That’s probably why Trump has leaned on House Republicans not to pass the Ukraine aid bill. If Ukraine runs out of ammunition, and Russia starts winning its war on Ukraine, it will make Trump’s pal Putin happy, and the Russian victories will happen on Joe Biden’s watch. In politics, that is called a win-win.

But it’s a lose-lose not only for Ukraine, but for America’s standing in the world as a bulwark against the kind of totalitarian aggression Russia has brought to bear on its neighbor. Russia could not assert its influence over Ukraine by installing puppet presidents like Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian politician Paul Manafort helped to put in power in 2010. Yanukovych proceeded to loot Ukraine by installing cronies from the region of eastern Ukraine with a large Russian-speaking population, the Donbas. Nearly 50 percent of the economic development budget for the entirety of Ukraine went to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions under Yanukovych.

When he was overthrown in 2014, Putin invaded and occupied Crimea and probably began his plans to militarily invade and seize all of Ukraine. Yanukovych, naturally, fled to Russia, where he still resides. And Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign in 2016, is said to be in talks to take a prominent position in the current Trump campaign.

What has stood between Putin’s ambitions and Ukraine’s existence is the United States and NATO. Now Donald Trump appears to be running on a platform of turning Ukraine over to Putin and getting the United States out of the NATO alliance, which just last week celebrated its 75th anniversary.

How did we get here? How is it that this corrupt man facing four separate criminal indictments in three different jurisdictions has been able to nearly singlehandedly stymie this country’s ability to help the rest of NATO defeat Putin’s fascistic attempt to take over Ukraine? Why do these Republicans even bother to run for Congress, unless all they really want to do is follow the orders of this man who is weakening the United States with every breath he takes?

What has happened to us? Who are we?

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Danziger Draws

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City and Vermont. He is a long time cartoonist for The Rutland Herald and is represented by Counterpoint Syndicate. He is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

With Jellyfish McCarthy As 'Leader,' Republicans Prepare To Abandon Ukraine

With Jellyfish McCarthy As 'Leader,' Republicans Prepare To Abandon Ukraine

You don’t even need to live near the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans to know where the Republican Party is headed. All you have to do is look at the human jellyfish that is Kevin McCarthy – a quivering, flapping piece of protoplasm so transparently without a heart or a soul you can see right through him.

And yet, like the oceanic creature he resembles, McCarthy can sting. The innocents he is getting ready to lay low with what’s left of his power in the Republican Party are far, far away, suffering the steady bombardment of Russian artillery, missiles, and drones. Yes, Kevin McCarthy, that tower of democratic principle and dedication, is getting ready to abandon the Ukrainian people to the psychotic ravages of Vladimir Putin, who has decided he wants their land and whatever is left of their cities and infrastructure when he’s finished bombing them.

Politico reported yesterday that aides to President Joe Biden are pointing to an “internal rift” in the Republican Party over spending for Ukraine and are forecasting slippage of support for the war that is raging 4900 miles from their comfy offices on Capitol Hill. In fact, it has already happened. The only votes against the $40 billion aid package for Ukraine in the spring were cast by Republicans – 57 members of the House and 11 Senators opposed the aid package intended to help the beleaguered country fight back against the Russian invasion that was at that point only a couple of months old.

Conservative – or shall we say, radical – Republicans went out on the stump and said they were voting against aid to Ukraine because it wasn’t offset by cuts in domestic spending. They didn’t spell out what cuts they were thinking about in the spring, but they haven’t been as shy lately, popping right out of the closet and putting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on the chopping block if they take over the House in 2023.

Republicans also made the case that money spent to defend our allies in Ukraine – and the rest of Europe if Putin’s slavering about a new Russian empire is to be believed – could be better spent to defend our southern border and bring down inflation, however the hell that’s supposed to work.

It's all about bashing Biden and the Democrats, of course, only this time they’re not using grade school textbooks on “sex” and scary trans kids. They’re getting ready to make a political issue out of the war in Ukraine. All those graves found in the forest outside of Izium and in fields outside Bucha? Tough luck, Ukrainian civilians. Republicans are more interested in cutting the budget and squawking about the “war” on our border than they are about the very real shooting war that’s killing Ukrainians overseas.

McCarthy told Punchbowl News on Tuesday that if Republicans take the House in November, aid to Ukraine isn’t going to be “a free blank check. I think people [Republican House members] are gonna be sitting in a recession and they're not going to write a blank check to Ukraine." While “Ukraine is important,” McCarthy told the Washington D.C. political website ($300 a year for a subscription), he went on to emphasize that Republicans have other priorities, including of course “the border” – read: all those brown people invading our cities and taking our jobs – and preventing women from controlling their reproductive health. Also, in for some serious cuts is funding for COVID research and even the vaccines and treatments which are currently free to Americans because the federal government is paying for them.

So elect Republicans, Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News, and watch the bodies pile up in Ukraine and right here at home as new variants of COVID send the death count way, way up.

The White House calculus is that Republican support for Ukraine won’t crater, because what will happen if Ukraine suffers losses on the battlefield and Russia “emerges triumphant?” Politico forecasts a “political blowback” against Republicans if that were to happen. But a quick look at recent history reveals that the MAGA-centric Republican Party doesn’t give much of a shit about blowback – see also: what happened after Roe was overturned. Oh, a few of them gave their anti-choice websites a quick bath, but just look around you. Republicans are happily running full speed ahead on their anti-woman, anti-immigrant, crime-crime-crime agenda. You think they’ll be shy about running on starving Ukrainians of weapons, ammo, food, and other supplies?

I’ve got a bridge to sell you…

Meanwhile, over in the country the Republican Party is getting ready to consign to the ash heap, Russian cruise missiles and kamikaze drones continue to fly, hitting towns and villages along the front lines in Eastern Ukraine and in the south near Kherson as well as the usual civilian targets in Kyiv and other major cities. With winter on the horizon, the Russians unveiled a new set of targets this week, too: power plants. A Russian cruise missile hit the Burshtyn coal-fired power station in the Ivano-Frankivsk region yesterday along with more missiles causing multiple explosions in Kyiv, Chernihiv and Vinnytsia, the Kyiv Independent reported this morning. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced yesterday that three powerplants in Ukraine were destroyed in the previous 24 hours.

On Tuesday, Zelensky told the Kyiv Independent that fully one-third of Ukrainian power plants had been destroyed by Russian missiles. Ukraine uses vulnerable thermal power plants to generate steam to heat homes and businesses, according to The New York Times.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reports that Russia is preparing the ground for a false-flag attack on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant near Kherson. Russian forces are under heavy attack from the Ukrainian army in the Kherson area. They have pulled back from multiple defensive positions recently and are beginning to "set conditions for Russian forces to damage the dam and then blame Ukraine while using the resulting floods to cover their own retreat further south into Kherson Oblast," the ISW reported this morning.

Meanwhile, an independent podcast out of Russia known as “Naked Pravda” is reporting that its sources, including someone who works inside the Russian FSB, or Federal Security Service, say that Russia’s “irrecoverable losses,” including soldiers killed, wounded, or gone AWOL, total 90,000 since the beginning of the war. That figure is close to a Pentagon estimate in August that Russia had lost 70-80,000 on the battlefield. The British Defense Ministry has also stated that Russian losses, including KIA’s and soldiers wounded badly enough they could not return to the battlefield, stand at about 80,000.

So that’s where things stand in Ukraine. Russia can’t win a single engagement on the battlefield. Their loses are going up so fast, Putin is sending young, barely trained recruits to take the place of seasoned soldiers who have been killed. And Putin has turned to terror-bombing Ukrainian civilians with cruise missiles and armed Iranian drones to make up for his inability to show any Russian gains in Ukraine.

With all of this going on in Ukraine, what are Republicans doing in this country? Why, they’re following the Jellyfish-In-Chief’s lead and laying the groundwork to turn the war in Ukraine into one of the top issues they’re going to hammer come the 2024 campaign – which will begin on November 9, the day the midterms are over, even before the outcomes are completely decided.

No sense in wasting any time consigning the citizens of Ukraine to the ravages of Donald Trump’s friend, Vladimir Putin, is there? Kevin McCarthy is out there leading the way. Could his hero, Donald Trump, be far behind?

Watch them turn the next fight over the debt ceiling into an excuse to hang the Ukrainian people out to dry. Four Republican members of the House, all of whom expressed interest in running the Budget Committee if their party takes over next year, told Bloomberg last week they will refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats come to heel on entitlement spending and other issues like the border.

They did not specifically mention support for Ukraine, but Republicans will do anything to win, anything, including causing a global financial meltdown while the bodies pile up in Ukraine.

Watch this space.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

McConnell: Senate Will Vote Wednesday On $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package

McConnell: Senate Will Vote Wednesday On $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package

(Reuters) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Sunday that he expects the Senate to vote on Wednesday to approve about $40 billion in proposed aid to help Ukraine resist Russia's invasion, after holding a related procedural vote on Monday.

"We expect to invoke cloture -- hopefully by a significant margin -- on the motion to proceed on Monday, which would set us up to approve the supplemental on Wednesday," McConnell told reporters on a conference call from Stockholm after visiting the Ukrainian capital on Saturday. He was referring to a procedural "cloture" vote that caps further debate on a matter at 30 hours.

President Joe Biden requested $33 billion in aid for Ukraine on April 28, including over $20 billion in military assistance. The U.S. House of Representatives boosted the sum to roughly $40 billion, adding more military and humanitarian aid.

Speaking from the capital of Sweden, which along with Finland plans to seek membership in NATO, McConnell voiced strong support for both countries joining the 30-member Western military alliance created to deter Soviet aggression.

"They have very capable militaries, both of them," McConnell said. "They will be important additions to NATO if they choose to join, and I think the United States ought to be first in line to ratify the treaty for both these countries to join."

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in St.Paul, Minnesota, and Doina Chiacu in Washington; editing by Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Oatis)