In a notable departure from last year’s unsuccessful counteroffensive in Ukraine, the Biden administration is collaborating with the US military to formulate a new strategy. This strategy prioritizes a prolonged approach over the immediate recapture of lost territories. This shift comes in the aftermath of the administration’s acknowledgment of the challenges. These challenges are posed by Russia’s heavily fortified minefields and trenches in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.
A Strategic Pivot
Having learned from the setbacks of the rushed and unsuccessful attempts in the past year, the current strategy emphasizes positioning Ukraine. It aims to maintain its current battlefield position while gradually enhancing its military and economic strength. Unlike the urgency of previous approaches, the emphasis now is on a long-term vision. The strategy looks towards a strengthened Ukraine by the end of 2024.
A Collaborative Effort Takes Shape
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the Biden administration’s strategy aligns with a broader multilateral effort. Nearly three dozen countries are committing to providing long-term security and economic support to Ukraine. With the United States leading this coalition, it marks a collective endeavor to ensure Ukraine’s sustained development and resilience.
The Linchpin of the Strategy
The success of this comprehensive strategy significantly hinges on the United States, both as the largest contributor of funds and equipment to Ukraine and as the orchestrator of the multilateral effort. The pending release of a 10-year commitment by the U.S. is crucial for the strategy’s implementation. This commitment is contingent on a $61 billion supplemental funding request approval.
Guarantees for Ukraine’s Future
The forthcoming U.S. document is poised to offer explicit guarantees. It will outline short-term military support and a roadmap for building a robust Ukrainian military force capable of deterring Russian aggression. Specific commitments will extend to safeguarding and expanding Ukraine’s industrial and export base. They will also include support for political reforms aligning with Western institutions.
Beyond Immediate Territorial Recapture
In a strategic shift, the current plan moves away from a purely defensive stance. While acknowledging the need to maintain current positions on the battlefield, the strategy envisions tactical exchanges in smaller cities and villages. It focuses on areas where Ukraine has demonstrated recent success.
Zelensky’s Optimism and Apprehensions
According to Barron’s report, while Ukrainian President Zelensky expresses optimism about Ukraine retaining the initiative in 2024, doubts linger. These doubts are about the level of ambition without clear U.S. aid commitments. The dependence on U.S. support remains a pivotal factor, with Zelensky emphasizing its indispensability for Ukraine’s survival.
G-7 Declaration and Policy Risks
The overall goal of transforming Ukraine aligns with a G-7 declaration from last summer. This declaration emphasizes the construction of a sustainable military force interoperable with the West and reinforces economic stability and resilience. However, the strategy is not without risks. These risks include potential political challenges and the need to manage public patience with ongoing financial support for Ukraine’s war.
Fight, Build, Recover, Reform
The U.S. document outlines four phases—fight, build, recover, and reform—with the aim of addressing immediate battlefield needs, ensuring future security commitments, and supporting Ukraine’s economic recovery and reforms. Stakeholders view success as dependent on continuous U.S. assistance, not just for the current conflict but also for Ukraine’s long-term development.