Russia is looking to benefit from the Israel-Hamas conflict as the United States may shift its focus to the ongoing situation in the Middle East instead of Ukraine. The Ukrainians are banking on the military and financial support from the US and its Western allies. Over the last few months, Ukrainian forces have made slow progress in regaining territory in southern and eastern parts of the war-torn nation. But as Ukraine continues this slow success, others are becoming impatient. If support for Ukraine wanes in 2024 the international community might pressure Ukraine to negotiate and sign an agreement favourable to Russia.
Unlike the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring of 2022, which saw the Ukrainians swiftly push the Russians out of northern Ukraine, the counteroffensive in the south and east has been a lot slower. Russian forces have fortified their positions in these regions, where Ukrainian soldiers are reporting deep trenches and other barriers that stretch for miles. In addition, the Russians have planted hundreds of kilometers of minefields in the Russian-occupied regions. These obstacles have delayed Ukrainian progress in the region as Ukrainian forces are removing the barriers and other hazards before their troops advance.
Meanwhile, support for aid to Ukraine in the US appears to be waning. One of the hold-ups for the 2024 government spending bill was aid to Ukraine. House Republicans are split over assistance to Ukraine. Events in Poland and the US are early warning signs for Ukraine. They suggest a weakening of support, and even that some elected officials are willing to risk continued support for Ukraine in exchange for political favourability amongst voters against Ukraine assistance. Public opinion polls on aid to Ukraine have also seen a decline in the US and Europe over time.
The US Congress has been paralysed by the absence of a speaker in the House of Representatives for more than two weeks. Republican Kevin McCarthy, was removed from his post as Speaker of the US House of Representatives over the country’s continued funding for Ukraine. McCarthy’s ouster had other reasons as well, but growing fatigue in the US Congress, especially among his Republican colleagues, reflects narrowing of popular support for the war. The security aid – which stands cumulatively $43.9 billion since the start of the war in February 2022 – is in danger.
A temporary measure passed recently to keep the US government running till mid-November, in the absence of an annual budget, made no appropriation for Ukraine. The US military has $5.4 billion left from previously committed funds, but that is likely to run out soon. Although US President Joe Biden has vowed to stand with Ukraine for “as long as it take” some members of the Republican party, which control the House of Representatives and the government’s purse-strings, are opposing continued allocation of money to Ukraine. These and the Middle East situation are a cause of worry to Ukraine.