Russia is sending a message that it's ready to fight in Ukraine, to borrow a phrase commonly used by Moscow's Western rivals, "for as long as it takes.''
Defense spending will make up nearly 30% of the Russian government's expenditures in 2024, more than doubling the figure from 2021, the year before the Kremlin invaded Ukraine.
Russia is apportioning $109 billion in rubles for defense, according to data from its Finance Ministry, or 29.4% of the total budget. Two years ago that allotment was 14.4% of total spending, and even in 2022 the share assigned to defense accounted for just 17.7%.
The share is up to 21.2% this year, as indications point to President Vladimir Putin gearing up for a war that lasts several years − or at least giving off that impression by leaking the figures. Russia plans to fund the increased military expenses by taking on more debt and expecting to collect higher oil and gas revenues, Reuters reported.
The British Defense Ministry said Russia can afford such a high level of military spending next year, "but only at the expense of the wider economy.” That may draw backlash from a public still largely shielded from the impacts of a “special military operation” that was supposed to be over in a matter of weeks.
"Full details on Russian defense spending are always classified,'' the British ministry said in a war update, "but these figures suggest that Russia is preparing for multiple further years of fighting in Ukraine. This follows public comments by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on (Thursday), suggesting he was prepared for the conflict to continue into 2025.''
Biden vows to support Ukraine: President makes pledge after shutdown bill drops aid
∎ German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, in Kyiv, said she envisions the EU will soon extend from "Lisbon to Luhansk," the Kyiv Independent reported. Luhansk is a regional capital in Ukraine's war-torn Donbas region.
∎ Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country will implement the seven recommendations the EU requires to start membership negotiations, and that admission into the bloc "is only a matter of time.''
∎ More than 500 children have been confirmed killed and 1,100-plus injured in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, the office of Ukraine's Prosecutor General said.
∎ The Ukrainian men's gymnastics team qualified for the Paris Olympics on Sunday, earning the last spot in the 12-team field championships after Russia, the reigning Olympic champion, was banned from the world championships.
It's only fitting Ukraine It's only fitting Ukraine gets something that would have belonged to Russia
EU says Ukraine support not fading; Biden to offer reassurance
European Union foreign ministers gathered for a surprise meeting Monday in Kyiv to assuage concerns over cracks appearing in the West's wall of support for Ukraine. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was the first time such a meeting took place outside the bloc – and in a war zone.
Borrell called the EU's backing of Ukraine "unwavering" because Russian aggression represents "an existential threat for Europe.'' He also said the effort to accept Ukraine into the bloc was on track. "When we are together, we are stronger," Borell tweeted. "The EU is and remains Ukraine’s first supporter."
The ministers assembled amid indications support could be ebbing for Ukraine's effort to drive invading Russian troops out of the country. A U.S. stopgap measure to keep the government open passed with no money for Ukraine on Saturday, the same day a pro-Russian party claimed the most seats in Slovakia's parliamentary elections.
Moscow took notice. Western support for Ukraine will "fragment" as leaders and their electorates grow increasingly weary of the conflict while Kyiv lobbies for more weapons and ammunition, a Kremlin spokesman predicted Monday. But Dmitry Peskov described the American stopgap bill as a temporary setback for Ukraine, saying Moscow fully expects the U.S. to continue "direct involvement" in the war.
President Joe Biden intends to call allies, possibly by Tuesday, to confirm the U.S. continues to stand behind Ukraine, Bloomberg reported. Biden has hinted at a deal for Ukraine funding with congressional leaders and, according to CNN, said Monday during a Cabinet meeting: "We cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted. Too many lives are at stake, too many children, too many people."
Pentagon says it's down to final 6% of funds to replenish weapons
The U.S. military is down to the last 6% of the money it was assigned to replace weapons it sent to Ukraine, the Pentagon said in a letter to Congress, pointing out it has had to delay resupplying some troops.
Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord said in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press, that there is $1.6 billion left of the $25.9 billion Congress provided to replenish military stocks.
“We have already been forced to slow down the replenishment of our own forces to hedge against an uncertain funding future,” McCord said. “Failure to replenish our military services on a timely basis could harm our military’s readiness.”
McCord also called on lawmakers to continue funding Ukraine's war effort, warning that a failure to do so would prevent the Pentagon from supplying Ukraine weapons and equipment it will need to fend off a Russian offensive in the coming months.
Zelenskyy meets foreign ministers, urges 'essential' European leadership
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with the EU foreign ministers in Kyiv, saying the gathering "adds strength, leadership and initiative" to Europe's concerted support of his nation and government. Zelenskyy expressed his appreciation while lobbying for the EU to approve more than $52 billion for Ukraine for 2024-27, Ukraine Interfax reported.
"Active European leadership is essential," Zelenskyy tweeted. "The more joint and principled steps in defense, diplomacy, economy, and sanctions we take together, the sooner the war will end in just peace."
Ukrainian officials lobby Congress to keep aid flowing
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukrainian officials have held discussions with congressional Democrats and Republicans as they press for more aid. Kuleba said he believes the lack of funding in the stopgap U.S. bill was an isolated incident, not a precursor to a lack of U.S. support. And he had a warning for Russia, saying Moscow is making a mistake if it thinks it can "wait out" military aid for Ukraine.
"Ukraine will only get stronger, and Russian aggression will fail," Kuleba said on Twitter. "We are not just bringing weapons to Ukraine. We are ramping up domestic production and co-production with partners in NATO and beyond."
Ukrainian official shrugs off questions over US aid
Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said a shutdown of the U.S. government could have affected Ukrainian aid programs. The temporary budget won't affect the billions of dollars of financial assistance already pledged by lawmakers in Washington, he said.
“Support for Ukraine remains unwaveringly strong both in the U.S. administration, in both parties, in the houses of the U.S. Congress and most importantly, among the American people,” Nikolenko said.
Ukrainian parliament member Oleksiy Goncharenko said Ukraine must "speak the language of money with the U.S." The Kyiv government must clearly explain to U.S. taxpayers what they would get from a Ukraine victory, he said.
“We need to change strategy. We need to act differently," he said. "Let’s fix this situation. We cannot lose.”
Russia may be testing nuclear-powered cruise missile
Russia may have recently tested or may be preparing to test an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile that could travel thousands of miles, The New York Times reports. Activity at a base in Russia’s remote Arctic region is "consistent with preparations" that were made for tests of other missiles in 2017 and 2018, satellite imagery and aviation data indicate. U.S. surveillance planes have been in the area in recent weeks, and aviation alerts diverting pilots from nearby airspace have been issued, The Times said.
Russia held at least 13 tests from 2017 to 2019 without success, and one test caused a crash that resulted in seven deaths, The Times reported.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine war live updates: Russia ready for conflict to last into 2025