Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
March 13, 2023
Without US-Ukraine unity, there would be no Ukraine war. But after more than one year of bitter fighting in Ukraine, the unity suffers “little fissures” is not surprising at all. This is a typical proxy war where the west led by the US supply Ukraine with almost limitless military equipment and full financial support: but the human meat grinding in Ukraine is limited to Ukrainians and Russians. As such, Ukraine maintains the control of her military force and strategy.
Now differences of some key issues including “war aims, and potential flashpoints loom on how, and when, the conflict will end” emerge between the Biden Administration and Ukraine government. It is probably too late to debate the war aims, but how and when the war will end certainly is a major hot potato. It is unfortunate that the Ukraine war becomes personified to three key players: Putin, Biden, and Zelenskyy. The media has successfully portrayed Putin as a classical villain, Zelenskyy as the hero or victim, and Biden as the modern White Knight. But the Ukraine war is a tragedy with huge causalities and the livings in Ukraine are suffering badly.
Zelenskyy has been effective as the leader and speaker for Ukraine around the world. We do not have much understanding how the Ukrainians’ true feelings about the war, we also do not know how much support Zelenskyy enjoys by his own people. Biden, on the other hand, cannot speak for the US entirely. So, the “little fissures” only represents the cracks between the Biden Administration and Zelenskyy. The “fissures” between the US and Ukraine on this war are much deeper and wider.
The world’s views of the war are much more diversified than the fissures. EU and Britain followed the US lead for supporting Ukraine and sanctioned Russia. But the war induced energy shortage has caused the regions severe economic retreats and loss of global competitiveness. China and India have benefitted from low cost Russian fossil energy sanctioned by the West. But China and India are under the watchful eyes of the US for not to support Russia. The global economy is fragile with risks that hurt every nation.
The US bipartisan “confrontations” in the US on Ukraine war will explode as the 2024 general election approaches. Republican hopefuls are already sounding off heavy attacks on Biden’s unlimited supports to the war as well as the stalemate on the battle ground. Biden will have to show the world and his supporters that he is a real global leader who can start and close a war, before the 2024 general election, with reasonable cost and time. Zelenskyy must show the world and Ukraine under his leadership can “walk the talk” about taking back all the territories lost to Putin. For Putin, he only has to survive longer than either Biden or Zelenskyy.
The central issue of concerns is how and when the Ukraine war will come to an end! Unfortunately, none of the three major players have any good ideas. If so, the only hope for ending the war is with new leaders.
‘Little fissures’: The U.S.-Ukraine war unity is slowly cracking apart
Jonathan Lemire and Alexander Ward
Sun, March 12, 2023 at 4:00 AM PDT
The United States and Ukraine have largely been in lockstep since President Joe Biden’s administration pledged support for “as long as it takes” in resisting Moscow’s relentless invasion.
But more than a year into the war, there are growing differences behind the scenes between Washington and Kyiv on war aims, and potential flashpoints loom on how, and when, the conflict will end.
“The administration doesn’t have a clear policy objective and a clear goal. Is it to drag this thing out, which is precisely what Vladimir Putin wants?” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Is it to just give them enough to survive and not to win? I don’t see a policy for victory right now, and if we don’t have that, then what are we doing?”
Publicly, there has been little separation between Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, an alliance on full display last month when the American president made his covert, dramatic visit to Kyiv. But based on conversations with 10 officials, lawmakers and experts, new points of tension are emerging: The sabotage of a natural gas pipeline on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean; the brutal, draining defense of a strategically unimportant Ukrainian city; and a plan to fight for a region where Russian forces have been entrenched for nearly a decade.
Senior administration officials maintain that unity between Washington and Kyiv is tight. But the fractures that have appeared are making it harder to credibly claim there’s little daylight between the U.S. and Ukraine as sunbeams streak through the cracks.
For nine months, Russia has laid siege to Bakhmut, though capturing the southeastern Ukrainian city would do little to alter the trajectory of the war. It has become the focal point of the fight in recent weeks, with troops and prisoners from the mercenary Wagner Group leading the combat against Ukrainian forces. Both sides have suffered heavy losses and reduced the city to smoldering ruins.
Ukraine has dug in, refusing to abandon the ruined city even at tremendous cost.
Multiple administration officials have begun worrying that Ukraine is expending so much manpower and ammunition in Bakhmut that it could sap their ability to mount a major counteroffensive in the spring.
Kyiv, for now, has ignored Washington’s input.
Meanwhile, an assessment by U.S. intelligence suggested that a “pro-Ukraine group” was responsible for the destruction of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines last fall, shedding light on a great mystery.
Intelligence analysts do not believe Zelenskyy or his aides were involved in the sabotage, but the Biden administration has signaled to Kyiv — much like it did when a car bomb in Moscow killed the daughter of a prominent Russian nationalist last year — that certain acts of violence outside of Ukraine’s borders will not be tolerated.
“I do think the administration is split, the National Security Council split” on what weapons to send to Ukraine, said McCaul, who’s in constant touch with senior Biden officials. “I talk to a lot of top military brass and they are, in large part, supportive of giving them the ATACMS.”
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the White House is “in constant communication with Ukraine as we support their defense of their sovereignty and territorial integrity.” She added that with Putin showing no signs of ceasing his war, “the best thing we can do is to continue to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield so they can be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table for when that time comes.”
But the growing disconnects may foreshadow a larger divide over the debate as to how the war will end.
Though Biden has pledged steadfast support, and the coffers remain open for now, the U.S. has been clear with Kyiv that it cannot fund Ukraine indefinitely at this level. Though backing Ukraine has largely been a bipartisan effort, a small but growing number of Republicans have begun to voice skepticism about the use of American treasure to support Kyiv without an end in sight to a distant war.
Among those who have expressed doubt about support for the long haul is House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has said that the U.S. would not offer a “blank check” to Ukraine and rejected Zelenskyy’s invitation to travel to Kyiv and learn about the realities of war.
“There is always some friction built in,” said Kurt Volker, a special presidential envoy for Ukraine during the Trump administration. “
“I see the little fissures, but those have existed with points of disagreement and varied views between the U.S. and Ukraine even before the big February invasion, and since then,” said Shelby Magid, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. “Zelenskyy has made pointed remarks before toward the U.S., and the White House has expressed disagreement with him — publicly and privately — on specific aspects, but that hasn’t shifted or eaten away at the overall U.S. support and partnership.”
Points of crisis still hover on the horizon. Zelenskyy’s insistence that all of Ukraine — including Crimea, which has been under Russian control since 2014 — be returned to Ukraine before any peace negotiations begin would only extend the war, U.S. officials believe. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has signaled to Kyiv that Ukraine’s potential recapture of Crimea would be a red line for Putin, possibly leading to a dramatic escalation from Moscow.
For now, Biden continued to stick to his refrain that the United States will leave all decisions about war and peace to Zelenskky. But whispers have begun across Washington as to how tenable that will be as the war grinds on — and another presidential election looms.
“There has never been a war in history without setbacks and challenges,” said Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), an Army veteran and HFAC member. “The question is not whether Ukrainians have setbacks, but how they respond and overcome them.
DeSantis Assails US Policy in Ukraine, Breaking With Much of GOP
Jennifer Jacobs and John Harney
Mon, March 13, 2023 at 8:31 PM PDT
(Bloomberg) — Ron DeSantis on Monday expressed strong misgivings over US support for Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion, breaking not only with the Biden administration but other prominent Republicans.
“The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges,” DeSantis added in the statement, which was confirmed by his spokeswoman.
“Without question, peace should be the objective,” he said. “The US should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders.”
“We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted,” DeSantis said in the statement.
The Memo: DeSantis joins Trump in pushing GOP toward skepticism on Ukraine
BY NIALL STANAGE – 03/14/23 6:14 PM ET
These Republicans have pushed back against DeSantis’s Ukraine comments
BY STEPHEN NEUKAM – 03/14/23 7:02 PM ET
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) this week waded into the debate over U.S. involvement in the war between Russia and Ukraine, saying further American entanglement in the war is not in the country’s “vital national interests.”
Here are the Republicans who have responded negatively to DeSantis on his Ukraine-Russia comments.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)
Former Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)