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News analysis: How U.S. assistance affects Russia-Ukraine crisis


Editor's note: Zhang Hong is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. February 24, 2024 marks the second anniversary of Russia-Ukraine crisis, a conflict that has dragged the two countries into prolonged suffering. In this article, Zhang expounds how the U.S. assistance to Ukraine has influenced the course of the conflict. The article reflects the author's opinions on the idea and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The Russian-Ukraine conflict is not only a conflict between two Slavic countries, but also a geopolitical struggle between two global military powers — Russia and the United States.

Although the United States has not directly sent troops to participate in the conflict, it has actually become a deep participant by providing Ukraine with all-round assistance in terms of equipment, ammunition, command, logistics and intelligence.

U.S. aid to Ukraine 

The U.S. has become Ukraine's most important security ally and actively supported Ukraine to join NATO since the eastern Ukraine conflict in 2014 that led to Russia to take control of Crimea.

After Joe Biden took office as the U.S. president in January 2021, the White House has began providing Ukraine with not only diplomatic support, but also military and financial assistance, making it an important external donor to Ukraine, a move that broke diplomatic "taboos."

In April 2022, the U.S. Congress approved the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022, making it easier for the U.S. to lend or lease lethal equipment to Kyiv. Biden also proposed a record-breaking package of military assistance totaling $33 billion to Ukraine in the same month.

Since then, the quality and quantity of emergency military assistance offered by the U.S. has continued to upgrade. 

Ukraine has received American-made weapons escalated from the FIM-92 "Stinger," a short-range man-portable air defense system, and the FGM-148 Javelin, a man-portable, antitank system, to a highly effective precision fires system-the HIMARS rocket launcher, as well as drones and infantry fighting vehicles.

Starting from 2023, the U.S. has even provided Ukraine with military equipment of NATO in service, including the surface-to-air missile system MIM-104 Patriot and the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System.

Since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Ukraine has received a total of $110 billion U.S. aid, including $44.8 billion in military assistance, , according to Germany's Kiel Institute for the World Economy in mid-November 2023.

The effect of U.S. aid

Ukraine is the weaker party in this regional conflict in terms of military, economic and demographic resources. Even with its extraordinary performance, Ukraine will not be able to cope with Russian military pressure for a long time in the face of the absolute gap in national strength.

The key to enable Ukraine to keep fighting is the sustained diplomatic, military and economic support provided by the U.S. and its Western allies, plus their military confrontation, economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation against Russia.

This also partly explains why Zelenskyy has been able to stay tough throughout its battle with Russia and refuse to surrender.

Besides its own military assistance to Ukraine, the U.S. has also lobbied and encouraged its Western allies to provide Ukraine with equipment and munitions, and even required some Asian allies, including Japan and South Korea, to do so.

U.S.' position on the conflict has influenced the attitude of the Western world to a certain extent. For example, Germany and France, which had advocated dialogue with Russia before, were forced to change their stance and prompted the European Union to end energy cooperation with Russia.

Davyd Arakhamia, head of the Ukrainian political faction "Servant of the People" told media that Russia and Ukraine had reached a draft peace agreement in Türkiye in March 2022 and were ready to end the conflict by freezing the territorial dispute, but the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried his best to dissuade Ukraine from believing in Russia, and encouraged Kyiv to continue the fight.

Ukraine's concession to Russia is not what the U.S. wants,  as it would mean that the Western world recognizes Russia's "veto power" in European security and the global order.

However, even though the United States boasts that it is a defender of the existing international order, its approach to the Russia-Ukraine conflict is likewise undermining the existing order.

Multilateralism has, to a large extent, maintained the equity of world's political order.  Free trade and globalization have promoted global economic growth and openness, which both developed and developing countries have been enjoying the dividends.

We have seen the emergence of voices in the United States and Europe that question globalization and multilateralism, calling for trade protectionism, political populism and security unilateralism.

The Ukraine crisis, however, reminds us that the world does not have a better alternative if we abandon multilateralism, instead, the conflict itself presents us with risk of hatred recession.

(Cover: 155 mm M795 artillery projectiles to be provided to Ukraine are stacked at the Scranton Army Ammunition Plant in Pennsylvania, the U.S., April 13, 2023. /CFP)

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