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  • Writer's pictureAnton Kuchuhidze

International Press Review dated 15 - 26 January 2024

In recent weeks, media's attention has been focused on important financial and military statements by the EU and NATO. The EU, France, Great Britain and several other European partners intend to consolidate their military support for our country and intensify weapon supplies. Given NATO's announcement of large-scale manoeuvres involving 90,000 troops over several months, these initiatives reflect the determination of Ukraine's partners to confront russia in the long term.


The Washington Post reported an important piece of news that the EU plans to start working on a new plan this week to provide tens of billions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine. They plan to use these for the purchase of ammunition, drones and air defence missiles for Ukraine. As the proposal notes, "the choices made by the EU member states and partners in the coming period will either allow Ukraine to decisively progress or will seriously undermine its ability to resist".

The plan provides for the creation of a special fund, which will be used to reimburse the EU member states for the expenses to assist Ukraine. If the project is approved, the member states will return to its budgets 22 billion euros from the funds of the European Union in exchange for "tens of billions of euros" of military aid, which they will provide to Ukraine in the next four years.


In addition to that, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization plans to evaluate what it calls a "major new investment in artillery munitions” to increase production of 155mm artillery shells.


An editorial in Le Monde reported that French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu launched an artillery coalition aimed at joining forces with allied countries to help Ukraine and reform its severe ammunition shortage.


In addition to that, at the press conference on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron called the war in Ukraine and Moscow's threat to European security a priority issue and said: "We cannot let russia win, and we must not." Macron also announced future arms supplies and the signing of a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine.


Besides France, the British government promised to provide almost USD 3 billion in new military support to Ukraine on Friday, and also announced that it would sign a long-term security agreement with Ukraine that guarantees swift and sustained assistance to our country if russia attacks it again, The Wall Street Journal reported.


Transfer of frozen russian assets to Ukraine is another topic that the media focused their attention on. The article in The Washington Post claims that Ukraine cannot wait so long. This is a life and death struggle, and money is needed now. Given the circumstances, Ukraine may have to use this money immediately for the purchase of ammunition, which Ukraine needs to repel russian attacks - in particular, air attacks on its settlements. The article emphasizes that the Biden administration must do whatever possible to provide the struggling democracy with the funding it needs to survive. So far, unfortunately, the administration simply has not done enough.


I am immensely grateful to our partners for their support, but the full-scale war of russia against Ukraine is unfortunately approaching its second anniversary. Quoting the Secretary General of NATO, I want to say, "the aid provided to Ukraine is not charity. It is an investment in the defence of NATO, as well as in the protection of the prosperity of the American people." The price of Ukraine's defeat may be much higher than the price of victory. Therefore, in the coming weeks, I expect the acceleration of making decisions to protect democracy, which have not been adopted yet.

 

The U.S. and its partners are exploring ways to use some of the $300 billion in frozen Russian central bank reserves to back loans to Ukraine, one of a series of ideas that Western officials are considering as they struggle to agree on a method to seize Russian funds without spooking international investors.


With Congress blocking funding for Ukraine, there is renewed impetus in Washington to find other sources of long-term financial support. After the outbreak of war, billions of dollars in Russian foreign currency reserves, gold and government bonds were frozen across the U.S., Europe and Japan to ensure they weren’t used to fund its illegal invasion.


Pushed by the Biden administration, the Group of Seven democracies is now exploring several ways to confiscate the frozen Russian funds to give to Ukraine, a move that would represent a significant escalation against the Kremlin and that is fraught with legal difficulties.

 

The U.K. government pledged nearly $3 billion in fresh military support for Ukraine on Friday, the latest example of Europe bolstering aid for the war-torn country as additional U.S. funding hangs in the balance amid deadlock in Congress.


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the £2.5 billion package, which is £200 million more than the U.K. pledged last year, during a trip to Kyiv. Britain also said it would sign a long-term security-cooperation agreement with Ukraine guaranteeing “swift and sustained” assistance to the country should it ever be attacked by Russia again.


European Union officials will this week start tackling a new plan to unlock tens of billions of dollars in military assistance for Ukraine, seeking to revamp a critical aid program bogged down by internal divisions.


The EU move comes after a number of European countries have increased their bilateral military assistance to Ukraine even as the Biden administration is hamstrung by Congress on providing large-scale assistance.


“Given the dependence of Ukraine on external support, the choices made by the EU member states and partners in the coming period will either allow Ukraine to decisively progress or will seriously undermine its ability to resist,” the proposal says.

 

Yet there is still a giant pot of money that President Biden and other Western leaders could access to aid Ukraine — if only they can find the will to act. When the full-scale Russian invasion occurred nearly two years ago, the United States and its allies froze Russian central bank funds in their own financial institutions. It is estimated that some $300 billion of Russian funds is being held in the West, with the bulk of it (roughly $200 billion) in Belgium’s Euroclear, a major financial clearinghouse. At least $5 billion of the Russian holdings are in the United States.

To put these figures into perspective, $300 billion is more than the sum total of all international aid pledged to Ukraine (roughly $264 billion) since Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. It’s more than four times as large as the $64 billion aid package that is stalled in Congress.

 

Better late than never. As the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, approaches and with no end in sight to this devastating war on the European continent, France and several of its European partners seem determined to consolidate their military support for Ukraine and step up arms deliveries.


On Thursday, January 18, French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu launched an "artillery coalition" aimed at bringing together the efforts of allied countries to help Ukraine. Spearheaded by France and the United States, it is intended to help address the severe shortage of ammunition, described as a "very pressing problem" by Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov, speaking by videoconference. Lecornu also announced the production of 78 Caesar cannons for Ukraine and around 50 bombs modified to make air-to-ground near-missiles per month by 2024.

 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Friday, January 12, a new multibillion-dollar aid package for Ukraine during a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he vowed British support for a decade.


The pledge came at a crucial time for Ukraine as its allies in Brussels and Washington struggle to secure funding while Russia bolsters its weapon stockpiles and the ranks of its armed forces.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the "unprecedented" 10-year security cooperation agreement as well as the £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) in new military aid earmarked for 2024.

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