The Biden administration lacks a Ukraine strategy. Instead, it zigzags and improvises. Though it pretends otherwise, the White House seems almost entirely reactive vis-à-vis the Kremlin.
In May the administration received from Congress a $40 billion package for Ukraine. A few days ago, another billion was thrown in.
Let’s retrace Joe Biden’s moves on the Ukrainian crisis. First, the American president used as propaganda the intelligence about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military deployment of up to 200,000 troops along the Ukrainian border.
It seems that in Biden’s mind, public venting about the imminence of a Russian invasion (despite Kiyv’s wishful thinking and denials) was supposed to have acted as a deterrent. It did not.
Conceivably, one could have postponed the invasion had Biden paid a state visit to Ukraine in mid-February and toured the border, shaking his finger at Putin. The Russians would not have dared to invade with the American president present in the targeted nation.
Instead, Biden removed U.S. military instructors and diplomats from the country. Putin must have read it as a signal from the US leadership of “Oh, well, nothing America can do here, so we may just as well leave to be safe.”
At that point Joe Biden and his team sat down to watch the invasion unfold. They were completely beholden to Putin — for the White House, like the Kremlin, believed that Ukraine would collapse in a few days.
As the invasion unfolded, there was no talk about any assistance, save for kind humanitarian gestures. There were further platitudes of peace, love, shock, sympathy, and solidarity for the besieged Ukrainian people.
Then to nearly everyone’s surprise, Kiyv held out. Ukrainian regular and irregular troops put up stiff resistance, and their president, Volodymir Zelenskyy, refused to be evacuated by the U.S. The Russians were thwarted in their initial thrust, sustaining heavy losses.
Washington was impressed. It reacted to these developments by pledging serious support.
Biden’s rhetoric changed accordingly. He boasted about aiming at a regime change in Moscow.
Was that supposed to have been our strategy? That most likely would have entailed a world war, given that no forces have as of yet emerged in Russia itself to overthrow Putin for us.
Let’s assume, then, that this was just empty talk. Soon, the White House changed its tune and denied that regime change was our strategic goal.
Coming to the rescue of this incoherence, the Department of Defense amplified its earlier message that the war in Ukraine served to weaken Russia. Thus, Washington seems to claim that our assistance is indispensable for the Ukrainian resistance to bleed the Russians.
Is that our strategy now? Do we still not expect a Ukrainian victory? Have we just settled for bloodshed?
To be sure, the Ukrainians are glad to fight the Russians but they hope to win. Without American arms and other support, it is clear that Kiyv will soon lose. It is also unclear, however, whether the Ukrainians can win even with American military supplies.
To deny the Russians their victory, the Ukrainian armed forces would have to destroy the enemy’s logistical system: ammunition dumps and energy terminals supplying the Muscovite troops which are located on the Russian side of the border. That entails an incursion into the Russian territory, which has already occurred.
Further, to regain freedom of maneuver, the Ukrainians must annihilate, or at least neutralize, Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Only then can Ukraine be supplied by sea and resume its exports, grain in particular.
Next, the Ukrainian troops would have to undertake an all out assault on Donetsk, Lukhansk, and Crimea to regain the territories lost in 2014-2015 war.
That is what Kiyv means by victory. Their chances are slim, but they want to fight to the end. Freedom ain’t free.
Reportedly, Joe Biden does not like it. Therefore he was also upset with the tough talk about his top officials during their visit in Kiyv. The U.S. president would also like Zelenskyy to pipe down.
All this incoherence should be clear to us. Biden has no strategy. He prays that Ukraine surrenders its territories to Russia, and Putin stops his war machine.
Perhaps he will or he won’t. One thing for sure: The Kremlin will restart it once again in five or 10 years.
Thus, the West should arm Ukraine and let them decide their own fate, even if it is helpless.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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