US President Joe Biden’s administration is “quietly preparing for the possibility” that Ukraine’s much-heralded offensive doesn’t deliver the “total victory” Kiev wanted, Politico reported on Monday, citing several anonymous officials.
While the US government’s public support for Ukraine is “unwavering,” officials have expressed fears in private that the White House could be caught in a crossfire of criticism should the attack fall short of expectations, the outlet said. The ‘hawks’ would claim the US and its allies had not given Ukraine enough weapons and ammunition, while the ‘doves’ would see it as proof that Kiev can’t win.
“If Ukraine can’t gain dramatically on the battlefield, the question inevitably arises as to whether it is time for a negotiated stop to the fighting,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told Politico. “It’s expensive, we’re running low on munitions, we’ve got other contingencies around the world to prepare for.”
One official, who requested anonymity, said the US had “surged” weapons and equipment to Ukraine and “nearly completed” all that Kiev had asked for. But behind closed doors, the US is “worried about what Ukraine can accomplish.”
The US military believes the conflict has bogged down in a trench war, with neither side able to advance very far or very fast. Politico originally reported that Ukraine had suffered 100,000 troops killed, but later changed that to refer to total casualties, including the wounded. The outlet also noted that Kiev’s forces have gone through “historic amounts of ammunition and weaponry,” and that “even the West’s prodigious output” has been unable to meet their needs.
The Pentagon now doubts that Ukraine can achieve its objective of reaching Crimea, though the US military still hopes it could “hamper” the Russian supply lines.
A negotiated truce would be sold to both the Western and Ukrainian public as a temporary ceasefire, “leaving the door open for Ukraine to regain more of its territory at a future date,” some US officials told Politico. This has been done before, with the 2015 Minsk Agreement – according to recent admissions by the German and French leaders at the time – though the outlet did not bring that up.
US officials also proposed to sweeten the deal with “NATO-like security guarantees” to Kiev, more money from the EU, and even more weapons for the Ukrainian military, while “re-engaging China” to push Russia into negotiating.