Kiev urgently needs a new US aid package or it will likely break under Russian pressure, William Burns says FILE PHOTO: CIA Director William Burns. © Kevin Dietsch / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Ukrainian defenses could completely collapse under a Russian onslaught as early as this year unless the US approves a new aid package for Kiev, CIA Director William Burns has said. His comments come after US House Speaker Mike Johnson announced that the chamber would vote on the long-delayed measure later this week.

Speaking at the Bush Center’s 2024 Forum on Leadership on Thursday, Burns stressed the urgency of the US approving a $61 billion security aid package for Ukraine. The bill has been held up for months in Congress due to Republican opposition demanding more efforts to enhance security on the Mexican border.

In light of this, Burns urged lawmakers to break the gridlock on aid as soon as possible. “With the boost that would come from military assistance both practically and psychologically, the Ukrainians are entirely capable of holding their own through 2024 and puncturing [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s arrogant view that time is on his side,” he claimed.

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However, Ukraine will face extreme difficulty if it’s left out in the cold by the West, the CIA chief insisted. In his view, “there is a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024” or at least put Moscow in a position where it could “dictate the terms of a political settlement.”

The CIA director also argued that failure to support Kiev would have ramifications that would echo well beyond Europe. Burns believes that a powerful Western campaign to aid Ukraine had convinced China to tread lightly when it comes to its regional ambitions. “The surest way to undo that impact is for us to be seen to be walking away from the Ukrainians right now,” he added.

Ukrainian officials have for months complained about acute ammunition shortages, while their US counterparts estimated earlier this month that Kiev was being “outshot” by Russia at a ratio of five to one. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has also warned that Kiev would “lose the war” unless US aid comes through.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson released a $95 billion foreign aid package earlier this week, $61 billion of which is earmarked for Ukraine despite fiery flak from some of his fellow GOP party members. It did not take Biden long to emphatically endorse the bill.

Russia has consistently denounced Western arms shipments to Ukraine, warning they are only prolonging the conflict. It has also argued that the deliveries make the West a direct participant in the hostilities.