Over one year since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, there are growing differences between Washington and Kyiv on how to move forward in the conflict, POLITICO reported Sunday.
One issue is over Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city where Russian and Ukrainian forces have been locked in battle for over eight months. Biden administration officials think Ukraine has expended too many resources defending Bakhmut and worry it will impact their ability to launch a counteroffensive this spring, but officials in Kyiv have decided to keep fighting for the city.
Another point of contention is over Crimea as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky insists they will retake the peninsula, which has been under Russian control since 2014 and is populated by people who are happy to be part of the Russian Federation.
While some Biden administration officials have vowed support for Ukrainian attacks on Crimea, the POLITICO report said other US officials believe Zelensky’s insistence that there will be no peace talks until the peninsula is taken will only prolong the war. But publicly, President Biden and other US officials maintain that negotiations will only happen under Kyiv’s terms.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also acknowledged the risk of escalation that would come with a Ukrainian attempt on Crimea, calling it a “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Pentagon has said it’s unlikely Kyiv can take the peninsula.
The US also appears to be tired of Zelensky’s constant demands for weapons. Two White House officials told POLITICO that there are “grumblings” in Washington over Zelesnky’s constant requests and lack of gratitude. Despite the massive amount of support provided by the US and its allies, Ukrainian officials have frequently said that it’s “not enough” and are demanding fighter jets and longer-range missiles.
The POLITICO report mentioned the Nord Stream sabotage and how US officials are now linking the attack to Ukraine while insisting the Ukrainian government was not involved. But the vague claims are likely an attempt to shift blame from the US following the bombshell report from investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that alleged President Biden ordered the bombing of the pipelines.
Publicly, Biden still maintains he will support Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” but there are other signs that the US is thinking about winding down its support. CIA Director William Burns visited Kyiv in January and told Zelensky that Congress might not pass any more massive aid packages for the war. Ukrainian officials are concerned that the administration might use Congress as an excuse to scale down assistance.