Ukraine may achieve greater success than Biden desires
The achievements of Ukraine’s daring offensive are for real, breathtaking, and the result of an extraordinary relationship with the United States government in Washington. However, success can put any relationship to the test, and it is possible that Ukraine’s achievements on the battlefield may, paradoxically, spark fresh tensions with the United States.
Both nations’ top authorities are currently ecstatic over a significant military achievement that was recently achieved. According to an article published in The New York Times, the Pentagon was heavily involved in the planning of the offensives in the east and southeast of Ukraine, conducting extensive war games in preparation for them and discouraging the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from making a riskier push toward Mariupol.
This accomplishment marks the pinnacle, so far, of a relationship that has progressed swiftly ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale assault in February.
The provision of financial assistance, information, and arms by the United States and other Western nations has reinforced the Ukrainian resistance and assisted Kyiv in inflicting sky-high casualties on Moscow’s soldiers, maybe tens of thousands killed in action. Because Ukraine has demonstrated that it is capable of use that assistance to liberate huge swaths of its land, it should be able to count on the ongoing support of the Western coalition even as the winter months approach.
It would be a mistake for anyone to believe that the United States government is providing assistance to Ukraine out of pure altruism or that it is frittering away the money that has been contributed to it by the people of the United States; on the contrary, this has been a very profitable transaction for Uncle Sam. The United States possesses the most effective instrument for thrashing and bogging down the Russian military, rendering it unable of pursuing aggression elsewhere, and maybe for giving Putin a defeat from which he will not quickly recover. This instrument is Ukraine.
According to Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, “We are paying another country to fight a horrible war on its own soil so that we won’t have to fight a worse one on the soil of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally.” Kagan made this statement to me. “We are paying another country to fight a horrible war on its own soil.”
A traditional patron-client relationship exists between the United States of America and Ukraine. Even when they are fighting the same adversary, relations between these parties are usually tense due to the fact that they have varying degrees of authority and diverse national interests.
The closer Ukraine gets to achieving victory in this battle, the more likely it is that these distinctions will become apparent.
The goals of the government led by Zelenskyy have been made abundantly plain. These objectives include the liberation of all Ukrainian land, including Crimea and other areas seized by Moscow in 2014, as well as the payment of reparations and the prosecution of Russian war criminals. The Ukrainian government gains more faith that it will be able to achieve its goals with each reclaimed square mile of territory.
There is a significant amount of moral justice in these requests, and in an ideal world, Washington would most definitely back them up. However, despite the fact that the administration of former Vice President Joe Biden of the United States refrained from picking a fight with Ukraine over its war objectives when the future of that nation was very much up in the air, it may still be hesitant to adopt Kyiv’s objectives as its own.
The team working for Biden may be concerned that if Ukraine goes too far and overextends itself, it might wind itself back in an expensive standstill that will devour US resources even as the risk of conflict with China looms.
Or, it’s possible that Putin may significantly intensify the conflict, going so far as to use tactical nuclear weapons in order to prevent the collapse of his army and the loss of Crimea, which he illegally asserts is part of Russia.
Wars against adversaries that appear to have been defeated can nonetheless turn ugly very fast, as the United States discovered in late 1950 when it attempted to liberate the entire Korean Peninsula but instead found itself in a larger and more hazardous fight with China. There is no doubt that the administration of Vice President Joe Biden is giving careful consideration to which objectives for the conflict in Ukraine are desirable and which are genuinely essential.
The latter group unquestionably contains a Ukraine that satisfies the criteria of being politically autonomous, economically robust, and militarily defendable. A result that leaves Putin so bruised and devoid of new advantages that no rational observer can imagine that aggression has paid off is another acceptable ending.
All of this requires Russia to be pushed back to the lines that were in place on February 24, if not further. However, in Biden’s opinion, neither the retaking of Crimea nor the prosecution of Putin and his cronies is necessary for this to happen.
It will take additional offensives to dislodge Russia from the territory that it has seized since February, so a discussion about whether or not to stop the war is not close at hand.
It’s possible that Zelenskyy may eventually show that he’s willing to barter away some demands in exchange for others. Or maybe there will be a collapse of the Russian military that Putin will accept with a stoic face.
In the event that this ideal scenario does not play out, however, the upcoming months may bring about some challenging discussions between the United States and Ukraine regarding how much Kyiv should seek in a peace deal with Moscow. Additionally, there may be some quiet consideration in Washington regarding whether or not to try to restrain Zelenskyy if he pushes for more than Biden believes is prudent.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the United States, through one of its proxies, failed to meet expectations. Dwight Eisenhower, a former president of the United States, was finally successful in convincing Syngman Rhee, the leader of South Korea, to accept a peace agreement that included a divided peninsula. In 1990, Washington effectively compelled the Sandinista enemies of the Nicaraguan contras to accept a peace accord that resulted in the contras disarming while the Sandinistas maintained control of the Nicaraguan government and military.
The conflict between the free world and Russia is currently being fought by Ukraine. That does not automatically mean that it will receive everything that it deserves.