Can a new round of aid help tip the scales in Ukraine's favor? | The Excerpt

On Sunday’s episode of The Excerpt podcast: Over two years into Russia’s war in Ukraine have left the country and its soldiers running short of ammunition, weapons, manpower, money, and worst of all, morale. A particularly troubling recent quote from a Ukrainian soldier on the frontlines by Reuters was: “worse than hell.” Russian drone and artillery relentlessly target Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines. Ukrainian military leaders openly admit that the situation on the eastern front is decidedly worse in recent months. Russia, meanwhile, has executed a savage onslaught on Ukraine. Can U.S. and European support help turn things around for Ukraine? USA TODAY White House Correspondent Joey Garrison joins The Excerpt to unpack significant new developments.

Hit play on the player below to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript beneath it. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

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Dana Taylor:

Hello, and welcome to The Excerpt. I'm Dana Taylor. Today is Sunday, June 23rd, 2024.

Over two years into Russia's war in Ukraine have left the country and its soldiers running short of ammunition, weapons, manpower, money, and worst of all, morale. A particularly troubling recent quote from a Ukrainian soldier on the front lines by Reuters was, "Worse than hell." Russian drone and artillery relentlessly target Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines. Ukrainian military leaders openly admit that the situation on the eastern front is decidedly worse in recent months. Russia meanwhile has executed a savage onslaught on Ukraine. Can US and European support help turn things around for Ukraine? Here to help me unpack significant new developments on that front, I'm now joined by USA TODAY White House Correspondent, Joey Garrison. Joey, thanks for being on The Excerpt.

Joey Garrison:

Hey, thanks for having me Dana.

Dana Taylor:

So let's start with the 10-year security agreement that both President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently signed at the G7 meeting in Italy. What's in it and also what's not in it, and how significant is this pact?

Joey Garrison:

By signing this agreement with Ukraine, the Biden administration, what they tried to do is commit US assistance to Ukraine a decade down the road here. And so what that means is a pledge by the US to provide weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, to expand intelligence sharing between the US and Ukraine, and to help train Ukrainian troops on various US military bases. And this pact does not involve committing US soldiers to Ukraine, which Biden has stated firmly against throughout the start of this war two years ago.

What Biden is trying to do by this is signaling long-term US assistance to Ukraine that will withstand any kind of change of power here that we can see here in America. We obviously have a election in November where Biden could very well lose and it puts in jeopardy whether his position in terms of standing in solidarity with Ukraine will last beyond his term. So yeah, there are 15 other nations that have signed their own agreements with Ukraine. Again, this is trying to pledge long-term support. So by the US at last week's G7 signing on as well, they're trying to very much present this united front.

Dana Taylor:

Joey, what's the perspective of the other G7 leaders and after recent elections, do they have the power to affect the kinds of commitments the US and Ukraine were hoping for?

Joey Garrison:

Now, all those other nations at the G7 Summit, they have also stayed united among Ukraine, but they have uncertainties in those countries of whether that support could wane over time. We saw in Europe a week and a half ago right wing groups having major success in the EU parliamentary elections in France and Germany. And though there's not an immediate threat to pull back support from Ukraine, it does raise questions whether some of these nations will be there in the long term based on political changes on the ground in other European nations. Generally though, I mean, I think there is a thought that those nations in Europe will remain committed to Ukraine, if nothing else because they are much closer to the war itself. I mean, if Putin, if Russia were to take control of Ukraine, it has raised questions whether Putin would stop there or move to other eastern former blockade countries to the east of Russia. So I think that is something to keep in mind when we think about the support of other nations for Ukraine.

Dana Taylor:

There were also new sanctions announced against Russia's financial sector, as well as Russian individuals and companies helping Russia's war efforts. Tell me about those.

Joey Garrison:

Yeah, this is a big deal. $50 billion was committed to Ukraine by G7 Nations that will come in the form of a loan from various countries, including the US, and then backed up and paid back by the interest on foreign Russian assets that have been seized. And this is essentially taking advantage of the capital and the interest from the various yachts, et cetera, that have been seized as a result of the war from people with close ties to Putin. And so this is kind of a novel way to help Ukraine with its various resource issues in terms of having enough weapons, et cetera. But it's still a little unclear and we tried to get answers from the White House the other day in terms of when they're going to start seeing this money and how quickly it'll get to them. A lot of those are going to be answered here in the weeks and months ahead.

Dana Taylor:

There've also been sanctions imposed on prominent Russian since the war began. How much has the US and its allies cumulatively been able to seize here? And do we know how those monies have been spent?

Joey Garrison:

Yeah, Biden administration officials say as much as $280 billion have been seized from various bank accounts from Russian officials, officials close to Putin. How that money has been spent, it hasn't been spent. And so the interest on some of those assets is what will be paying back that $50 billion package that the G7 nations have awarded Ukraine to help them with the war long-term.

Dana Taylor:

And has there been any blowback on Russian president Vladimir Putin by Russian individuals whose assets have been seized? Has this strategy been effective at all?

Joey Garrison:

All of these efforts are aimed at crippling the Russian financial sector and to penalize people who they believe have been enablers of Putin to orchestrate this war, but has not stopped or deterred Putin from continuing his onslaught in Ukraine, from continuing that war. So in that regard, it's not been a successful measure.

Dana Taylor:

Obviously this is also a presidential election year that some argue is the most consequential in a generation. How might the US relationship with Ukraine change if Donald Trump is reelected to the White House?

Joey Garrison:

The war in Ukraine isn't perhaps the number one topic among American voters as they're just thinking about the November election. But it is however, I think, going to be one of the most consequential fallouts in terms of consequences of this upcoming presidential election. I mean, Donald Trump, presumptive Republican nominee, has not been very clear about where he stands in terms of long-term support of Ukraine financially. He's made these comments that if he were a president, he'd be able to end the war in 24 hours. But what that means, he's not really said. Of course, many members of the Republican MAGA base close to Trump have raised concerns about continuing to finance Ukraine's war. And there are many among Republicans that have actually been sympathetic to Putin and to Russia's point of view in this war.

So I think there are many European leaders, G7 leaders that really worry about a Trump victory and what it would mean for that continuance of a united front against Russia. Obviously, Trump, with his kind of America first agenda and his reluctance to engage in these traditional alliances back when he was president, he famously wouldn't sign various G7 agreements and has floated the idea of US getting out of NATO. So all that said, I mean, we could be facing a very big turning point in November if Trump were to win when it comes to the US foreign policy with Ukraine.

Dana Taylor:

Congress also passed aid to Ukraine as part of a bigger package in April. Has that money already been spent? What will it go towards and when?

Joey Garrison:

Yeah, it was $60 billion that was approved by Congress. I mean, it's not all been spent, but the first bits of that by the Defense Department as it gives more aid and weaponry to Ukraine, it's primarily all really going to beefing up the weapons of Ukraine. And government US officials have said that that money should last beyond this year, but we are going to get to a point again where the president, if it's Biden, will likely have to again, ask if this war is still going on, Congress for additional funds. But we will be looking at an entirely different Congress by then and potentially a different president might not be inclined to ask for that additional money.

Dana Taylor:

We've talked about the reality of this war on the ground for Ukraine. What has President Zelenskyy asked for that he hasn't received either from the US or from NATO countries? Has he asked for troops, for example, and what would make the biggest difference to Ukraine on the ground in thwarting Russian troops?

Joey Garrison:

Well, he's not asked for troops themselves, but he has pursued additional military equipment. One thing he sought, Zelenskyy that is, is a second patriot missile system, which President Biden approved for last week. This system, essentially an air defense weapon using radar systems and mobile launchers that can fire back at incoming missiles coming towards Ukraine. This has been important because Russia has made inroads in terms of attacking Ukrainian infrastructure, electrical grids, those sorts of things. So this missile system is supposed to help protect Ukraine. Another thing that he has sought, Zelenskyy, that is coming are F16 planes that'll be sent by various European nations. And another thing he's still seeking is the authority to use US weapons to move further into Russia. Biden signed off allowing Ukraine to use these weapons on the periphery of Russia just into the country, but he wants to go deeper into Russia to take the fight to Putin. That is something that the US is still not signed off on.

Dana Taylor:

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty organization formed in the aftermath of World War II, will be turning 75 next month. The US will be hosting a slew of events celebrating the longevity and strength of this international alliance. How are we expecting support for Ukraine to play into that anniversary?

Joey Garrison:

Well, I think it's going to be front and center, and that will, as you mentioned, be held here in Washington. President Biden is going to be the host. He'll be welcoming in other NATO nations. And he also, the US election here is going to be very much front and center. Biden has sought to use the two contrasting views between him and Trump in terms of the US role in the world as a very important issue in this election. Trump a few months ago during a speech questioned whether the US should come to the aid of other European nations if they don't pay their fair share, what he views their fair share in defense to help protect themselves, relying instead, he says on the US. And Biden has repeatedly called that out and said it was beneath a former president to say that. Biden is going to want to show that he stands for the US Alliance with NATO to help protect world peace and that Trump will jeopardize that. That's going to be the backdrop for that meeting here next month.

Dana Taylor:

And then finally, Joey, I know that Ukraine has been focused on its bid to join NATO ever since Russia invaded. If they were to join the alliance, it would be obligated to defend it. Where is Ukraine's application now and when might we see a decision here?

Joey Garrison:

Well, there's not a decision coming imminently at all. But the 10-year agreement signed between the US and Ukraine is sort of meant to be a springboard of sorts to get Ukraine into NATO. I mentioned earlier all the various things the US will be providing Ukraine as part of that agreement, but some of the things Ukraine has to do is take on various Democratic other reforms that match criteria both for the EU and NATO. And so Zelenskyy, it's one of the main things he has been pushing for now two years, is to get that NATO membership. It's not right around the corner, but I think the Biden administration believes they're headed in the right direction, but there's still things that they're going to have to show in order to get those allies to approve their application.

Dana Taylor:

Thanks for being on The Excerpt, Joey.

Joey Garrison:

Hey, thanks so much.

Dana Taylor:

Thanks for our senior producer Shannon Rae Green for production assistance. Our executive producer is Laura Beatty. Let us know what you think of this episode by sending a note to podcasts@usatoday.com. Thanks for listening. I'm Dana Taylor. Taylor Wilson will be back tomorrow morning with another episode of The Excerpt.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can a new round of aid help tip the scales for Ukraine? | The Excerpt