The US and the EU have abandoned their objective of “total victory” of Ukraine over Russia in favor of a negotiated settlement that might cede some territory to Moscow, Politico reported on Wednesday citing several anonymous insiders.
Publicly, both the White House and the Pentagon insist there has been no official change in policy. Two unnamed US administration officials – including a White House spokesman – and an European diplomat have told Politico’s Michael Hirsh otherwise.
American and European officials are now “discussing the redeployment” of Ukrainian troops away from the “mostly failed” counteroffensive and into a defensive posture, according to Hirsh’s sources.
Hirsh also highlighted that US President Joe Biden used to promise to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” but is now saying “as long as we can” instead. With the additional aid funding stuck in Congress, the US government is pushing for “rapidly resurrecting” Ukraine’s own military industry.
The anonymous White House spokesman told Politico that negotiations have always been the US endgame in Ukraine, and that all the aid to Kiev has been intended to give it “the strongest hand possible when that comes.”
According to Politico, Biden wants a ceasefire in both Ukraine and the Middle East, as his endorsement of Israel’s offensive in Gaza is “costing him support” among the progressive Democrats, and he wants to “avoid bad headlines in an election year.”
Biden “can’t appear to be handing the advantage” to Russia after spending almost two years proclaiming its full backing of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s objective of total victory, Hirsh noted.
The White House “can’t back down publicly because of the political risk” to Biden, said a congressional official described as familiar with the administration’s thinking, who acknowledged that discussions about peace talks “are starting.”
Last week, the New York Times reported that Moscow might be willing to accept a ceasefire freezing the current frontline. The Kremlin dismissed the story as “incorrect” while Kiev denounced the US newspaper of record as working for Russia.
What the White House fears now is that Russia may not be willing to negotiate until after the November 2024 election, while its forces might go on the offensive in the spring, according to Hirsh.