Zelensky Lowers Military Conscription Age in Ukraine

Happy Thursday! We hope your day will be better than the Swiss government ministers who had to give up their free, government-issued annual ski passes under pressure from the social media hordes. Ah, vox populi, vox dei.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories 

  • Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz—a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet and leader of National Unity, a coalition of opposition parties—on Wednesday called for early parliamentary elections to be held in September. “What Israel needs is quiet in the ballot box, not flames in the streets,” Gantz said. If the current schedule remained intact, the next Israeli elections would fall in October 2026, though Israel has held five elections since 2018. Large-scale demonstrations continued across Israel on Wednesday with protestors pushing for elections and demanding the return of hostages held by Hamas.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced Wednesday that NATO members are exploring plans for the alliance to take the lead on coordinating and providing aid to Ukraine—a role the U.S. played during the first two years of the war through an informal coalition known as the Ramstein Group. “We must ensure reliable and predictable security assistance to Ukraine for the long haul,” Stoltenberg said. However, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby suggested Wednesday that the U.S. isn’t prepared to cede its leadership role. “[The Ramstein Group] is bigger than NATO,” he told reporters. “It’s 50-some-odd nations all around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific—and what brought them together was American leadership.” 
  • Georgian Dream, the ruling party of the South Caucasus country of Georgia, announced a renewed plan to pass a controversial “foreign agent” security law that would require civil society organizations that take money from overseas to register as operating on behalf of foreign interests. Georgian Dream lawmakers first introduced the law last March, sparking large protests for its close resemblance to a Russian law passed in 2012 used to stifle dissent.
  • The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York over hush-money payments to a porn star in 2016 denied Trump’s request to delay the start of the trial, currently set for April 15. Trump’s legal team had argued the trial ought to wait until the Supreme Court ruled on his claims that the presidency granted him certain immunity from prosecution, but Judge Juan Merchan rejected the appeals, arguing Trump’s attorneys had waited too long to raise their concerns.

Ukraine Battles On

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a joint press conference in Kyiv with Finland's president, Alexander Stubb, on April 3, 2024. (Photo by Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a joint press conference in Kyiv with Finland's president, Alexander Stubb, on April 3, 2024. (Photo by Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With the war in Ukraine now in its third year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has collected some hard-earned wisdom. “If you are not taking steps forward to prepare another counteroffensive, Russia will take them,” he told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius last week. “That’s what we learned in this war: If you don’t do it, Russia will do it.”

In that spirit, Ukrainian political and military officials are trying to reclaim the upper hand on the battlefield even as stalled U.S. support makes the Ukrainian lines increasingly vulnerable. Earlier this week, Zelensky signed a new and controversial conscription law—which went into effect Wednesday—that could expand the base of men eligible for the draft and potentially relieve exhausted frontline troops. Though it seems increasingly likely that the House of Representatives could pass a much-needed aid package for the besieged country in the next month, as ever in this war, there is no panacea.  Meanwhile, Kyiv’s forces are striking deep into Russian territory—despite the U.S. government’s concerns—in an attempt to hobble the Russian war machine.

The first three months of the year have been marked by Russian advances that put Ukrainian forces on the back foot. The fall of the town of Avdiivka in February was emblematic of the compounding problems Ukraine is facing: Expending valuable and already-scant ammunition to repel Russian troops sent in as cannon fodder, exhausted and overrun Ukrainian troops—some of whom hadn’t left the front in two years for lack of manpower—had no choice but to retreat. It was Ukraine’s most significant loss in nearly a year. Elsewhere in Ukraine, the story isn’t quite so dramatic, but it’s nevertheless bleak. “Since February, it’s fair to say that the Russians have been making slow but steady advances,” Dalibor Roháč, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who studies Central and Eastern Europe, told TMD. “Ukrainians have been able to slow the Russians down but not hold them all together.” 

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