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Ukraine digs defenses, fears it could lose Russia war with U.S. aid delays

WorldUkraine digs defenses, fears it could lose Russia war with U.S. aid delays

Ukraine has been scrambling to recruit more troops to boost its depleted ranks, exhausted by two years of war. The country’s parliament passed a new law on mobilization Thursday after months of revisions from a government wary of public pushback. Still, Ukraine will have to find new conscripts from somewhere if it is to keep up its defensive fight on the battlefield, and Zelenskyy’s government already moved to lower the draft-eligible age for men earlier this month.

‘Ukraine will lose the war’

Ukraine’s urgency has not been matched by its chief ally’s, however.

New military aid has been stalled in Congress since December amid resistance from hard-line conservatives.

The Biden administration has tried to keep at least some aid going, announcing $300 million in additional weapons last month and an emergency $138 million for maintenance of a key missile defense system earlier this week.

“If Congress does not help Ukraine, then Ukraine will lose the war,” Zelenskyy warned Sunday to a team of celebrity ambassadors, including Americans, who are championing Ukraine’s cause abroad.

While his increasingly drastic tone may be seen by some as an attempt to pressure Washington into action, Ustinova, the Ukrainian parliamentarian, said Zelenskyy’s warnings are not an exaggeration.

Kyiv’s European partners have been trying to ramp up their contributions and bridge the gap left by the lack of U.S. aid. But all the capabilities that exist in Europe right now can’t offer even half of what the U.S. has, Ustinova said.

France has taken a more strident approach to the conflict, and Britain’s top diplomat was in the U.S. this week to push for more support.

Looming over all of this is former President Donald Trump.

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron went to see the Republican candidate in Florida, and Zelenskyy has increasingly been confronting the prospect of a second Trump presidency in public.

Zelenskyy said last week he was still hopeful for a “positive vote” in Congress, and even suggested that Kyiv would be willing to get the aid in the form of a loan rather than a handout, an idea floated by House Republicans that seemingly originated with Trump.

Just six months out from the U.S. election, the possibility that Trump could cut off Ukraine completely or try to force it to cede territory as part of a truce deal with Russia may be focusing minds in Kyiv.

Trump’s promise to end the war in just 24 hours has fueled anxiety in Ukraine, although Zelenskyy said Wednesday that he would listen to Trump’s ideas on how to end the war “with pleasure” if given the opportunity.

“The absence of American aid is creating problems,” said Bielieskov, the Ukrainian military analyst. “But on the other hand, if a Trump administration awaits us,” he said, “then maybe it’s better to get used little by little to live without the U.S. in 2024 than to have an emergency in 2025.”

Daryna Mayer reported from Kyiv, and Yuliya Talmazan from London.

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