With few options in Ukraine, the US and its allies are preparing for a long war

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The United States and its allies are preparing for a protracted conflict in Ukraine, officials said as the Biden administration tries to deny Russia victory by increasing military aid to Kyiv as it struggles to alleviate the destabilizing effects of Ukraine. the war on world hunger and the global economy.

President Biden’s announcement this week of an additional $ 1 billion in security aid for Ukraine, the largest piece of U.S. aid to date, provided the latest proof of Washington’s determination. to ensure that Ukraine can survive a punishing battle for the eastern Donbas region. European nations, such as Germany and Slovakia, presented their own shipments of advanced weapons, including helicopters and multi-launch rocket systems.

“We are here to dig our hopes,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin after convening dozens of nations in Brussels to pledge more support for Kyiv.

The decision to supply Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated weapons, such as anti-missile missiles and long-range mobile artillery, capable of destroying important military assets or attacking deep into Russia, reflects a growing desire in Western capitals to risk a unwanted climbing with Russia.

Support seems to have encouraged the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, who this week promised to retake all of Russia-controlled Ukraine, including areas annexed by Moscow long before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion on February 24th.

But analysts say that despite rising foreign aid and strong morale among Ukrainian troops, Kyiv and its supporters can expect little more than a stalemate with Russia’s much larger and better-armed army. Unlike Moscow’s failed attempt to seize the capital Kyiv, the Battle of the Donbas has been fought by Russian military forces, allowing it to use long-range artillery attacks to strike at Ukrainian positions. gradually expand its scope.

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Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who now heads the Chicago Global Affairs Council, said the battlefield impasse leaves the United States with a tough choice: or continue to help Ukraine to maintain a potentially bloody status quo, with its devastating global consequences. behavior; or stop support and allow Moscow to prevail.

“This would mean feeding Ukraine wolves,” Daalder said, referring to the withdrawal of support. “And no one is ready to do that.”

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe ongoing international deliberations, said Biden administration officials had discussed the possibility of a protracted conflict with global contagion effects. even before February, as U.S. intelligence suggested Putin was preparing to invade.

The Biden administration hopes that the new weapons, in addition to the successive waves of sanctions and Russia’s diplomatic isolation, will make a difference in a possible negotiated end to the war, potentially diminishing Putin’s willingness to continue fighting. said the official.

Even if this reality does not materialize immediately, officials have described the commitment to ensure that Russia does not engulf Ukraine, a result they believe could encourage Putin to invade other neighbors or even attack members of the NATO, as high as the administration is willing to do. endure even a global recession and growing hunger.

The war, which exacerbates the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, has plunged the world economy, which is now expected to suffer years of low growth, into a new crisis. It has also deepened a global food emergency, as the struggle pushes up commodity prices and paralyzes Ukraine’s grain exports, which normally feed hundreds of millions of people a year, pushing some 44 million people. closer to hunger, according to the World Food Program.

“While it is certainly a challenge, we are certainly not sucking it up, in terms of how to navigate these stormy waters, our guiding light is that the result that Russia can meet its maximalist demands is very bad for the United States, very bad for our partners and allies, and very bad for the global community, “said the State Department official.

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On Friday, Ukrainian forces tried to defend the shrinking areas under their control in Severodonetsk, a strategic city in Luhansk province that Pentagon officials expect to fall soon.

As a sign of how Western weapons have the potential to penetrate the West further into the war, a U.S. defense official confirmed Friday that a U.S.-made Harpoon anti-missile missile had struck a Russian tug at sea. Black. For the first time as part of Biden’s latest package of weapons, the United States has said it will provide Ukraine’s Harpoon mobile launchers.

The long-held ambition of Ukrainian leaders to integrate more into Europe came close to reality on Friday, when the European Commission recommended that Ukraine be an official candidate for the European Union. Zelensky praised what he called a “historic decision,” though it may take years to become a member.

“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “We want the European dream to live with us.”

Putin, attacking the West in a speech on Friday, said he had nothing against the idea of ​​Ukraine joining the EU, but also warned that “all the tasks of the special operation will be fulfilled,” such as the Kremlin. he calls the invasion, and said his country could use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty was threatened.

Underlining what Western nations say is a radically altered view of security, NATO leaders are expected to unveil new deployments in Eastern Europe at a summit in late June in Madrid.

Prior to this meeting, General Mark. A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has defended the need to stop Russia with harsh demands, equating the suffering of civilians in Ukraine with what Nazi Germany inflicted on Europe. But he also warned that while Moscow faces chronic problems in its offensive in Ukraine, such as leadership, morale and logistics, the figures “clearly favor the Russians” in eastern Ukraine.

The prospect of a negotiated conclusion seems far-fetched, as Putin does not seem discouraged, probably pursuing what analysts describe as a strategy to seize the entire Donbas region and offer a ceasefire that would freeze control of Russia. of this and other areas.

“My concern is that basically Russia on the one hand and the Ukrainians and their partners on the other are pursuing mutually incompatible goals,” said Samuel Charap, a Russian expert at RAND Corporation. “This leads the Russians to keep pushing harder and harder and us to give more and more.”

Many experts believe that the war is likely to escalate into a less intense conflict or a situation such as the Korean Peninsula, where North-South fighting stalled in a 1953 armistice without a formal end. to the war. A heavily militarized border developed between the two Koreas, with occasional eruptions, and is a scenario that some analysts predict could occur between Ukraine and parts of its territory controlled by Moscow.

“I don’t think Putin or Zelensky can continue at the current level of combat for years,” James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral and former NATO allied commander-in-chief, said in an email. “Certainly for a few months, but unlikely years.”

As the conflict progresses, it is provoking talks about what trade the United States may need in its larger foreign policy goals or in its massive military budget. The Senate Armed Services Committee, citing inflation and war in Ukraine, added $ 45 billion to the defense budget on Thursday, raising the likely bill to $ 847 billion for the next fiscal year.

Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the Center for a New American Security’s advocacy program in Washington, said the war also continues to consume the bandwidth of senior U.S. officials that could be spent on long-term planning and modernization. In the past, officials cited crises such as the multi-year war against the Islamic State as factors that delayed a planned shift to focus on China.

“We still have to deal with Ukraine because the situation is evolving and it is immediate, and we must give the assistance we can and find ways to support the Ukrainians,” he said. “But that means they don’t have the time and attention to move forward on other issues that are really important and the long-term changes that would be needed if the United States really wanted to focus its attention and focus on the Pacific.” .

The Biden administration has vowed not to pressure Kyiv to accept concessions to cement a resolution to the war. Officials point out that Zelensky, even if he were inclined to cede large parts of Ukrainian territory, could face a revolt by the Ukrainians if he accepted Moscow’s terms.

“It’s not our job to define these terms,” ​​Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday at a think tank event. “Our job is to give them the tools they need to put themselves in the strongest position possible.”

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