With few options in Ukraine, the US and its allies are preparing for a long war

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The United States and its allies are making preparations for a protracted conflict in Ukraine, officials said, as the Biden administration tries to deny Russia a victory by increasing military aid to Kyiv as it strives to mitigate the effects of the destabilizing war on world hunger and the global economy.

President Biden’s announcement this week An additional $1 billion in security assistance For Ukraine, the largest slice of US aid to date, it provided the latest evidence of Washington’s determination to ensure Ukraine survives a punitive battle for the eastern Donbass region. European countries, including Germany and Slovakia, have revealed their own shipments of advanced weapons, including helicopters and multiple launch missile systems.

“We’re here to explore our incentives,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said after dozens of countries met in Brussels to pledge greater support for Kiev.

The decision to provide Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated weapons such as anti-ship missiles and mobile long-range artillery — capable of destroying large military assets or striking deep within Russia — reflects a growing willingness in Western capitals to risk an unintended escalation with Russia.

The support appears to have emboldened the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, who this week vowed to take back all of Russia-controlled Ukraine, even the areas annexed by Moscow long before Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded on February 24.

But analysts say that despite increased foreign aid, and strong morale among Ukrainian forces, Kyiv and its backers can hope for little more than a stalemate with Russia’s larger and better-armed army. In contrast to Moscow’s unsuccessful attempt to capture the capital Kyiv, the Donbass battle played a role in strengthening the military power of Russia, which allowed it to use confrontation artillery strikes to bombard Ukrainian positions and gradually expand its range.

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Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO who now chairs the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said the stalemate on the battlefield leaves the US with a stark choice: either continue to help Ukraine maintain the potentially bloody status quo, with devastating global consequences that include; Or stop the support and let Moscow win.

“This means feeding the wolves in Ukraine,” Daalder said, referring to the withdrawal of support. “And no one is ready to do that.”

A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the ongoing international deliberations, said Biden administration officials had discussed the possibility of a long-running conflict with global repercussions even before February, as US intelligence indicated Putin was preparing for an invasion.

The official said the Biden administration hopes that the new weapons, combined with successive waves of sanctions and Russia’s diplomatic isolation, will make a difference in arriving at an eventual negotiated outcome of the war, potentially reducing Putin’s willingness to continue fighting.

Even if that fact is not realized immediately, officials have described the risks of ensuring that Russia cannot swallow Ukraine — an outcome officials believe could encourage Putin to invade other neighbors or even strike at NATO members — so much so that the administration is prepared. Accept even global recession and growing hunger.

The war, exacerbated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, has now flooded the global economy Expected to experience years of low growth, in a renewed crisis. It also exacerbated the global food emergency as the fighting drove up commodity prices and crippled Ukraine’s grain exports – which would normally feed them. Hundreds of millions of people a year Paying about 44 million people Closer to famine, according to the World Food Program.

“While it’s certainly a challenge – we certainly aren’t dealing with that – in terms of how to navigate these stormy waters, our guiding light is that the consequence of Russia being able to meet its maximum demands is really bad for the United States, which is really bad for our partners and allies, which is Really bad for the international community,” the State Department official said.

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On Friday, Ukrainian forces attempted to defend the dwindling areas under their control in Severodonetsk, a strategic city in Luhansk Province that Pentagon officials expect to soon fall.

In a sign that Western weapons have the potential to draw the West deeper into war, a US defense official confirmed Friday that a US Harpoon anti-ship missile. Russian tugboat hit in the Black Sea. For the first time as part of Biden’s latest weapons package, the United States said it will provide Harpoon mobile launchers to Ukraine.

Ukrainian leaders’ long-standing ambition to integrate further into Europe came close to reality on Friday, when the European Commission recommended that Ukraine To be an official candidate for membership in the European Union. Zelensky praised what he called a “historic decision,” although membership may be a long way off.

“Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “We want them to live the European dream with us.”

put it in, Attacked the West in a speech on FridayHe said that he had nothing against the idea of ​​Ukraine joining the European Union, but also warned that “all the tasks of the special operation will be fulfilled”, as the Kremlin calls the invasion, and said that his country Can use nuclear weapons If its sovereignty is threatened.

In light of what Western countries describe as a radical change in the security outlook, NATO leaders are expected to unveil new deployments to Eastern Europe at a late June summit in Madrid.

Prior to that meeting, General Mark. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the need to stop Russia in blatant claims, Equalizing the suffering of civilians in Ukraine What did Nazi Germany do to Europe? But he also cautioned that while Moscow faces chronic problems in its attack on Ukraine, including leadership, morale and logistics, the numbers “clearly favor the Russians” in eastern Ukraine.

The prospect of a negotiated outcome appears remote, as Putin appears undeterred, likely to pursue what analysts describe as a strategy to seize the entire Donbass region and then offer a ceasefire that would freeze Russia’s control of those regions and others.

“My concern is that Russia on the one hand and the Ukrainians and their partners on the other are pursuing mutually opposing goals,” said Samuel Sharap, a Russia expert at the RAND Corporation. “This leads the Russians to keep pushing harder and doing more and more.”

Many experts believe that the war is more likely to settle into a less intense conflict or situation such as that on the Korean Peninsula, where fighting between North and South was halted at the Armistice of 1953 without a formal end to the war. A military border has been heavily developed between the two Koreas, with occasional outbreaks, a scenario some analysts expect to occur between Ukraine and parts of its territory controlled by Moscow.

“I don’t think Putin or Zelensky can continue at the current combat level for years,” James Stavridis, a retired admiral and former NATO Supreme Commander, said in an email. “Sure for several months, but for unlikely years.”

As the conflict continues, it sparks debates about the trade-offs the United States might need in its larger foreign policy goals or its massive military budget. The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday added $45 billion to the defense budget, citing inflation and the war in Ukraine, raising the potential bill to $847 billion for the next fiscal year.

The war also continues to eat up the bandwidth of senior US officials that could be spent on long-term planning and modernization, said Stacey Petty-John, director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. In the past, officials have cited crises such as the multi-year war against the Islamic State as factors that have delayed a planned shift in focus to China.

“Keep on dealing with Ukraine because the situation is evolving and it’s immediate, and we need to provide the help we can and know how to support the Ukrainians,” she said. “But it does mean that they don’t have the time and interest to move forward on those other really important issues, those long-term changes that would be necessary if the United States were to really turn their attention and focus on the Pacific.”

The Biden administration pledged that it would not pressure Kyiv to accept concessions to cement a solution to the war. Officials suggest that Zelensky, even if he is inclined to cede large parts of Ukrainian territory, may face a rebellion from Ukrainians if he accepts Moscow’s terms.

“Our job is not to define these terms,” ​​said Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan Thursday Research Center Event. “Our job is to give them the tools they need to put themselves in the strongest possible position.”