For months the Biden administration has been working on quietly preparing for the possibility that the ‘Ukraine Spring Offensive’, turned Summer Offensive, will fall short of expectations. Work is also being undertaken to prepare to mitigate foreign criticism of the US for ‘not doing enough’ to help Ukraine.
I could have written this in at least April of this year that one side will say that Ukraine’s advances would have worked if the administration had given Ukraine everything it asked for, namely longer-range missiles, fighter jets and more air defences. Administration officials also worry that they will be criticised for the claim that Ukraine’s shortcomings prove it cannot force Russia out of its territory completely.
All of this does not even account for the US allies in Europe who may see peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia as a more attractive option if Kyiv (Kiev) cannot prove victory is around the corner; which patently it is not.
This week the tally rose to $113billion dollars of Congress sanctioned military aid which has been made available with a further US$2bn just announced; at the same time as a mere US$700 for each entire family in Maui who have lost their homes following fires. This is just the published figure of course. The actual amount is likely to be a lot higher.
“We’ve clearly completed the requests of what (Ukraine) said they needed for the counter-offensive as we have surged weapons and equipment to Ukraine over some months” said one official who was granted anonymity to discuss sensitive internal considerations.
A US top secret assessment from early February this year stated that Ukraine would fall “well short” of its counter-offensive goals. More current American assessments are that Ukraine will make some progress in the south and east, but will not be able to repeat last year’s ‘success’; arguably caused by Russian forces withdrawing from an area they felt they could not defend or re-supply at that time. In fact US intelligence indicates that Ukraine simply does not have the ability to push Russian troops from where they are deeply entrenched, and a similar view exists about the battlefield situation elsewhere in Ukraine. “If the counter-offensive does not go well, the administration has only itself to blame for withholding certain types of arms and aid at the time when it was most needed” said Kurt Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine during the Trump Presidency. “European public support may wane over time as European energy and economic costs stay high” said Clementine Starling, a director and fellow of the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. She went on to say “a fracturing of transatlantic support is belief that Kyiv (Kiev) is willing to consider adjusting its goals, according to American officials, and a more modest aim might be easier to be sold as a win”.
The big issue is adjusting goals to what can be more easily sold as a ‘win’. There is a very real possibility that Russia may ultimately force an unconditional surrender. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people are dying and being injured with very little on the part of Ukraine to show for it.
“If Ukraine cannot gain dramatically on the battlefield, the question inevitably arises as to whether it is time for a negotiated stop to the fighting” said Richard Haas the long time President of the US Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s expensive, we’re running low on ammunition, we’ve got other contingencies around the world to prepare for” he added.
This has all been an arguable disaster of US foreign policy, which the UK and other European countries have gone along with. From 2008 when advisors persuaded President George W Bush to propose the idea of Ukraine joining NATO – the subject of a clear memo from Ambassador William Burns to DC warning of this being a serious red-line for Moscow – to the ‘on-site’ management of the coup in Kiev by Victoria Nuland in 2014 – whose recorded telephone call one month before the coup stating the US choices for a future Ukrainian cabinet – overthrew the democratically elected government of Ukraine. To say there has been no provocation of Russia is laughable. Crimea was occupied without a shot being fired because the Americans would have taken control of the Sevastopol naval base, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. The Obama administration actually put out to tender alterations to the base. The Russian speaking areas of eastern Ukraine were terrorised. Imagine the outcry in UK if the government in London sought to ban the Welsh language and Welsh culture!
The Ukrainian counter-offensive could be over in just a handful of weeks. As each day passes, Ukraine is less and less in a position to negotiate much from a position of anything other than weakness. I condemned the Russian incursion into Ukraine. I never thought the Americans would be so stupid to not pull-back. Zelensky had initialled a peace deal with Russia and then Boris Johnson was sent to mess it all up!