April 20, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Despite House of Representatives approval, U.S. military aid may not reach the front line for several weeks 

Institute for the Study of War

The US House of Representatives passed a supplemental appropriations bill on April 20 providing for roughly $60 billion of assistance to Ukraine. The bill must now be passed by the Senate and signed by the president before aid can begin to flow. These requirements and the logistics of transporting US materiel to the frontline in Ukraine will likely mean that new US assistance will not begin to affect the situation on the front line for several weeks. The frontline situation will therefore likely continue to deteriorate in that time, particularly if Russian forces increase their attacks to take advantage of the limited window before the arrival of new US aid. Ukrainian forces may suffer additional setbacks in the coming weeks while waiting for US security assistance that will allow Ukraine to stabilize the front, but they will likely be able to blunt the current Russian offensive assuming the resumed US assistance arrives promptly. The US Senate will reportedly vote on the bill sometime in the coming week. Pentagon Spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder stated on April 19 that the Pentagon’s robust logistics system will allow the United States to move security assistance within a matter of “days” and that he believes that the United States will be able to “rush the security assistance in volumes” that the United States believes Ukraine will need to be successful. US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander reportedly told US lawmakers that the Pentagon would begin moving ammunition, artillery shells, and air defense assets quickly once Congress approves the aid. US media reported that US officials stated that the US Department of Defense (DoD) has been assembling the first tranche of resumed US security assistance for Ukraine ahead of the vote in the US House of Representatives but noted that the Biden administration has yet to make a final decision on how large the first tranche of aid will be or what it will include. US officials reportedly stated that the United States will be able to “almost immediately” send certain munitions to Ukraine from US storage facilities in Europe, particularly critically needed 155mm artillery shells and air defense missiles. The US officials noted that other security assistance will likely take weeks to arrive in Ukraine depending on where it is currently stored. Ukraine has systematically improved its military logistics operations in recent months, but this new system has not yet accommodated a sudden and large influx of materiel, and no system would be able to immediately distribute large quantities of materiel throughout the frontline.

Ukrainian forces will therefore likely continue to face ongoing shortages of artillery ammunition and air defense interceptors in the coming weeks and the corresponding constraints that these shortages are placing on Ukraine’s ability to conduct effective defensive operations. Ukrainian artillery shortages are letting Russian mechanized forces make marginal tactical gains, and Ukraine’s degraded air defense capabilities are permitting Russian aviation to heavily degrade Ukrainian defenses along the front with glide bomb strikes. Russian forces could continue to leverage these operational advantages in the coming weeks to make further tactical gains and destabilize the Ukrainian defensive line in hopes of achieving operationally significant advances. ISW continues to assess that material shortages are forcing Ukraine to conserve ammunition and prioritize limited resources to critical sectors of the front, increasing the risk of a Russian breakthrough in other less well-provisioned sectors and making the overall frontline more fragile than the current relatively slow rate of Russian advances suggests. The threat of an operationally significant Russian advance in the coming weeks remains, although the Ukrainian command may have more latitude to take short-term risks with dwindling supplies to prevent such an advance once it knows that more materiel will be arriving soon.

Key Takeaways:

  • The US House of Representatives passed a supplemental appropriations bill on April 20 providing for roughly $60 billion of assistance to Ukraine. The bill must now be passed by the Senate and signed by the president before aid can begin to flow.
  • These requirements and the logistics of transporting US materiel to the frontline in Ukraine will likely mean that new US assistance will not begin to affect the situation on the front line for several weeks. The frontline situation will therefore likely continue to deteriorate in that time, particularly if Russian forces increase their attacks to take advantage of the limited window before the arrival of new US aid.
  • Ukrainian forces may suffer additional setbacks in the coming weeks while waiting for US security assistance that will allow Ukraine to stabilize the front, but they will likely be able to blunt the current Russian offensive assuming the resumed US assistance arrives promptly.
  • Russian forces will likely intensify ongoing offensive operations and missile and drone strikes in the coming weeks in order to exploit the closing window of Ukrainian materiel constraints.
  • Ukraine will likely be in a significantly improved operational position by June 2024 regardless of delays in the arrival of US security assistance to the frontline, and the Russian military command will likely consider significant changes to the large-scale offensive operation that it is expected to launch in June, although it may still proceed as planned.
  • The likely resumption of US security assistance to Ukraine is a critical turning point in the war in Ukraine, but the Kremlin, the West, and Ukraine still have additional decisions to make that will determine the character and outcome of the fighting.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted successful drone strikes against several energy infrastructure facilities and a fuel storage facility within Russia on the night of April 19 to 20.
  • The Kremlin appears to be censoring demands for an investigation into the reported murder of a former Donetsk People Republic (DNR) serviceman amid a wider trend of the Kremlin coopting or otherwise censoring DNR-affiliated voices within the Russian information space.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Chasiv Yar (west of Bakhmut) and northwest of Avdiivka, and Ukrainian forces recently made confirmed advances south of Kreminna.
  • Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Russian forces are using US-made 203mm artillery ammunition that Russia may have received from Iran.


For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-20-2024 

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