The latest round of U.S. military aid to Ukraine will help halt Russia’s slow, grinding advance. But more long-term aid is needed to not only push back Russian forces, but to deter another future invasion, says USIP’s Ambassador William Taylor. “The only way that this war is going to end is for [Putin’s] cause … to end.”

U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.


Laura Coates: Joining us now is Ambassador William B. Taylor. He is also the Vice President of the Russia and Europe center at the United States Institute of Peace and, of course, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Taylor, welcome back. How are you?

Ambassador William Taylor: Good. Laura, thank you very much for having me back.

Laura Coates: I'm glad that you're here. You know, obviously, just last week, we saw signed into law from the president knighted states, the bill from Congress that included aid to Ukraine, also to Israel, and of course, the Indo-Pacific region. Now that funding has been passed, what does it mean for the Ukrainians on the ground?

Ambassador William Taylor: Means for the Ukrainians on the ground that they have the hopes of very soon having artillery shells again, they were almost out, Laura. They had run down their stocks, because we paused for six months, since the request was made for these funds, nothing happened. So finally, as you just said, last week, it was voted and approved, and the President signed and these shells and ammunition for artillery. They're on the way now, presumably they are very close. But what it means for the soldiers, the Ukrainian soldiers on the ground is, there's hope that soon they'll be able to fire back at the Russians. The Russians had been taking advantage of this pause, taking advantage of the fact that the Ukrainians didn't have much artillery and other weapons, and the Russians have made some progress. So, this is a big deal for the Ukrainians. It's a morale boost, but it's also going to allow them to shoot back.

Laura Coates: The fact that they had already almost been totally out, and we hear about a stalemate happening right now, in many respects, the absence of artillery is that or, now the replenishment of it, is that going to make the difference or is more extreme something needed?

Ambassador William Taylor: It's not going to make an enormous difference. What it will allow the Ukrainians to do is stop the Russians from their grinding progress that they've made. Let's be frank, the Russians have actually made some progress over the past month or two. In the eastern part of the country, in a little town called Avdiivka, the Russians finally took it and they've been pushing even past Avdiivka in the in the western direction. And what this artillery ammunition will do what these funds will do, will allow the Ukrainians to stop that, to hold on, to defend themselves, to maintain what they've got, while they rebuild. The Ukrainians need to rebuild, they need to rearm, refresh, they need more soldiers, Laura. They need to be able to get more people in the army to be able to then next year, maybe late this year or early next year, start to push the Russians back again. So, this allows them to make it into the later part of this year.

Laura Coates: One of the big criticisms you heard from people who voted no in this bill that obviously, of course, has already been signed into law is that I'm speaking I think of Senator Ron Johnson just last week from Wisconsin. And he made the point that he felt that, essentially, and I'm paraphrasing his words here, that the provision of continued funding to Ukraine was a bit of an exercise in futility. Because he did not see it being possible that Russia could be stopped fully, and that he kept asking the question to what end? You obviously heard this criticism about the possible inability to complete the mission against Russia. Is that a genuine concern that you think should be taken seriously?

Ambassador William Taylor: Of course we should take it seriously, but it is very clear Ukrainians can stop the Russians and they've done that. They've pushed the Russians way back. Yes, it's hard right now, there's no doubt but the Ukrainians can push them back. The Russians are having their own set of difficulties. And this shot in the arm for the Ukrainians, gives them the confidence, gives them the ability to look forward over the next couple of months and even a year, in order to win this. So, they know, the Ukrainians know they can win this. They know they have to win this because they have heard Putin say that the Russians want to just wipe the Ukrainians off the map. So, the Ukrainians know what they're fighting for. And now they've got the promise and the expectation that the United States and Europe is going to be with them. They can win this.

Laura Coates: When you look to the funding that has been provided? Is it sufficient? I mean, obviously, this is a replenishment in some respects, but it's going to take a lot more resources and over a sustained period of time. What more do you think is needed? And is it simply coming from the United States? Or is there more of a diplomatic solution as well?

Ambassador William Taylor: It's not just coming to United States, we've provided the bulk of the military assistance, but the Europeans have stepped up and they've actually provided more overall assistance. The Europeans have provided more in terms of economic assistance and some military assistance than we have. So, the Europeans are stepping up, we have stepped up and we have provided this at the last minute, to enable the Ukrainians to move forward. But there is the opportunity now for the Ukrainians to push the Russians back. When that happens, Laura, when the Ukrainians can stabilize and then push the Russians back, the Russians may find that it's they, it's the Russians who want to negotiate an end to this war. And if they ask the Europeans and ask the Ukrainians in particular, the Ukrainians. Ukrainians, if they're doing well, may say yes.

Laura Coates: You've written about this for the USIP, as well, along with your colleague, and you talk about the idea of any options to potentially institutionalize funding? What would that mean?

Ambassador William Taylor: So, one of the things that means is that the Ukrainians are going to need over time, the ability to stop the Russians. Even if they push the Russians back out right now, the Russians still pose a threat. So, there needs to be some over time ability for the West to provide the Ukrainians ability to defend themselves. And so, that is already starting to happen. There are probably around 30 nations and most NATO nations and others who are signing up to provide the Ukrainians with assistance, long-term. To enable them to build up the ability to stop the Russians from invading again, as we put in that piece, the only way that this war is going to end is for the cause of that war to end. And the cause of that war is the Russian invasion. And that is what it's going to take to be able to have the Ukrainians able to defend themselves over time from another Russian invasion.

Laura Coates: I used the word diplomatic earlier. And obviously, I'm consistently wondering about even the possibility of diplomacy or diplomacy as we presently defined it, is that possible with all that has taken place?

Ambassador William Taylor: Not now, sadly, Laura. It's not now possible, because the Russians are not serious about negotiating. And the Russians say, "oh, we'll negotiate if Ukraine surrenders." Ukraine is not going to surrender. They've demonstrated that they are in this until they win. And frankly, the Ukrainians have put out their own set of points. They have a what they call the 10-Point Peace Formula, that they've been talking about with the international community over the past six or seven months. And they have a vision of what peace would look like. And again, when the Russians stop their attacks, when the Russians are pulling back because the Ukrainians are pushing them back, the Russians may well come to the table. At which point, the Ukrainian 10-Point Plan, Peace Formula, will have the kind of support that has been developing internationally over the last six months. And that will be the time for diplomacy.

Laura Coates: You know, it's devastating to think about the idea of a delay in this, but who needs to come to the table in order to make that happen? And what role should the United States play in the possibility of diplomacy? And, frankly, I wonder if we're indeed welcome by both sides.

Ambassador William Taylor: Actually, I think we are welcomed by both sides. So, the Russians would rather negotiate with us then negotiate with Ukrainians. And that's a mistake. That's wrong, that won't happen. It has to be in the end, the essence of the negotiation will clearly be the Russians and the Ukrainians. However, there are issues that the United States will have some say about their issues, that NATO will have some say about, the Ukrainians would definitely like to have us at the table. So, I think we will play a role. The time for diplomacy will come. There's no doubt that in the end, when the Ukrainians have made progress militarily, then that will be the time for diplomacy. I think the Americans will be there. I think the Russians will be happy to have us.

Laura Coates: Do you think there has been an impact on the morale or the relationship between Ukraine and the United States given the delays on Capitol Hill to get this funding?

Ambassador William Taylor: Yes, and yes, I think there was real concern. I've been to Ukraine seven times since the big war started in February 2022. And I saw over time the concern, in particular over the past six months, on the part of many Ukrainian soldiers, civilians, government officials, worried that the support, that the weapons were delayed, and they weren't coming. And they were worried, Ukrainians were worried about this, and it affected their morale, no doubt. And last week, the morale shot up when the Congress passed and the President signed this bill, it was immediate. I talked to my friends on the front line, I talked to my friends in the government, I talked to my friends in the private sector in Ukraine, and the morale was amazingly, on the way up. There was a boost in morale, the Americans are there, the Europeans will be there. So, this gave them a big boost. They still have a hard time. Let's be clear. They have to get a lot of soldiers into the army. This assistance is not yet there. It's probably just barely becoming apparent on the front lines. So, they've got a big job to do, but the morale is much higher than it was two weeks ago.

Laura Coates: Really important to get your perspective in particular, thank you so much for joining us today. I encourage everyone to read his latest piece for the USIP on Ukraine's New U.S. Lifeline, Why it's Vital, and What's Next. Ambassador Bill Taylor, thank you for joining us today. I appreciate it so much.

Ambassador William Taylor: Laura, thank you for having me very much.

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