The ground under Zelensky’s feet is changing
Read and re-read US President Joe Biden’s speech statement Last Monday, Ukraine’s Independence Day, English poet John Keats’ immortal phrase is remembered, “Melodies heard are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.” Three things are striking.
Biden has repeatedly invoked the enduring nature of the United States’ relationship with the Ukrainian people. But throughout the statement, he never mentioned the Ukrainian government or the leadership of President Volodymyr Zelensky. An inadvertent omission?
Second, Biden has downplayed to the point of ignoring the intense U.S.-Ukrainian partnership at the state-to-state level. The kyiv regime is unthinkable without strong American support. Third, and most important, Biden has remained silent on the war itself, which is currently at a decisive stage.
As recently as August 18, twenty prominent American national security professionals urged the Biden administration to “produce a satisfying strategic narrative that allows governments to sustain public support for NATO’s long-term commitment… (and) to act more quickly and strategically, responding to Ukrainian demands for military systems. ‘weapons’.
But Biden carefully avoided all of that. Even when talking about the latest tranche of weapons for Ukraine worth $2.98 billion, Biden expressed hope that weapons systems could ensure Ukraine “can carry on.” to defend themselves”. long-term.” (Emphasis added.)
US analysts believe the $2.98 billion arms package is radically different in its dispensation mechanism. So, while military aid has hitherto been drawn from pre-existing stocks of US weapons and equipment, this time aid will be purchased or ordered from defense contractors.
John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, admitted to reporters that some of the aid from the latest package could be delivered more slowly than other parts of the package depending on current contractor stockpiles. defense. He said vaguely, “It will depend, quite frankly, on what element we’re talking about. Some things will probably still need production time to develop.
Indeed, the military-industrial complex might have more to celebrate in Biden’s announcement than Zelensky. The Biden administration is moving away from depleting current US stockpiles, as are European allies as well.
According Marc CancianSenior Advisor, International Security Program at CSIS, Biden’s latest $2.98 billion package “will support Ukraine’s military over the long term but will take months, if not years, to fully implement… Thus, this (package) will support the Ukrainian army in the long term.” term, probably post-war, rather than increasing its capabilities in the short or medium term…
“That means the ability of the United States to provide equipment quickly could diminish… The administration may soon have to ask Congress for more money. Although the bipartisan consensus in support of Ukraine remains strong, there could be a tussle with the progressive left and the isolationist right over the wisdom of sending money abroad when there is pressing need in the country. the country.
These are almost the same dilemmas facing the European allies of the United States. The prestigious German think tank, Kiel Institute for the World Economy reported last week: “The flow of new international support for Ukraine dried up in July. No major EU country such as Germany, France or Italy has made significant new commitments.
He said the European Commission is pushing for bigger and more regular aid packages to Ukraine, but the enthusiasm is lacking at member country level – “Major EU countries such as France, Spain or Italy have so far provided very little support or remain very opaque about their aid.
The decline in domestic support is the main factor. Even in Poland there is “refugee fatigue”. Inflation is the all-consuming concern of public opinion. The German magazine Spiegel has reported that Chancellor Olaf Scholz faces dissent within his own party from those who want Berlin to stop supplying arms to kyiv and instead want the chancellor to engage in dialogue with Russia.
On Thursday, Chancellor Scholz made an important point at a public event in Magdeburg that Berlin will not supply kyiv with weapons that could be used to attack Russia. Scholz explained that Berlin’s purpose in sending weapons is to “support Ukraine” and “prevent an escalation of the war into something very different.” He said he echoed Biden’s thinking.
Indeed, while on the one hand the United States continues to exert military pressure on Russia, hoping to break the resistance of its long-time strategic adversary, on the other hand, over the past two months Washington repeatedly signaled that it was not victory, but a final solution to the Ukrainian problem through peaceful negotiations.
As in Germany, there is also enormous anti-war pressure in the United States, particularly among the Democratic Party and the academic elite, as well as senior government officials and retired business leaders, calling on the administration stop making the situation worse. around Ukraine. if the Democrats lose the midterm elections, or if the Republicans come to power in 2024, then the war could take a fundamentally different turn. Over time, similar changes are very likely to occur in Europe as well.
Already, the steady decline in the intensity of the impact of European and American sanctions against Russia speaks for itself. The Economist, who is a vocal critic of the Kremlin, admitted this week that the expected knockout blow from anti-Russian restrictions “did not materialize”. The magazine wrote: “Energy sales will generate a current account surplus of $265 billion this year (for Russia), the second largest in the world after China. After a crisis, the Russian financial system has stabilized and the country is finding new suppliers for certain imports, including China.
On a dark note, The Economist wrote: “The unipolar moment of the 1990s, when America’s supremacy was unchallenged, is long gone, and the West’s appetite for using military force has waned since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. »
Again, internationally, support for Ukraine outside the Western bloc has dropped dramatically in recent months. Kyiv’s proposal on Wednesday to condemn Russia only garnered support from 58 of the UN’s 193 member states, while at the March 2 GA session 141 member countries voted for a resolution non-binding condemning Moscow.
Likewise, Zelensky’s Teflon coating peels off. His drug addiction is in public view. The regime is fragile, as shown by the wave of purges in the Ukrainian security establishment. According to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who recently met Zelensky in Lvov, the latter seemed insecure and unsure whether he was fully informed of the situation on the ground.
Nor does Zelensky’s erratic behavior appeal to him. Pope Francis is the latest figure to be reprimanded by kyiv – because the pontiff remarked that Darya Dugina was “innocent”. The Vatican ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to receive kyiv’s protest.
The German daily Handelsblatt wrote on Sunday that the “internal cohesion” of the Ukrainian government “is in danger. There are serious accusations against the president… At home, the Ukrainian president, celebrated abroad as a war hero, is under pressure… The comedian has become a warlord… The 44-year-old has until now knew how to rock and play. freely with his team made up in part of colleagues from his television production company. But the grace period now seems to have expired. The daily predicted an imminent political upheaval by winter.
Biden has carefully distanced himself from the kyiv regime and focused on people-to-people relations. Even if Americans know about the Byzantine corridors of power in kyiv, they cannot afford to be explicit like former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who predicted last week that Ukrainians the army can stage a coup and begin peace talks with Russia.
MK Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. It was Indian Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. Opinions are personal.