“The Ukrainians are losing thousands of people because they don’t have enough ammunition…political game in Washington, it’s an election year…thousands of people are dying because of this.”
“The Russian military has broken the stalemate in the Ukraine war, Robert Gates, former CIA director and secretary of Defense, said Wednesday, following Moscow’s successful push to take the front-line city of Avdiivka.
“It’s no longer a stalemate. The Russians have regained momentum,” Gates told The Washington Post’s David Ignatius in a streaming interview. “Everything I’m reading is that the Russians are on the offensive along the 600-mile front.”
Russia has suffered staggering losses in the war, he noted, but with Ukraine now confronting artillery shortages due to flagging U.S. support, “the Russians are feeling that the tides have turned, and while there is much to be done, the initiative has passed to them,” Gates said.
“They have more and more supplies coming in — I’ve read that for every artillery shell fired by Ukrainian forces, the Russians fire 10,” he added.
Russian officials announced Monday that its forces finalized their capture of the key Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after taking full control of the city’s large coke plant. The costly operation marked Russia’s first major victory in months, and its most significant gain since taking nearby Bakhmut last spring.
President Biden pinned the blame for Ukraine battlefield losses directly on House Republicans, who have refused to back additional aid to Kyiv without major immigration reform.
Gates noted that European allies in NATO, “who we so often criticize,” have stepped up their support to Ukraine, but lack the ability to immediately send weapons. Production timelines will see NATO support reach the battlefield in 2025, he estimated.
Right now, “the only real military lifeline comes from the United States. And as we all know, that is, shall we say, on pause right now,” he said.
Aid to Ukraine still lingers in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is caught between moderates who support Ukraine and far-right members who oppose it without major concessions from Democrats on the border.”
“As Russia’s ground forces pushed to capture Avdiivka, its air force appeared to establish air superiority over the war-torn town, clearing the way for critical close-air-support missions, conflict analysts assessed.
Although only temporary and localized, it appears to be the first time Russia has taken control of the skies in a front-line area since their full-scale invasion began almost two years ago. And if it continues or expands, a real possibility as Ukrainian air defenses are under significant stress, it could be “devastating,” war experts said.
On Saturday, Russia claimed victory in Avdiivka, a Ukrainian town northeast of occupied Donetsk. Despite it being hailed as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s biggest victory since the fall of Bakhmut in May 2023 — and a timely one given the upcoming Russian presidential elections next month — it came at a high cost. Moscow has suffered severe losses of both troops and equipment since focusing its forces on Avdiivka last fall.
Confirming its retreat from the area, Ukraine said it was saving troops from being fully surrounded by Russian troops. Over the past few months, geolocated footage of the area had shown Russia slowly and painstakingly advancing to encircle Ukrainian defenders fighting to hold the town.
Upon Russia’s capture of the town, reports said its air forces had been operating in the skies above Avdiivka, supporting ground troops in the last days of the offensive operations and eventually allowing them to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses.
According to The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington DC-based think tank, this was likely the first time Russian forces had been able to do so in Ukraine. Air defenses, particularly ground-based surface-to-air missile systems, have prevented either side from achieving this key element of offensive operations, even locally.
Over the final days of fighting, the Ukrainians reported an increase in the number of Russian glide bombs dropped by fixed-wing aircraft, George Barros, the geospatial-intelligence team lead and a Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider. This activity appears to indicate the employment of a combined arms tactic involving having air forces support maneuver elements on the ground.”
“Ukraine’s air defenses have largely denied Russia air superiority, preventing its jets and aircraft from conducting significant air campaigns since the beginning of the war.
It is unclear if Ukraine can continue to do that, especially considering delays in further Western security aid. Ukraine has said its air defenses and missile stockpiles are running critically low, forcing them to ration and make tough choices on which front-line areas should be prioritized and protected.”
“The governors and Abbott claim that states have a “right of self-defense” under Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution (which guarantees that the federal government will “protect each [state] against Invasion”) and Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3 (which allows states to “engage in War” if “actually invaded,” which Abbott says gives Texas the “constitutional authority to defend and protect itself”).
This argument misunderstands the long-established legal and practical definitions of an “invasion.” It also misconstrues the nature of unauthorized migration.
James Madison and other drafters of the Constitution, Abbott argued, “foresaw that States should not be left to the mercy of a lawless president who does nothing to stop external threats like cartels smuggling millions of illegal immigrants across the border.” But “those who cite Madison in support of equating immigration and invasion ignore the one time he directly addressed this very question,” writes the George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy, a group blog hosted by Reason. Madison did so in “the Report of 1800, which rebutted claims that the Alien Friends Act of 1798 (which gave the president broad power to expel non-citizens) was authorized by the Invasion Clause.”
“Invasion is an operation of war,” declared Madison. “To protect against invasion is an exercise of the power of war. A power therefore not incident to war, cannot be incident to a particular modification of war. And as the removal of alien friends has appeared to be no incident to a general state of war, it cannot be incident to a partial state, or a particular modification of war.”
“Every court that has reviewed the question” of what qualifies as an invasion has interpreted it as “an ‘armed hostility from another political entity,'” wrote the Cato Institute’s David J. Bier for Reason in 2021. In 1996, California made the same argument as Abbott, saying that the federal government had failed to protect it against an “invasion” of “illegal aliens.” But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected that: “Even if the issue were properly within the Court’s constitutional responsibility, there are no manageable standards to ascertain whether or when an influx of illegal immigrants should be said to constitute an invasion.” Besides, the 9th Circuit said, California ignored Madison’s conclusion in Federalist No. 43 that the Invasion Clause affords “protection in situations wherein a state is exposed to armed hostility from another political entity.”
This is where Abbott runs into another issue: Undocumented immigrants bear little resemblance to an invading foreign army. Despite the constant invocations of “military-age” men crossing the border (the fearmonger’s favorite way of saying “young men”), there has also been a historic influx of migrant families. Large groups of border crossers marching through the Sonoran Desert or trudging across the Rio Grande may make good footage for media outlets intent on fearmongering, but the overwhelming majority are coming here for economic or humanitarian reasons, not to commit crimes or sow chaos.”
“By and large, people are happy to go through the legal immigration process if the steps are clear and accessible—but right now, they tend not to be. It’s up to Congress to pass immigration reforms that recognize these realities. Abbott’s misrepresentation of the Constitution does nothing to help.”
““If someone is running for president and is trying to actively undermine governance, that’s bad,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., told USA TODAY. “Is it really better to have 10,000 people crossing a day illegally or 5,000? Clearly it’s 5,000. So somebody who is trying to defeat legislation, all in the name of running for office? That is irresponsible.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., acknowledged the new political challenges of linking Ukraine aid to border policy in the closed-door meeting Wednesday, according to reporting by Punchbowl. “We don’t want to do anything to undermine” Trump, McConnell reportedly said. “We’re in a quandary.””