Former High-Level US Officials Warn Time Is Not on Ukraine’s Side in the Conflict

Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates call for a 'dramatic' increase in military aid so Ukraine can make gains this year

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Saturday that “time is not on Ukraine’s side” as its economy is in shambles and the country is entirely reliant on foreign aid.

The former officials said Russian President Vladimir Putin believes “that he can wear down the Ukrainians and that US and European unity and support for Ukraine will eventually erode and fracture.” They said while Russia’s economy will “suffer as the war continues,” Russians “have endured far worse.”

Ukraine, on the other hand, they said, has an economy that’s “in shambles,” and the country is entirely reliant on aid from the US and its allies. “Millions of its people have fled, its infrastructure is being destroyed, and much of its mineral wealth, industrial capacity, and considerable agricultural land are under Russian control,” they wrote. 

Rice and Gates said that absent any major Ukrainian “breakthroughs,” the West will pressure Kyiv to negotiate a ceasefire. “Under current circumstances, any negotiated ceasefire would leave Russian forces in a strong position to resume their invasion whenever they are ready. That is unacceptable,” they said.

Their prescription to help Ukraine on the battlefield is a “dramatic” increase in Western military aid in the form of longer-range weapons and heavier equipment. “Congress has provided enough money to pay for such reinforcement; what is needed now are decisions by the United States and its allies to provide the Ukrainians the additional military equipment they need — above all, mobile armor,” they wrote.

Rice and Gates said that the US decision to send Bradley Fighting Vehicles is “commendable” but said heavier tanks need to be provided as well. “NATO members also should provide the Ukrainians with longer-range missiles, advanced drones, significant ammunition stocks (including artillery shells), more reconnaissance and surveillance capability, and other equipment. These capabilities are needed in weeks, not months,” they said.

While the two former officials recognize that “defeat is not an option” for Russia and Putin, they make no mention of the risk of nuclear escalation and imply the US must help Ukraine win at all costs. “We have a determined partner in Ukraine that is willing to bear the consequences of war so that we do not have to do so ourselves in the future,” they said.

The two officials claim that Russia wants to conquer all of Ukraine and imply it will move into NATO territory next, but they ignore the real motives for the war, which include NATO expansion and US support for Ukraine after the 2014 ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Gates previously recognized that NATO’s eastward expansion and attempts to absorb Ukraine might provoke Russia. In his memoir, published in 2014, Gates said, “trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO was truly overreaching” and added that it was “recklessly ignoring what the Russians considered their own vital national interests.”

Rice, who served as secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, was warned in 2008 by then-US Ambassador to Russia William Burns, who is currently the CIA director, that attempting to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO could lead to war in the region. Burns warned Rice in a memo that was later released by WikiLeaks that “Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin).”

Burns said that experts warned Russia was “particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.”

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.