Biden wants to ease our allies’ fears that we are facing a long, destructive war with no defined ending point. He’s no more concerned about negotiations than Putin is, but maintaining appearances for our European allies is of paramount importance.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said on numerous occasions that Ukraine will never give up any land to achieve peace. “Ukrainians are not ready to give away their land, to accept that these territories belong to Russia. This is our land,” Zelensky told CNN in July.
And he told the BBC in August that the war in Ukraine began with Crimea and must end with its liberation. Russia will never give up Crimea. Ukraine is going to have to take it. It’s difficult to see that happening without NATO’s help.
Meanwhile, Russian losses are mounting and the temptation for Putin to go nuclear is increasing.
While U.S. officials share their Ukrainian counterparts’ assessment that Putin, for now, isn’t serious about negotiations, they acknowledge that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ban on talks with him has generated concern in parts of Europe, Africa and Latin America, where the war’s disruptive effects on the availability and cost of food and fuel are felt most sharply.
“Ukraine fatigue is a real thing for some of our partners,” said one U.S. official.
If American citizens knew the massive costs involved in rebuilding the war-torn nation — $350 billion and counting — and realized that, as usual, most of the cost of reconstruction will be born by the American taxpayer, I daresay we’d have our own version of “Ukraine fatigue” here in the states.
The upcoming midterm elections in the United States may bring to power a more skeptical Republican Party — one more willing to question the massive size of our commitment to a nation that will be making impossible demands for peace if negotiations ever start. The fact of the matter is, Ukraine is not a vital interest for the U.S. Recovering every square yard of territory taken by Russia is not worth fighting a nuclear war over. It’s not even worth sending American soldiers to fight such a war.
Zelensky is going to have to realize this. Right now, Biden has handed the Ukrainian president a blank check, and $40 billion tax dollars have been sent to save his hide. Yes, it’s important to demonstrate U.S. resolve to fight against aggression, and Putin’s appetite for territory must be checked. But giving Zelensky a free hand with no limits is stupid in any context. At some point, Biden is going to have to threaten to cut off aid unless Zelensky sits down with Putin to discuss an end to the war.
Veteran diplomat Alexander Vershbow, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia and deputy secretary general of NATO, said the United States could not afford to be completely “agnostic” about how and when the war is concluded, given the U.S. interest in ensuring European security and deterring further Kremlin aggression beyond Russia’s borders.
“If the conditions become more propitious for negotiations, I don’t think the administration is going to be passive,” Vershbow said. “But it is ultimately the Ukrainians doing the fighting, so we’ve got to be careful not to second-guess them.”
To hell with “second-guessing” Zelensky. Whatever country he’s going to have after the war is over will be entirely due to U.S. and NATO support for his defense. President Zelensky owes us. The least he can do to show his gratitude is stop fighting before the war consumes us all.