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When the secretaries of Defense and State said publicly the U.S. wants Ukraine to win and weaken Russia, Biden said tone it down

U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that the trajectory of the war in Ukraine is untenable and are quietly discussing whether President Volodymyr Zelenskyy should temper his hard-line public position that no territory will ever be ceded to Russia as part of an agreement to end the war, according to seven current U.S. officials, former U.S. officials and European officials.

“He was not happy with the rhetoric,” said one official familiar with President Biden’s conference call with Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin.   NBC News June 16, 2022, NBC News, By Carol E. Lee, Courtney KubeKen Dilanian and Abigail Williams

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had taken off on separate flights from southeastern Poland after their risky, high-stakes visit to Kyiv when they were conferenced into a phone call from President Joe Biden

During their whirlwind April trip, Austin appeared to expand the U.S. goals in Ukraine, saying publicly that the administration wanted the Ukrainians to win the war against Russia, not just defend themselves, and that the U.S. hoped to weaken Russia to the extent that it could not launch another unprovoked invasion. Blinken had publicly aligned himself with the remarks. Now Biden wanted to discuss the mounting headlines that resulted.

Biden thought the secretaries had gone too far, according to multiple administration officials familiar with the call. On the previously unreported conference call, as Austin flew to Germany and Blinken to Washington, the president expressed concern that the comments could set unrealistic expectations and increase the risk of the U.S. getting into a direct conflict with Russia. He told them to tone it down, said the officials.

“Biden was not happy when Blinken and Austin talked about winning in Ukraine,” one of them said. “He was not happy with the rhetoric.”

The secretaries explained that Austin’s comments had been misconstrued, another senior administration official said. But the displeasure Biden initially conveyed during that phone call, the officials said, reflected his administration’s belief that despite Ukrainian forces’ unexpected successes early on, the war would ultimately head in the direction it is now in two months later: a protracted conflict in which Russia continues to make small and steady advances.

U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that the trajectory of the war in Ukraine is untenable and are quietly discussing whether President Volodymyr Zelenskyy should temper his hard-line public position that no territory will ever be ceded to Russia as part of an agreement to end the war, according to seven current U.S. officials, former U.S. officials and European officials.

Some officials want Zelenskyy to “dial it back a little bit,” as one of them put it, when it comes to telegraphing his red lines on ending the war. But the issue is fraught given that Biden is adamant about the U.S. not pressuring the Ukrainians to take steps one way or another. His administration’s position has been that any decision about how and on what terms to end the war is for Ukraine to decide.

“We are not pressuring them to make concessions, as some Europeans are. We would never ask them to cede territory,” one U.S. official said. “We are planning for a long war. We intend to prepare the American people for that, and we are prepared to ask Congress for more money.”

Biden announced a new $1 billion military aid package for Ukraine on Wednesday after speaking with Zelenskyy. Congress last month authorized an additional $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, which is expected to last until October. 

The National Security Council and the State Department declined to comment.

The Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The future of the war in Ukraine, including how it might end, is expected to be a key topic when world leaders gather in Europe next week for the NATO and G-7 summits.

European officials are more openly discussing their preference that Zelenskyy enter into negotiations with Russia and consider relinquishing some territory Russia has gained in its latest invasion. Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea.

On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said Zelenskyy must negotiate with Russia…………

many experts, as well as U.S. and European officials, believe Russian President Vladimir Putin will claim Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region as Russian territory once conquered in the coming months and declare victory, and Zelenskyy will have to negotiate.

Biden was asked on June 3 if he believes Ukraine will have to cede territory to achieve peace and he left open the possibility, saying he won’t tell the Ukrainians what to do………………

In April, Biden administration officials sounded more optimistic about Ukraine’s position in the war than they currently do…………………….

While White House officials are loath to be seen as pressuring Ukraine to agree to a deal with Russia that gives up some territory, there is growing concern that Zelenskyy’s public posture that there can be no deal unless all Russian troops leave Ukraine is unsustainable. Even if the Europeans lean more heavily into the notion of such a deal with Russia, which could get more pronounced as winter approaches, given Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas, administration officials said they intend to hold their ground on letting Ukraine decide its future………..https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/secretaries-defense-state-said-publicly-us-wanted-ukraine-win-biden-sa-rcna33826

June 18, 2022 - Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war

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