Letter From the Editors

This week, the US Congress finally managed to overcome discord within the Republican Party and approve almost $61 billion in funding for Ukraine. The bill was passed after Speaker Mike Johnson changed his tune about tying the aid to measures to fight illegal immigration in the US. According to Izvestia, the upcoming US presidential election is most likely what prompted the speaker’s new rhetoric: Although the Republicans would like to “portray Biden as an ineffective manager who is wasting the budget,” they need to present a united front for Trump to win the presidency.

But what good will the package actually do for Ukraine? Zelensky adviser Mikhail Podolyak told Meduza that the replenished arsenal won’t guarantee a successful counteroffensive, but it will help destroy Russian reserves and have a negative psychological impact on Russia, “because the amount of destroyed [Russian] equipment and personnel is going to increase.” Russia, however, does not appear to be daunted by the new package. According to presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov, “This will not fundamentally change the situation on the battlefield.” And in an article for Izvestia, Oleg Karpovich writes that Russian now has “more and more incentives to speed up the tasks of the special military operation, thereby cooling the enthusiasm of our geopolitical opponents.”

One of those adversaries is France, where President Macron is much more eager than the US was to get weapons into the hands of Ukrainian soldiers. As NG’s Danila Moiseyev explains, Macron is currently trying “galvanize his electorate” in the run-up to June’s European Parliament elections, saying that Europe has to show it is not the “vassal” of the US by becoming “autonomous in the matter of defense.” Marcon even went so far as to suggest that Western forces could be deployed to Ukraine. But, Sergei Mikhailov explains in Republic, with 76% of French people against their country’s military presence in Ukraine, France is unlikely to send troops there. On the other hand, Mikhailov notes, this statement “showed that rhetorical exchanges between the parties have escalated to a whole new level.”

Meanwhile, the recent arrest of a Russian deputy defense minister indicates that the Russian Defense Ministry may end up bringing itself down without a single shot being fired from any Western weapons. On April 23, Timur Ivanov, Sergei Shoigu’s deputy in charge of construction, was detained on charges of accepting bribes “in the form of property-related services.” In other words, construction contractors for the ministry performed work at one or more of Ivanov’s several properties in Russia in exchange for land or favorable tender outcomes, including contracts to rebuild cities Russia has razed in occupied Ukraine. As Ivan Rodin explains in NG, the question now is whether this straightforward corruption case will expand into a broader political one that could result in Shoigu’s resignation as Putin prepares to form a new government.

Regardless of what happens at the Defense Ministry, some remain unperturbed by Russia’s war in Ukraine. One is Muzahim al-Tamimi, sheikh of the Iraqi branch of the Banu Tamim tribe and former Basra governor. He made it clear in an interview with Vedomosti that, as a country that is also under sanctions, Iraq is prepared to welcome Russian businesses. Another is Moldova’s new Victory opposition bloc, which (as reported by Izvestia) says Moldova is part of the “Russian world” and advocates “for restoring relations with Russia and strengthening traditional values.” At the same time, Latin America appears to be moving away from Russia despite its close ties to the country through current and prospective BRICS members. According to Irina Akimushkina, this shift toward the Global North has been primarily driven by the threat of US sanctions. Whatever the case, though, it is clear that the West is still not fully committed to firm and decisive actions that would stop Russia in its tracks and end the Ukraine war once and for all.