President Joe Biden is pushing hard for more Ukraine money and resisting (at least so far) Republican efforts to put strong border security provisions into the aid bill. There are negotiations between the White House and Republicans on the border issue, but so far there is no breakthrough. It looks more and more as if Biden will try and stonewall the Republicans and get his Ukraine money without strings.
That helps explain why Biden has invited Volodomir Zelensky to Washington. Zelensky just attended the inauguration for Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei. His appearance in Argentina (where he also had a brief dialog with Ukraine’s Prime Minister Victor Orbán) is hard to explain as the battlefield situation in Ukraine is deteriorating. Milei is sympathetic to Ukraine, but Argentina can offer nothing other than sympathy, as the country is bankrupt. (So, too, is Ukraine, but the US and EU are underwriting its budget.)
Zelensky has been invited by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to address the Senate, probably in a closed meeting. House speaker Mike Johnson also will meet with Zelensky. The administration hopes Zelensky’s appearance will push support for Ukraine aid over the top.
The White House may be right. Republicans are somewhat divided on aid to Ukraine although united on wanting to close the southern border. But the Republicans have already folded on almost everything they wanted in the National Defense Authorization Act and are likely to fold on Ukraine aid because they face being attacked for selling out the Ukrainians or even forcing a war with Russia in Europe, as Biden and Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense, assert.
In Ukraine Russian forces are gaining ground in key battles around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Bohdanivika, Marinka and Novomikhailovka. While the Russians appear able to reinforce their troops as necessary, it has become far more difficult for Ukraine to do this because Russian artillery can hit rotation areas in many cases, and Ukraine has fewer soldiers to throw into the multiple battles happening in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.
One of the most curious battles is in the little village of Krynky on the eastern side of the Dnieper river to the west of Kherson.
As a result of the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in June 2023, Krynky was almost completely submerged. Most of the residents fled. At the end of October Ukraine started ferrying troops across the Dnieper to create a bridgehead in Krynky. The Ukrainians were able to move troops, but hardly any armor because they lacked transport for heavy equipment. Nonetheless, moving troops mainly at night was fairly successful until the Russians introduced Lancet drones with night vision. Now trying to resupply the troops in Krynky and bring in new soldiers is proving extremely difficult.
As best as can be determined, the original idea of the Krynky bridgehead was a diversion to force the Russians to use more of its army to fight against the Ukrainians in Krynky. In fact, to a certain extent that happened, but it does not seem to have had any significant impact on Russian forces fighting elsewhere in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians Marine troops, off and on reinforced but at high cost, are going precisely nowhere and are losing some of their best soldiers.
An Odessa news service called Dumskaya (which means Duma, or Parliament) is calling for the troops in Krynky to be pulled out before they are all destroyed. Dumskaya journalist Nikolai Larin writes: “Sailors cross the river on improvised means, and most are killed on their way to shore. Those who survived and crossed will be exposed to everything in the arsenal of Russia. From there they do not take out the wounded. People are simply constantly thrown over into the river – wave after wave.”
Criticism of the war and war tactics is quite unusual in Ukraine. But Larin goes quite far when he says: “This is a very bad style of warfare! We are confident that continuing attempts to preserve these scraps of land is a crime. We will probably be accused of something bad, but we can no longer be silent.”
Ukraine is wasting forces on lost causes in the south and the east. Yet the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Rustem Umerov, says: “Ukraine is preparing a cunning plan for next year that will force the Russians to leave Crimea forever. When you learn about it, you will be surprised.” Shades of Black Adder’s Baldrick!
Congress will end up forking over billions more for Ukraine, but no matter how many dollars are thrown at the problem it is unlikely to change the battlefield scenario that is unfolding.