Biden Gives Booster Dose to the Faltering Ukraine War
The prognosis of “war fatigue” on the part of the United States and its allies in the proxy war in Ukraine was greatly exaggerated. On the contrary, the war is acquiring a new swagger.
The Biden Administration is riding a tiger and a dismount is fraught with the danger of being devoured by the beastly consequences of defeat in the war, which could only lead to the discredit of trans-atlanticism and the disintegration of NATO, and spell the doom for US’ global hegemony.
Biden’s formal address to the nation from the Oval Office on Thursday can only be seen as the launch of a new phase of the Ukraine war carrying forward the demonising of Putin to a new level, Biden weaves together a new narrative claiming that Hamas and the Russian leader both want to “completely annihilate a neighbouring democracy — completely annihilate it.”
The bedrock of Biden’s argument was that resolute support of US allies is essential for preserving American primacy in the world. The main plot was that the hybrid war in Ukraine will continue so long as Biden remains in office in the White House. It has morphed into a “forever war”. Biden called Ukraine President Vladimir Zelensky before making his speech.
Analysts would have us believe that Europe is increasingly disenchanted with the war. But Poland, a major frontline state, has just voted to power a centrist government that is cause for celebration in Kiev (and Washington). In Britain too, a similar outcome is to be expected — only that it will be Tweedledum replacing Tweedledee, two rotund little men of the Deep State who are identical except that they are left-right reversals of each other.
Make no mistake that the Joint Statement after the US-EU summit in Washington on October 20 amounts to a resounding victory for the Biden Administration as the EU agreed with the US on “unwavering” military support to Ukraine; demand that Russia should “end its brutal war and withdraw its military forces and proxies and military equipment immediately, completely, and unconditionally from the entire internationally recognised territory of Ukraine”; the imperative of restoration of “internationally recognised borders” in any peace settlement; forcing Russia to “bear the legal consequences of all its internationally wrongful acts” against Ukraine; further deepening of “joint work to undermine Russia’s ability to wage its war, and maintain and expand its defence industrial base and capacity”, and so on.
There is no sign of a potential wobbling in the steadfastness of Europe’s military support to Ukraine, either. The most recent example is Sweden where, as in other Nordic countries and across the Baltic states, geographical proximity to Russia has heightened security fears, and there is little sign of any wavering.
Politico reported on Tuesday that Sweden’s Defense Minister Pål Jonson had instructed the country’s military leadership to examine the potential impact of providing various types of support to Ukraine’s fighter-jet capability, including Gripen planes. The military is to report back to Jonson by November 6. This followed announcements by Sweden’s European neighbours Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands that they planned to send Lockheed Martin F-16 jets to Kiev.
The expert opinion is that even a limited number of Gripen could meaningfully help Ukraine’s efforts to control its airspace, and is seen as relatively cheap and easy to maintain jet that can operate from shorter, narrower runways, including improvised landing strips on straight stretches of highways, thus reducing the risk of aircraft congregating at a larger base and being destroyed by a single enemy attack.
As for the US, now we know that the Biden Administration was dissimulating as regards the ATACMS missiles, whereas, it had already surreptitiously equipped Kiev’s forces with that system. Furthermore, encouraged by the success of Kiev’s devastating attack on the Russian-controlled airfield attacks in Beryansk and Luhansk on Tuesday by using ATACMS (which reportedly destroyed multiple Russian helicopters, an ammunition dump, and an air defence system), the Biden Administration is now considering supply of an advanced version of the missile that can fire twice (190 miles) as far as the ones Ukraine just received (100 miles only).
Certainly, there is no weakening of Biden’s resolve. In fact, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan brazenly disclosed on Friday in a special White House briefing that Washington has “contracted for certain types of weapons systems that have yet to be delivered because they’re still in production.” Plainly out, the Biden Administration considers it possible to hand over weapons and military vehicles to Ukraine that have never been shipped before.
“The President has the discretion based on circumstances of the conflict, the situation on the ground, consultations with allies to make determinations about whether he will provide weapons systems to Ukraine that we have not previously provided,” Sullivan noted. He then went on to explain that the US has “contracted for certain types of weapons systems that have yet to be delivered because they’re still in production. We expect them to be delivered in the coming months.”
Yet another flawed assumption has been that within the US Congress, a groundswell of opinion is building that would make it increasingly difficult for the Biden Administration to get approval for military aid to Ukraine in an election year. But, as luck would have it, Biden, who is an immensely experienced politician in navigating challenging legislations, has found an ingenious way.
Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy put it nicely, “They’re intentionally combining the debates around Ukraine, Israel, & our border to ram through the $61BN for Ukraine that otherwise would have never passed.” According to White House documents, the request for the fiscal year 2024 proposes to allocate over $61.4 billion for Ukraine and over $14.3 billion for Israel.
Sullivan called the Biden administration’s latest budget request as coming “amid a global inflection point” following the Hamas attack on Israel “and as the people of Ukraine continue to fight every day for their freedom and independence against Russian brutality.” He turned the focus on Biden’s new narrative that “the outcome of these fights for democracy against terrorism and tyranny are vital to the safety and security of the American people.”
Who can say now that what happens in Ukraine, which is 10000 kms away, does not concern the United States? Biden began his speech on Thursday on a Churchillian note: “We’re facing an inflection point in history — one of those moments where the decisions we make today are going to determine the future for decades to come. That’s what I’d like to talk with you about tonight.”
He went on to say, “American leadership is what holds the world together. American alliances are what keep us, America, safe. American values are what make us a partner that other nations want to work with. To put all that at risk if we walk away from Ukraine, if we turn our backs on Israel, it’s just not worth it.”
So, Ukraine war is no longer about the Westphalian principle of national sovereignty and the UN Charter — or even about this being not an era of wars. It is actually about American leadership, American alliances, American values — plainly put, hegemony, NATO, exceptionalism.
MK Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. The views are personal.
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