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Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum

626-376-7460

[email protected]

August 11, 2023

The year and half war in Ukraine are a classical proxy war but even as Zelensky owns the war, he should have realized before any shots were fired that Ukraine “cannot, by itself, decide its destiny!”

Now the war is like a ticking time bomb and some kind of closure must come soon.

  1. The Ukraine military has not delivered much, even the long-touted victory for “spring counteroffensive” has not materialized. It is not entirely the fault of the Ukraine military, rather it is a result of miscalculation of politicians. Zelensky does his best as a fund raiser, but the west holds the purse strings. Specifically, the US calls the shots on what weapons are desirable for the Ukraine, without the risk of a direct involvement of the US forces confronting the Russians in Ukraine.
  2. The US led west was expecting that with the so called “unprecedented” economic sanctions against Russia, should win the war quickly. But Russia survived, Putin is still in power while European economies are also in ruins. Next winter is only a few months away, the prospect of a repeating dark, cold, energy shortage winter in Europe is dreadful for many political leaders. If cease fire is not in sight, many European political leaders will face domestic election pressure soon.
  3. Then the US general election is closing in day by day. President Biden has announced his reelection bid, but barely drawing the same level of support as Trump. Biden can not have an ongoing Ukraine war as a baggage, because Biden has sunk billions of dollars to support Zelensky without much accountability or any tangible result. Bidenomics are not strong enough for Biden to win the reelection next year, unfortunately Biden’s foreign policy record is also weak.
  4. A cornerstone of Biden’s foreign policy is containing China. The challenge for Biden is that the Ukraine war has pushed a strong alliance of Russia with China. China has promoted a peace initiative for ending the Ukraine war. It appears that without China’s active participation the Ukraine war will not end soon. How Biden will be able to engage China and Russia productively, without alienate his political rivals at home will determine his chance of being reelected next year! But time is not on Biden’s side!

Why a stalled Ukrainian offensive could represent a huge political problem for Zelensky in the US

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Tue, August 8, 2023 at 10:18 PM PDT·8 min read

One of Ukraine’s greatest tragedies as it pursues a critical offensive that has, so far, failed to meet its own and Western expectations is that it cannot, by itself, decide its destiny.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government is dependent on a massive pipeline of US and western armaments. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose historical obsessions and personal power calculations thrust Ukraine into this horrific war, will also have a great say in if and when it ends. So, while battlefield sacrifices will decide how much seized territory Ukraine recovers, the outcome of the war will also be shaped by outside factors, including shifting political forces in the US, Moscow and European capitals.

A stalled offensive and a winter stalemate, for instance, would have particular ramifications in the United States since it could heighten questions over US support for the war that will be pushed into an acrimonious election year. Americans are braced for a potential clash between President Joe Biden, who revived the Western alliance and is Ukraine’s most critical outside supporter, and ex-President Donald Trump, a NATO skeptic who admires Putin and has pledged to end the war in 24 hours, likely on Putin’s terms. And even if Trump is not the GOP nominee in 2024, ebbing public support for the war could hurt Biden.

Therefore, for political, as well as strategic reasons, there is huge pressure on Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive this summer to produce significant battlefield breakthroughs. But so far, the push is more of a slog than a blitzkrieg, raising the possibility that the war could last at least deep into next year. If so, the elastic equation that underpins the entire conflict – involving Ukraine’s capacity to fight, Americans’ appetite for multi-billion dollar aid packages and Putin’s tolerance for horrendous casualties – will be even more taut.

Zelensky admits Ukraine is tired but says Russia is fearful

“The counteroffensive is difficult. It is happening probably slower than how some people may want or can see it,” Zelensky said in a meeting with Latin American media outlets, video of which was released on Tuesday. But calling for patience among allies, he vowed his forces would triumph over demoralized Russians: “There is fatigue in our eyes, but there is fear in their eyes. And these are two very different things.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, for instance, pointed out on CNN Tuesday that “many analysts believed Ukraine could not stop Russia at the beginning of this war,” and had been proven wrong by Kyiv’s forces. He said Ukraine was waging a vast offensive across an area equivalent to the distance between Washington and Boston and needed time.

US political outlook darkens for Ukraine

But does the West have the forbearance to give Ukraine the time it needs? A lack of big breakthroughs against Russia in the coming weeks will give Western policymakers little choice to consider the wider political context of the war, even if there is no end in sight.

Ultimately, the capacity of both Russia and Ukraine to sustain heavy battlefield losses will be critical in deciding the point at which either side might be open to a settlement – when the cost of continuing to fight might be outweighed by the rewards of ending it.

The moment when this scenario arrives may have a lot to do with the constancy or long-term fragility of US support, which is vital not just to arming Ukraine but to maintaining NATO unity and European resolve.

Whether or not he wins a second term, Biden’s legacy will be dominated by his role in responding to Russia’s invasion, in the most significant show of leadership of the West by a US president at least since George H.W. Bush at the end of the Cold War.

Any suggestion that Ukraine’s offensive has been bogged down will deepen that skepticism over a prolonged US commitment. While foreign policy is rarely a deciding factor in presidential elections and the war in Ukraine is not a dominant issue in the GOP primary, some party supporters in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire do raise it and question US generosity after months of high inflation, which, even if it’s cooling, has contributed to persistently dour views of the American economy.

A new CNN/SSRS poll last week reflected the political complexities in the US over the war, with 55% of voters now saying Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine. Some 51% said that the US has already done enough to help, while 48% say it should do more. Soon after the Russian invasion in February 2022, 62% said the US should do more to support Ukraine. Like almost everything else in the US, backing for the war effort is deeply polarized. The political dynamics in the House represent a rather precarious foundation for Ukraine’s vital US support, underscoring why a stalled offensive could represent a political disaster for Zelensky in the United States as well as a strategic loss for Ukraine at home.

Still, given ebbing US public support for the war, Biden could face a complicated task in explaining prolonged US support for Ukraine during another bloody summer as he runs for reelection next year. No US troops are fighting in the war, and the president has long opposed US involvement in overseas entanglements. He’s made avoiding a direct US clash with Russia a centerpiece of his strategy, but still, Trump sees an opening.

So when US voters decide their own futures in November 2024, there’s a good chance they will be playing a large role in sealing Ukraine’s fate as well.

White House wants Congress to spend six times more on Ukraine than border, fentanyl crisis in new request

Brandon Gillespie

Updated Fri, August 11, 2023 at 2:56 AM PDT

The Biden administration is requesting Congress spend six times more on supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia than on the border and fentanyl crisis plaguing the nation, according to a new emergency spending request submitted Thursday.

In the request sent to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Biden specifically called for $24 billion in aide to Ukraine, split between $13 billion for defense related spending, and $11 billion in economic and humanitarian assistance.

But Biden only requested $4 billion in spending on the border and immigration, as well as combating fentanyl flowing into the United States from foreign origins. The total combined amount of the request reached roughly $40 billion.

The additional spending request comes after Congress approved $48 billion in funding for Ukraine in December, prior to Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives.

Approval of the funding is expected to be an uphill battle in the House, where McCarthy has promised he would not bring a supplemental Ukraine funding bill to the floor. Many conservatives have been vocally opposed to giving Ukraine more money without more accountability.

The request also comes as mass illegal crossings have continued to surge on Texas’ border with Mexico, with all sectors either at overcapacity or about to hit the maximum number of immigrants they can hold.

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